Case study:Habitat Management and Raptor Conservation in Nestos Delta and Gorge - LIFE02 NAT/GR/008489

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Location: 40° 56' 41", 24° 45' 39"
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Project overview

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Status Complete
Project web site
Themes Habitat and biodiversity
Country Greece
Main contact forename Hans
Main contact surname Jerrentrup
Main contact user ID
Contact organisation Society for Protection of Nature and Ecodevelopment
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Project summary

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The River Nestos is 230 km long, flowing from the Rila Mountains into the Aegean Sea through Bulgaria and northern Greece. Before it reaches the sea, the main river spreads over the coastal plain of Chrysoupolis and expands as a deltaic system with freshwater lakes and ponds forming the Nestos delta. The river also traverses a unique gorge towards the end of its course, which is home to many raptors, including the Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus).

The delta comprises extensive sand dunes, residual riparian forest, lagoons, water meadows and other important habitats for birds and various mammals such as the otter and the jackal. It has been classified as a wetland of international importance (Ramsar site) and the gorge as an "Aesthetic forest" in accordance with national forestry legislation. The region has the most extensive riparian forest in Greece. The complex mosaic of habitats gives the region particularly rich biodiversity, but there are major problems, the main of which are: the lack of water resource management; the expansion of agricultural activities; species disturbance by various human activities; the degradation of key habitats, such as breeding islands in the lagoons; and various illegal activities, such as poaching or use of poisoned baits.

The main goal of the LIFE project carried out between 2002 and 2006 was the protection and management of raptors and terns and their habitats in three sites across two neighbouring Natura 2000 Special Protection Areas along the River Nestos.

The project targeted improved management of water resources. It sought to achieve this by reconnecting tributaries at four points on the river in order to restore some of the functions of the natural ecosystem, including freshwater marshes and riparian forests.

It also specifically aimed to restore around 35 hectares of riparian forest in such a way as to join up the remaining forest sections. At the same time, the project wanted to implement activities for specific bird species, including a system of artificial feeding for vultures in the Nestos gorge and rehabilitation of breeding islands for pelicans and terns in the lagoons.

Human activities would be controlled by setting up a surveillance team and by reducing fishing in return for compensatory measures for fishermen. Nature trails were to be constructed to improve understanding by the public of the valuable ecosystems and to allow controlled human interaction with the habitats.

The project reforested 60 ha of natural riparian forests on former agricultural land.

Based on detailed mapping research, four old river branches were reconnected with the main river to enable the recovery of freshwater marshes and riparian forests. The reconnections allow for groundwater recharge and protect against salt-water intrusion at the river mouth, thus enhancing the habitat for aquatic species such as water turtles, otters and fish species.

Eight specially designed fenced floating rafts - 5x4 m - were installed in the lagoons of the Nestos delta to provide roosting and nesting sites for terns. The rafts were immediately used by terns in the breeding season. They were especially designed and constructed to deter land predators such as stray dogs or jackals from accessing the nests and this has been seen to be effective.

Monitoring surveys and results

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The preparatory studies and scientific work of the project partners was of excellent quality. Automatic water and sediment monitoring stations were installed at a lagoon and at the main river stream to provide continuous data which is sent automatically to the Fisheries Research Institute of the National Agricultural Research Foundation.

Lessons learnt

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Problems were experienced in cooperation between local authorities - and with the national authorities. This contributed to delays in the construction of a stone observation hide opposite the feeding site - to observe the vultures without disturbing them - and prevented the successful development of other planned visitor infrastructure during the timeframe of the project.

A fenced feeding site was set up for birds of prey to replace natural prey that have declined in numbers. This was especially targeted at the griffon vulture colony residing on the cliffs of the Nestos gorge as well as vulture populations nesting in Dadia and Bulgaria. Unfortunately, delays in establishing the site meant that regular feeding of the vultures did not take place during the project's duration.

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Catchment and subcatchment


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Project background

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Reasons for river restoration

Mitigation of a pressure
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Additional documents and videos

Additional links and references

Link Description NAT GR 008489 LAYMAN.pdf Layman's report of the LIFE project proj id=1958 Project description in the LIFE database AzdLMwn4-RMu2F4S-6vVfehEpY Video of the presentation at the European River Restoration Conference 2013

Supplementary Information

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