The Andros LIFE+ Nature project area comprising 22,036.8 hectares is located in the picturesque European Union (EU) registered Special Protection Area (SPA) of Andros Island and its surrounding islets in the Northern Cyclades, Greece. Within the recently established SPA that is characterised by a diverse range of inland and coastal terrestrial habitats as well as coastal marine areas, there are beautiful sandy beaches, mountains, chestnut groves, ravines, hillsides, fresh water springs, and verdant woodlands to entice those who appreciate the resplendent wildlife that live among the island’s varied natural ecosystems.
The Andros SPA (identified as GR4220028) as well as other European Union registered SPAs exist throughout all of the EU Member States in accordance with the EU Birds Directive (Council Directive 2009/147/EC) which requires the establishment of SPAs that are a selection of suitable sites in which legally protected avifauna nest, breed, forage and roost. The EU registered SPAs together with EU registered Special Areas of Conservation established under the auspices of the EU Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) comprise the EU Natura 2000 network of protected areas dedicated to the conservation of flora and fauna species as well as natural habitats of European Community interest.
Andros LIFE+ Nature Project Area Map (LIFE10 NAT/GR/637)
Due to the island’s abundant natural resources, rich biodiversity and range of extraordinary wildlife which are nourished by plentiful fresh water sources and coastal marine habitats, an EU Site of Community Interest (SCI) identified as GR42200001 was also established on Andros Island under the EU Habitats Directive. The Andros SPA and the island’s SCI are illustrated on the Project Area map.
The importance of the Andros Island project area site to the conservation of priority avian species is exhibited by the fact that the entire project area has been identified as an Important Bird Area [(INO6)GR147]. Within the project area are the legally protected Wildlife Reserves of Megala Vrachia (K659), Steno-Korthiou (K436) and Stenies-M. Ag. Nikolaou (K423) which are supplemented by the remaining Andros Island Wildlife Reserves of Oros Charaka (K422), Sinetio (K428) and Kolimbos-Zaganiari (K431).
Andros Island is distinguishable from other Cycladic islands by the greater amount of annual rainfall that it receives. The island’s resulting fresh water sources have created a diversity of habitats, flourishing ecosystems and a healthy biodiversity. Among the most important natural habitats within the project area that are unique in the Cyclades are the alluvial forest of European Alders (Alnus glutinosa) which are known for improving the soil fertility; woodlands of Chestnut trees (Castanea sativa) with their popular edible seeds; and the groves of salt-tolerant White Poplars (Populus alba) as well as White Willows (Salix alba) which have been coveted for the tree bark’s medicinal use in the treatment of pain and fevers dating back to the 5th century BC when used by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC).
The project area is also characterised by rocky areas, scrub, ravines, seasonal streams, ponds and marshes which feature a multitude of flora and fauna species. The diversity and extent of these natural habitats on Andros Island and its islets contribute to the creation of valuable breeding, foraging and roosting sites which are vital to the project’s aim of improving the conservation status of the targeted species.
The island’s rocky coasts and adjacent islets with their natural habitats including some vegetative cover and irregular topography provide much-needed protection from human disturbance, terrestrial predators and occasionally severe climatic conditions, such as strong winds and hot summer sun. The special features of the island and its islets as well as their relative remoteness from the continent facilitate the establishment of important nesting areas for Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii), Eleonora’s Falcon (Falco eleonorae) and the Mediterranean Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii) for which Andros is one of the top five Greek breeding sites. Bonelli’s Eagles (Aquila fasciata) along with Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) are resident species that favour the resplendent steep gorges and spectacular cliffs of Andros Island.
As the project area is gifted with great natural beauty, this attracts tourism, coastal development and coastal recreation which, if improperly managed, can impact the conservation status of the wildlife and natural habitats that live among the human societies. To responsibly address this issue, the EU LIFE+ Nature project is required to develop and begin the implementation of a socially acceptable and economically viable SPA Management Plan established in consultation with stakeholders and government officials in order to facilitate the sustainable development, environmental conservation and essential wildlife needs in the project area.
In essence, the EU LIFE+ Nature project is intended to ensure that the unspoiled beauty for which Andros has always been known will remain and that the island’s natural heritage can be passed on as a valuable legacy to succeeding generations to incorporate into their economic framework such as tourism, to enjoy and, above all, to appreciate.
Contact: Constantine Alexander
copyright © 2012 Constantine Alexander