LIFE Project Cover Photo

Sustainable management and financing of wetland biodiversity The case of Lake Stymfalia

Reference: LIFE12 NAT/GR/000275 | Acronym: LIFE-Stymfalia



Lake Stymfalia in Southern Greece is a mountainous Mediterranean-type inland wetland with freshwater fens. It provides an important refuge for migratory birds and for breeding, passage and wintering waterbirds. The area of the small shallow lake fluctuates seasonally. During the droughts of the 1990s, the lake dried out entirely and was subsequently cultivated by the people of the nearby villages. The water of the lake is drained by the natural karst and by intensive use in the surrounding cultivated areas. Artificial drainage is a commonly used method to temporarily reclaim fertile land for cultivation. Groundwater and surface abstraction from the springs within the wetland has reduced the area and the depth of the lake considerably; the reedbeds have expanded to a great degree. The lake is an important habitat for a significant number of species of concern, including eagles and other raptors, egrets, herons, bitterns, ibises, partridges and terns, as well as providing a stopping point for migratory birds. Within Lake Stymfalia and its surroundings are also found the endemic fish species, stymphalia minnow (Pseudophoxinus stymphalicus), endemic plants and a diverse vertebrate species.


The main objective of the LIFE-Stymfalia project was to establish a sustainable management and financing system for an important but degraded wetland ecosystem, the Natura 2000 network site, Limni Stymfalia (the site also is culturally important owing to its connections with the myth of Hercules). The aim was to improve the conservation status of target species and wetland habitats and to ensure a viable scheme that will, in the long term, finance all necessary management activities.

Specifically, the project aimed to:

  • restore important wetland habitats based on the ecological requirements of target species;
  • create conditions for the financial sustainability of the wetlands management and conservation, while profiting from the surplus biomass from reedbed management with a share going towards the site management;
  • raise stakeholder awareness; and
  • engage the local community in the sustainable management of Lake Stymphalia.


    The LIFE-Stymfalia project partially achieved its objectives to create a sustainable management and financing system for the Lake Stymfalia. Reed-bed cutting temporarily helped restore important wetland habitats based on the ecological requirements of target species but it cannot be determined that actions have yielded long-term conservation impacts. Furthermore, actions to help regulate the water levels of the lake were not carried out and the management plan for the area was not approved by the national authorities during the project duration. As a result, the problem of the low level of the lake is still present following the end of the project. That said, the management plan is now at its final approval stage and the management team plan to implement it regardless of whether the plan is approved.

    Nevertheless, the project team acquired further knowledge of the lake's water levels and the ecosystem services it provides, improving understanding of the socio-economic environment. the project. In particular, the team investigated options for local reed harvesting, the first step to creating a local economy. The profitable use of reeds, however, was not tested on a full scale, and therefore reed-bed cutting, a crucial management activity for the lake, had not become financially sustainable by the end of the project. But the project demonstrated that reeds could be a valuable source of fuel for heating, acquiring new knowledge of its energy output and its conversion into pellets.

    A key result of the project, however, was the creation of a farmer's network to promote the protection of the lake. This helped raised awareness of the value of the lake among local professionals. Furthermore, it created an exhibition at the Environment Museum of Stymfalia which attracts thousands of visitors annually. This action was complemented by the publication of environmental education material for the use by schools as well as for visitors to the museum. These communication activities helped affect a positive change in attitude of the general public towards the conservation goals of the project.

    With regards to conservation goals, the project installed bat boxes along the lake, providing habitat for targeted species, while the cutting of reeds during the project created open waters for feeding birds. The establishment of local management patrols will improve the surveillance of protected areas. A nature trail along the lake will be maintained.

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).


    Reference: LIFE12 NAT/GR/000275
    Acronym: LIFE-Stymfalia
    Start Date: 01/10/2013
    End Date: 28/09/2018
    Total Budget: 2,013,290 €
    EU Contribution: 1,006,646 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Piraeus Bank SA
    Legal Status: PCO
    Address: 4 Amerikis str., 10564, Athens, Ellas
    Contact Person: Dimitrios Dimopoulos
    Tel: 302103288293

    LIFE Project Map



    • Freshwater


    • protected area
    • wetlands ecosystem
    • restoration measure


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


    • 3150 - Natural eutrophic lakes with Magnopotamion or Hydrocharition - type vegetation
    • 8210 - Calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation
    • 92D0 - Southern riparian galleries and thickets (Nerio-Tamaricetea and Securinegion tinctoriae)


    • Ardea purpurea
    • Aythya nyroca
    • Ixobrychus minutus
    • Botaurus stellaris
    • Plegadis falcinellus
    • Rhinolophus ferrumequinum
    • Rhinolophus hipposideros
    • Phoxinellus stymphalicus


    Type Code Name


    Name Type
    Piraeus Bank SA Coordinator