The Cyprus cedar (Cedrus brevifolia) is an evergreen long-lived coniferous tree that is endemic to Cyprus. Its natural distribution is very limited: it occurs only in a small area at the peak of Tripylos mountain, in the Paphos forest, in fragmented, scattered stands, over six separate geographical areas, mostly within the Koilada Kedron-Kampos Natura 2000 network site. These scattered areas cover a total of 290 ha, of which 106 ha are pure stands. Cyprus cedar forests are a priority for conservation habitat (listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive), and the species is classified as “vulnerable” in the Red Data Book of Cyprus flora.
Cyprus cedar forests face a number of threats linked to climate change, including dieback caused by periodic droughts, insect blights and the fact that there is no possibility for the species to migrate to higher altitudes as a means of adaptation, because it grows at the top of the tree line. Other threats include competition from the lone pine (Pinus brutia) and the potential impact of a catastrophic forest fire in relation to the species’ inability to regenerate after fire.
The main objective of the LIFE-KEDROS project was to maintain the priority habitat type in the Koilada Kedron-Kampos Natura 2000 network site in good conservation status in the long term.
The project would:
- Reduce the possibility of habitat loss, or disappearance, as a result of a single large forest fire;
- Enhance the habitat's resilience and its capacity to adapt to climate change;
- Implement ex-situ conservation measures, including storing seeds in a local seed bank and trialing the creation of a high-altitude population of cedar trees within Troodos National Forest Park;
- Enhance the natural regeneration capacity of the cedar stands;
- Restore and expand the habitat within the project site and incorporate a patch of Cyprus cedar forest at Exo Milos into the Koilada Kedron-Kampos Natura 2000 site;
- Mitigate the effects of intense competition by other forest trees/shrubs;
- Improve other biotic and abiotic factors important for the health and vigor of Cyprus cedar stands and the stability of local ecosystems;
- Raise public awareness and disseminate the project results to conservation managers and scientists; and
- Demonstrate that carefully-designed management interventions in natural/valuable ecosystems can contribute to better attainment of conservation objectives and may be preferable to letting nature take its course.
The project would demonstrate best practices. It would implement several management measures and actions new to forest management in Cyprus, especially in a protected, highly natural area. These were: controlled grazing for reducing fire risk; establishment of a new population of a tree species in another area; silvicultural treatments in cedar stands; and the management of fauna to promote the reproduction success of the core species of Cyprus cedar forests. The techniques tested might be suitable for replication in other Mediterranean mountain coniferous forests.
The project would also contribute to the implementation of policies and legislation: at the international level, contributing towards achieving the goals set by the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity to 2020; at a EU level contributing to the implementation of the Habitats Directive and the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy. It would also implement several actions that have been included in the national Prioritised Action Framework for Natura 2000 in Cyprus.
The LIFE-KEDROS project maintained priority habitats of the EU Habitats Directive in the ‘Koilada Kedron-Kampos’ Natura 2000 network site in Cyprus, ensuring their good conservation status in the long term.
The project team:
- Produced an updated assessment of the habitat type “Cedrus brevifolia forests (Cedrosetum brevifoliae)" (9590*), an endemic habitat type of Cyprus;
- Elaborated an “Action Plan for the sustainable management and conservation of habitat type 9590*” and a “Fire Protection Plan of the habitat type 9590*” - both have been officially adopted;
- Conducted silvicultural interventions in Cedrus brevifolia stands to create favourable conditions for around 8 500 cedar trees;
- Planted 3 008 Cedrus brevifolia plantlets and sowed 15 kg of cedar seeds (239 250 seeds), leading to the expansion of habitat type 9590* by 9.4 ha and the restoration of 12.3 ha;
- Removed dry herbaceous vegetation along roads over a total length of 8 km per year for three years, created a new fire break (300 m), temporarily closed selected forest roads of total length 32 km, cultivated 13 km of old forest roads for enhancing natural vegetation, and carried out other activities to protect targeted habitats from forest fire;
- Installed logs as erosion barriers (total length of 101.6 m, with the ability for soil retention equal to 34 m3), gabions (156 m) and dry stone terraces (182.6 m), to reduce soil erosion and improve the resilience of habitat 9590*;
- Established artificial nests for owls (10) and bat boxes (20), and insect pheromone traps (24) for controlling species harmful to habitat 9590*;
- Collected 200 kg of cedar seeds and stored them in the seed bank of the Department of Forests, to support ex situ conservation;
- Planted 6 500 plantlets of Cedrus brevifolia in an area of 8.5 ha in Amiantos mine and established a new plantation of Cedrus brevifolia;
- Monitored the preliminary impacts of all conservation actions;
- Assessed the ecosystem services and functions of the Natura 2000 site “Koilada Kedron-Kampos”, and the project’s preliminary and projected impact on them.
Many other conservation actions were implemented, including the construction of three artificial lakes within the habitat, construction of an additional 90 ton water tank, and fencing for the electricity generator of the seed bank. In addition, fire patrols were conducted more frequently. The project’s dissemination and networking actions included presentations at meetings and conferences, the production of promotional material, articles in newspapers and radio broadcasts.
The project team implemented, for the first time in Cyprus, extensive integrated silvicultural interventions and other forest management measures in Cedrus brevifolia forests (habitat 9590*), a protected priority habitat of high natural value. Direct environmental benefits include enhancement of the habitat's growth and regeneration capacity, and the restoration/expansion of the habitat over an area of 5.7 ha due to the planting of Cedrus brevifolia seeds in three locations.
In terms of policy, the project supports the Cypriot Protection and Management of Nature and Wildlife Law 153(I)/2003 and Forest Law 2012; and contributes to the implementation of the EU Habitats Directive and the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy (Targets 1, 3, 6). The project team updated the Standard Data Form of the Natura 2000 site CY2000008, taking into account the expansion of its boundaries to include the patch of Exo Milos where the targeted habitat 9590* grows well.
The project team identified the main socio-economic impacts as the: (i) creation of an increased feeling of security for the citizens of the project area, through the promotion of activities aiming at environmental protection and conservation, specifically focused on the prevention of forest fires; (ii) promotion of the area as a tourist destination; and (iii) increase of employment for individuals by the Department of Forests.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).