Implementation of management measures at the Agras wetland

Reference: LIFE03 NAT/GR/000092 | Acronym: AGRAS WETLAND

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

BACKGROUND

The Special Protection Area (SPA) of Agras lake is a semi-natural wetland that was created after certain construction works at the site of a former natural wetland (the marshes of Tiavou), undertaken by the Public Power Corporation (PPC) in the mid-1950s. The Agras wetland, which is situated 7 km north-west of Edessa, covers an area of 600 ha and hosts 37 species from Annex I of the Birds directive, including Aythya nyroca, Pelecanus crispus, Phalacrocorax pygmeus, and Botaurus stellaris . The lake was initially managed by the PPC mainly for power generation, but other uses have now been added, such as irrigation, flood prevention and water supply for the Edessa waterfalls, a major tourist attraction in the area. The main problem for efficient conservation is the lack of co-ordination between the various authorities responsible for wetland issues. Some additional factors that affect the site’s ecological value are eutrophication, habitat homogenisation due to excessive reedbed expansion, species disturbance, overgrazing, and low public awareness and motivation for the wetland’s conservation.


OBJECTIVES

The LIFE project aimed to rehabilitate the Agras wetland through the implementation of integrated management measures, taking into consideration the management prescriptions included in the site’s management plan, which was elaborated by a previous LIFE-Nature project (LIFE97 NAT/GR/004243). The following results were expected:

  • Co-ordination of management actions affecting the wetland habitats and priority bird species, through the formulation and operation of a wetland management committee.
  • Improvement of the wetland’s trophic value for target birds, through vegetation management and rehabilitation of fish spawning grounds.
  • Increase of bird habitat heterogeneity, through vegetation management, and through the improvement of nesting, foraging and refuging habitat.
  • Significant reduction in disturbance to species, through the presence of wardens.
  • Reduction of overgrazing, through the implementation of a grazing management plan.
  • Increase of public awareness and local participation in conservation compatible economic activities, though a public awareness campaign and through the promotion of ecotourism.
  • In order to monitor the success of some of these measures, the project would implement the monitoring scheme that was developed and tested over one year of the previous LIFE-Nature project.


    RESULTS

    To ensure joined up management of the SPA, the various stakeholders signed a memorandum of co-operation for the conservation of the wetland, establishing a management committee that will meet twice yearly till the Ministry of the Environment establishes a Wetland Management Body, as required under Greek law.

    Project partner Endiatima drew up a restoration plan for the wetland, covering aspects such as restoration of habitats, management of reed beds and improvement of water circulation.

    Another partner, the National Agricultural Research Foundation (NAGREF), produced a site-specific grazing management plan with prescriptions and guidelines for livestock keepers to apply grazing in a controlled and appropriate manner, according to the capacity of the site.

    NAGREF also prepared a study for the re-establishment of riparian tree stands. Hundreds of saplings were planted at sites within the project area and fenced to avoid damage from grazing animals. Local students were involved in the planting, increasing public awareness of the project and the wetland.

    To increase the availability of secure sites for water birds to nest or roost, five floating wooden rafts were built and installed within the SPA. These have been heavily used as roosting sites by Dalmatian pelicans, Pygmy cormorants and herons.

    Following the purchase of suitable equipment, the municipality of Edessa began implementing the reed bed management project in 2006. Some 5 ha of reeds were cut during the project and reed cutting activities are scheduled to continue.

    The project hired two wardens to prevent poaching and illegal logging in the wetland area and surroundings. The continuous guarding of the site has led to a significant reduction in illegal activities in the protected area.

    An integrated monitoring scheme was established to monitor priority bird species, habitats and water quality.

    The Wetland Information Centre, established during the previous LIFE project, increased its opening hours and added a wetland interpretation room, where presentations can be made to schools and other visitors.

    The project created two observation hides for birdwatching and 3 km of signed nature trails. Other dissemination activities included the production of bilingual leaflets, an ecotourism guide and environmental education material. In addition two open public meetings were held and an international workshop was organised to promote sustainable wetland use practices.

    To ensure joined up management of the SPA, the various stakeholders signed a memorandum of co-operation for the conservation of the wetland, establishing a management committee that will meet twice yearly till the Ministry of the Environment establishes a Wetland Management Body, as required under Greek law.

    Project partner Endiatima drew up a restoration plan for the wetland, covering aspects such as restoration of habitats, management of reed beds and improvement of water circulation.

    Another partner, the National Agricultural Research Foundation (NAGREF), produced a site-specific grazing management plan with prescriptions and guidelines for livestock keepers to apply grazing in a controlled and appropriate manner, according to the capacity of the site.

    NAGREF also prepared a study for the re-establishment of riparian tree stands. Hundreds of saplings were planted at sites within the project area and fenced to avoid damage from grazing animals. Local students were involved in the planting, increasing public awareness of the project and the wetland.

    To increase the availability of secure sites for water birds to nest or roost, five floating wooden rafts were built and installed within the SPA. These have been heavily used as roosting sites by Dalmatian pelicans, Pygmy cormorants and herons.

    Following the purchase of suitable equipment, the municipality of Edessa began implementing the reed bed management project in 2006. Some 5 ha of reeds were cut during the project and reed cutting activities are scheduled to continue.

    The project hired two wardens to prevent poaching and illegal logging in the wetland area and surroundings. The continuous guarding of the site has led to a significant reduction in illegal activities in the protected area.

    An integrated monitoring scheme was established to monitor priority bird species, habitats and water quality.

    The Wetland Information Centre, established during the previous LIFE project, increased its opening hours and added a wetland interpretation room, where presentations can be made to schools and other visitors.

    The project created two observation hides for birdwatching and 3 km of signed nature trails. Other dissemination activities included the production of bilingual leaflets, an ecotourism guide and environmental education material. In addition two open public meetings were held and an international workshop was organised to promote sustainable wetland use practices.

    ADMINISTRATIVE DATA


    Reference: LIFE03 NAT/GR/000092
    Acronym: AGRAS WETLAND
    Start Date: 01/07/2003
    End Date: 01/07/2007
    Total Budget: 843,500 €
    EU Contribution: 506,100 €
    Project Location: Central Macedonia, Greece

    CONTACT DETAILS


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Municipality of Edessa
    Legal Status: OTHER
    Address: Plateia Aigon, 1, 58200, Edessa, Ellas
    Contact Person:
    Email:
    Tel:
    Website: www.edessacity.gr/development/life/index.htm


    ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ADDRESSED

    THEMES

    • Forest management
    • Freshwater

    KEYWORDS

    • ecotourism
    • grazing
    • public awareness campaign
    • integrated management
    • management plan

    TARGET EU LEGISLATION

    • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
    • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)

    TARGET HABITAT TYPES

    • 3150 - Natural eutrophic lakes with Magnopotamion or Hydrocharition - type vegetation
    • 6420 - Mediterranean tall humid grasslands of the Molinio-Holoschoenion
    • 92A0 - Salix alba and Populus alba galleries
    • 92C0 - Platanus orientalis and Liquidambar orientalis woods (Platanion orientalis)

    SPECIES

    • None or non applicable

    BENEFICIARIES

    Name Type
    Municipality of Edessa Coordinator
    Prefecture of Pella, Greece Participant
    Pella Development Agency, Greece Participant
    National Agricultural Reseach Foundation (NAGREF), Greece Participant
    Endiaitina, Greece Participant