The PrespaNet partners strengthened cross-border co-operation by working together to map and assess wetland habitats in Prespa, producing a transboundary plan for how to protect these vitally important places for the first time.
Working in Prespa, PONT and the PrespaNet partners have always understood that transboundary collaboration is an essential prerequisite to successfully protecting biodiversity. The three NGOs – the SPP, MES and PPNEA – together with EuroNatur, are currently working on their second three-year project, supported by PONT and the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation, with cross-border co-operation to the fore.
One of the highlights of the NGOs’ work over the last three years has been the effort to map and assess the conservation degree of wetland habitats around the basin. This activity grew to encompass all three countries that share the lakes, after its relatively humble beginnings as a stand-alone activity in North Macedonia, led by MES with support from the SPP. Working together, the partners built capacity, extending the activity to Albania a year later and laying the groundwork for wetland habitat restoration activities, all with the dedicated and inestimable support of renowned phyto-sociologist Prof. Giorgos Fotiadis from the Agricultural University of Athens. Throughout the mapping and assessment process, the Natura 2000 methodology was applied, transferring knowledge, experience and expertise from the Greek part of Prespa to the other two sides of the lakes basin.
This year, the SPP completed the symbolic circle of PrespaNet’s work on wetland habitats in Prespa, putting together an integrated report that has taken the crucial transboundary aspect into account for the first time. The report looks at the pressures and threats wetland habitats are under and makes recommendations for protecting this natural heritage across all three countries. This blueprint will form a basis for future work together and with the management authorities for protected areas, and forms a valuable lobbying tool for habitat conservation in the region. Taken together, the various actions for wetland habitat-type mapping and management embody the partners’ commitment to working together across borders for the benefit of Prespa. Likewise, the activities demonstrate the NGOs’ ability to share expertise and build capacity, both within the network and with other actors in the region. Only through this kind of painstaking bridge-building can the conservation of biodiversity be secured in a transboundary area like Prespa.
Photo credits: SPP Archive | Fco. Marquez