Cyprus is among the top five EU countries in terms of land area covered by the Natura 2000 network (28.8%). The Natura 2000 network in Cyprus includes 63 marine and terrestrial sites, covering 1 789 km2. Cyprus hosts 48 habitat types included in Annex I of the Habitats Directive, 13 of which constitute priority habitats. A large proportion (60%) of the Natura 2000 area is located within State Forest Land, with 26 sites hosting significant forest areas and over 15% of the sites surface covered by Annex I forest habitat types. In terms of species conservation, Cyprus hosts 38 Annex II species (14 priority). In total, there are 58 Annex II, IV and V Habitats Directive species (21 mammals, 13 reptiles, 3 amphibians, 2 arthropods, 1 fish, and 18 plants). Cyprus also hosts 129 Annex I Birds Directive species.
Currently, knowledge gaps exist regarding both the protected habitats and species of Cyprus. The formulation of Species Actions Plans will improve their conservation status. Moreover, Management Plans for all Natura 2000 sites have been drafted. However, a significant number were completed at the very early stages of the networks establishment and an update is necessary. Conservation objectives were set for all 29 designated SACs. Management plans have also been prepared for all 30 SPAs, setting Favourable Reference Values (FRVs) for targeted bird species in each site. Four governmental departments are responsible for the management of the Natura 2000 network. Therefore, there is a great need for intensive and effective coordination in order to achieve the national conservation objectives. Furthermore, land users, owners, local population and other stakeholders have demonstrated a very low acceptance of the Natura 2000 network. It is, thus, necessary to effectively mobilise, engage and directly involve those stakeholders to change this situation.
The primary objective of LIFE IP PHYSIS is to achieve and/or maintain a favourable conservation status for species and habitat types of community importance in Cyprus, through actions in the whole Natura 2000 network. This will mainly be possible through the implementation of the Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) for Natura 2000 in Cyprus for the Multiannual Financing Period 2014-2020, as well as the fulfilment of several targets of the EUs 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. The project's approach is to catalyse financial support from complementary funds and to ensure synergies between policy sectors for the purpose of Natura 2000 protection.
The IP addresses all the weaknesses identified in the management of the Natura 2000 network in Cyprus, will fill knowledge gaps for species and habitats, improve the governance of the network, exploit ecosystem services and implement action and management plans for species and habitats.
The specific objectives of the project are to:
The complementary actions aim at amplifying the concrete actions of the IP project in the sites of the Natura 2000 network, and involve habitat restoration, surveillance for Invasive Alien Species, and studies on the ecology and conservation status of targeted species. The complementary actions will be finalised by December 2022.
In addition to the IP budget itself the project will facilitate the coordinated use of 24 500 000 complementary funding from ERDF, EAFRD and EMFF funds.
Expected results: The expected result of the project is the implementation to the fullest extent possible of the Cypriot PAF 2014-2020 for Natura 2000 through both the project itself and the mobilisation of complementary funds. A total of 17 general priority measures and 42 general measures will be implemented within the framework of the project.