Wildfires and the size of area burnt have increased in Greece since the 1960s, in correlation with annual drought episodes. In particular, the average number of fires and area burnt were significantly higher in 1978-1997, when Greece entered a prolonged period of drought, compared to 1961-1971. A shift towards a drier climate in the Mediterranean is projected to bring more droughts, with increases in their number and maximum duration, for most of northern Greece. Severe weather conditions are expected to provoke short- and long-term environmental changes in Greek forests.
In the Mount Athosregion, wildfires are easily ignited and lead to great natural disasters. In 2016, a regional wildfire risk and exposure assessment carried out in Mount Athos showed a strong correlation between physical and human elements in the environment that determine wildfires. Strategic planning is required to provide the framework for preliminary actions and prevention measures to reduce the risk of wildfires and improve the response efficiency to outbreaks of fire. In addition, environmental management should be adapted to the new conditions of climate change in an effective and long-term manner.
The main objective of LIFE STEMMA ATHOS is to contribute to the development of strategic and integrated environmental management in Mount Athos, under the perspective of climate change adaptation and mitigation. The projects goals are in line with the EU adaptation strategy, especially as regards forest fires. In addition, its objectives tie in with Greeces national strategy for climate change adaptation, adopted in 2016 and being implemented with the support of the LIFE-IP AdaptInGR project (LIFE17 IPC/GR/000006).
LIFE STEMMA ATHOSs specific objectives are to: Reduce vulnerability to climate change-related disturbances, with a focus on wildfires; Increase ecosystem resilience to climate change-related stresses (droughts, diseases, pests); Inform and implement strategic adaptation planning to reduce risks associated with climate change and mitigation actions to improve carbon sequestration (carbon removals and carbon storage); Assess and model the effects of the projects adaptation and mitigation management practices on wildfire behaviour and carbon stocking, respectively; Prepare the ground for the institutionalisation of environmental management in the project area of Mount Athos in light of climate change; Disseminate the projects results and best practices both at a local level (to the Mount Athos monastic community and local stakeholders) and within other monastic communities and sectors from other EU countries; Safeguard the overall performance of such an important cultural and environmental entity, without disregarding the existing administrative and environmental management culture; and Build a partnership with a similar cultural entity so that LIFE STEMMA ATHOSs approaches on forest, agriculture and water management may be applied there, while also allowing Mount Athos to learn from well-developed agroforestry systems.
Expected results: Elaboration and implementation of a strategic management plan on climate change adaptation and mitigation that integrates the environmental, administrative and cultural characteristics of 20 monasteries; Establishment and operation of a Climate Change Observatory to pursue, implement and monitor integrated management under climate change; Reduce wildfire vulnerability in a pilot area of over 340 ha, through fuel load reduction in aleppo pine and shrubland areas and the development of agroforestry areas; Increased ecosystem resilience and stability in a pilot area of more than 840 ha through reduction of chestnut diseases, increase in mixed stands, agroforestry systems, rehabilitation of degraded forest land, and the multiple use of eight alternative, innovative rainwater harvesting systems; Enhancement of carbon removals (from the atmosphere) and carbon storage from sustainable forest and agroforestry management; A scientifically informed knowledge base of the projects impact through developing models to assess the effects of adaptation and mitigation management practices on wildfire behaviour and carbon stocks, respectively; Active engagement of stakeholders from multi-disciplinary sectors and monastic communities across Greece and Europe (80 people) and increased awareness-raising from networking and dissemination activities; A well-organised wildfire suppression line through creating open agroforestry areas, development of rainwater harvesting systems and a well-signed road network and water supply infrastructure; Improvement of biodiversity attributes through sustainable management activities and their assessment; and Introduction of environmental management practices geared towards climate change adaptation and mitigation that respect traditional forestry and agricultural practices.