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AUA Launches Lake Sevan Hydrobiological Monitoring Assessment

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The American University of Armenia (AUA) Acopian Center for the Environment launched a needs assessment to establish the basis for regular hydrobiological monitoring of Lake Sevan. The initiative is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and is an integral part of the EU4Sevan project, implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

Filamentous algae at the southern shore of Lake Sevan (Aug 2021)

Filamentous algae at the southern shore of Lake Sevan (Aug 2021)

With a deteriorating water quality, Lake Sevan has been troubled by toxic cyanobacterial blooms in the last few years. “To mitigate these occurrences and ensure the sustainability of Armenia’s largest freshwater resource, we need to better understand the drivers and impacts of these blooms,” says Dr. Garabet Kazanjian, AUA faculty member and Acopian Center researcher leading the assessment. “Longitudinal data on Lake Sevan are sparse. Important parameters are measured either sporadically or not at all, rendering analysis complicated and conclusions about the Lake’s future health uncertain,” he adds. 

This project will assess the establishment, in the near future, of the regular monitoring of three important hydrobiological parameters, including phytoplankton, phytobenthos (periphyton), and zoobenthos (macroinvertebrates). Phytoplankton and macroinvertebrate studies have not been conducted on a regular basis in the Lake Sevan Basin, whereas periphyton research is altogether lacking. “Without this information we cannot understand the eutrophication dynamics of the Lake nor predict the likelihood of future blooms,” infers Dr. Kazanjian.

The project has three main components. Initially, researchers will compile and review all available literature on Lake Sevan relevant to these parameters, including research published in the Soviet era. The review will better define the life history of the Lake and identify the missing gaps in our knowledge. 

Lake Sevan algal bloom (June 2018). Image: Sentinel-2A, AUA GIS & Remote Sensing Lab

Lake Sevan algal bloom (June 2018). Image: Sentinel-2A, AUA GIS & Remote Sensing Lab

Next, interviews will be conducted with stakeholders to assess current efforts and available capacity. We will research all relevant methods and international quality standards pertaining to monitoring these hydrobiological parameters and conduct a gap analysis of expertise and equipment to assess the capacity building necessary for achieving the established objective. 

Finally, the AUA Acopian Center will organize a stakeholder focus group to instigate discussion on establishing regular hydrobiological monitoring of the Lake. The project will provide the RA Ministry of Environment with a roadmap, including estimated costs, to deliver data on a regular basis. This will greatly help the development of a comprehensive lake basin management plan to ensure the sustainability of Armenia’s valuable freshwater resource.

The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, a research center of the American University of Armenia, promotes the protection and restoration of the natural environment through research, education, and community outreach. The AUA Acopian Center’s focus areas include sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity and conservation, greening the built environment, clean energy, and energy efficiency, as well as information technology and the environment.