Even though many wetlands in Cyprus are known to the public and can be visited, information about their condition and their total number was, until recently, scattered or even non-existent. In order to tackle this lack of knowledge and decentralised information, Terra Cypria conducted a complete Inventory of Cyprus Wetlands using a Rapid Assessment methodology during a two-year period (2014-2015).
This effort was carried out under the ‘Inventory of Cyprus Wetlands’ project, funded by the MAVA Foundation. During the course of the project, all wetlands in Cyprus with an area ˃1,000 m2 (0.1 ha) were visited and recorded – with the exception of those located within military zones, which were included in the inventory but not visited.
The project was completed successfully resulting in a total number of 373 areas, meeting the qualification criteria set for wetlands following the Ramsar Convention’s and MedWet’s guidelines. 315 among them are artificial wetlands and 58 are natural.
All wetlands were mapped, and their condition was evaluated. For the first time, a complete and comprehensive database on Cyprus Wetlands was created (www.cypruswetlands.org). Amongst other variables, and for each wetland, the database includes:
- Type and category of each wetland, including information such as salinity, depth, water runoff, and percentage of open water surface.
- Data regarding flora and fauna species, vegetation, and habitats derived from the field surveys and the bibliographical sources.
- Waterbird data from the Game and Fauna Service (the competent authority for the management of birds in Cyprus), BirdLife Cyprus, management plans prepared for protected wetlands, various waterbird studies conducted in the past, Environmental Impact Assessment studies that were prepared in the past that had to do with wetlands, and other available and reliable sources.
- Data related to hydrology, history, threats, and other parameters for both artificial and natural wetlands. These data were collected from several studies and publications implemented in the past by government authorities and other entities.
- Data regarding the activities taking place within each wetland and an area within 1-2 km from the wetland with their impacts.
- Data related to the values of each wetland and their protection status.
- Maps of each wetland with clearly defined borders of their area (delineation) and pictures.
- Vector files in kmz and shp (shapefile) with all wetlands’ delineations and attribution tables, including main/general information for each wetland.
The information collected during the inventory (literature, geographic, photographic, and field-based information) is available in the interactive online platform (www.cypruswetlands.org), offering a very important tool for governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, scientists, interested individuals, and the general public.
During the course of the project, it has become clear that many of the island’s wetlands are in continuous degradation, facing various pressures. The main causes that have been identified leading to degradation were:
- development pressures from the housing and tourist industry (especially on coastal areas);
- dam construction impacting water supply at downstream wetlands;
- lack of specific legislation targeting the protection of wetland biodiversity;
- unsatisfactory implementation of existing legislation that offers direct or indirect protection at specific wetlands; and
- lack of knowledge from some government departments and citizens regarding the presence, importance and value of wetlands.
Since 2017, the Cypriot wetlands project has been part of a larger project which focuses on the whole Mediterranean Basin, the Mediterranean Island Wetlands project (MedIsWet). It is a joint effort in nine Mediterranean countries that contain island wetlands. This project contributes to the full implementation of the Ramsar Resolution XII.14 “Conservation of Mediterranean Basin Island Wetlands” (Annex I) and the achievement of the broader objectives of the Ramsar Convention and the MedWet Initiative. The Ramsar Resolution XII.14 calls upon all Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention to take immediate steps for the conservation of island wetlands in the Mediterranean Basin.
During the course of the MedIsWet project, Terra Cypria initiated communication with all relevant competent authorities in Cyprus and conducted a dynamic communication and educational campaign focused on the importance of island wetlands. It also explored various possible legislative or executive measures within the Republic of Cyprus legal system that could be used to prevent further deterioration of the island’s wetlands and ensure the conservation of their biodiversity. Furthermore, through the development of a screening methodology, based on a set of criteria, a list of wetlands of the highest ecological importance was developed.
Following this screening approach, 85 wetlands were identified. Based on the selected criteria, these are the wetlands of the highest ecological importance that should be effectively protected and managed within the areas over which the Republic of Cyprus has control. Of those wetlands, 67 are artificial and 18 are natural.
Through these two projects and the collected scientific evidence and their analysis, as well as the development of a publicly available database, a better understanding of the values of the wetlands of Cyprus was achieved.
The conclusions of a recently published technical report, emphasise that:
- The biological importance of artificial wetlands is mostly neglected.
- The biodiversity value of artificial wetlands is disregarded or neglected during their construction or restoration stage. Indeed, they tend to be treated only as artificial plans and not as artificial ecosystems.
- Cyprus wetlands (both natural and artificial) have a cumulative positive impact on biodiversity.
In its closing chapter, the report presents the next steps needed for the full implementation of the Ramsar Resolution XII.14. This Report also summarises all the knowledge acquired through the two projects and can be considered as an important tool, not only for the relevant government authorities working with water management and nature conservation but also for land use decision-makers and the broader public.
Download the Cyprus Wetlands Technical Report:
Stalo Demosthenous, Terra Cypria