PONT provides most of the financing of the 5-year strategic framework (2018-2022) of the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) by supporting its core financial and administration operations, and also the implementation of the projects mentioned below.
The South East European pelican census was conducted in May 2018 at wetlands across South East Europe for the third consecutive year. Pelicans were recorded in a total of 110 wetlands. The census was carried out with the contribution of various participants: the management authorities of 17 protected areas, six public institutions and 12 environmental NGOs, of which seven are BirdLife partners. Overall, 133 participants recorded 5,814 Dalmatian pelicans and 26,936 great white pelicans.
Water bird monitoring
The annual trilateral mid-winter water bird counts were satisfactorily completed by the PrespaNet teams and partners in early January, in the frame of the internationally coordinated water bird count. After the data were shared between the partners, in total 30,853 birds of 26 water bird species were counted, with great crested grebes and coots making up more than 80% of the wintering populations.
Under the new PrespaNet project, “Strengthening NGO-led Conservation in the Transboundary Prespa Basin”, the SPP has worked closely with the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES) on mapping and assessing the conservation status of the coastal wetland habitat types on the Resen side of the basin in accordance with Natura 2000 standards.
The mapping activity is a preparatory action for MES for later wetland restoration activities, and aligns with objectives in PrespaNet’s Transboundary Strategic Framework to match mapping carried out in Greece on the other two sides of the basin. Habitat type mapping of this standard, and a corresponding assessment of the quality of the habitat types discovered, proved extremely valuable as a tool and the results will prove equally useful to the Municipality of Resen, where the conversion of wetlands to beach areas has been a consistent threat in recent years.
Active wetland vegetation management
SPP continues with its support to active wetland vegetation management in Prespa National Park in Greece. The operational plan, approved by the Wetland Management Committee which is an advisory body to the Management Body of Prespa National Park, includes:
- a ten-year (2007-2017) review of littoral vegetation management;
- proposals for future management of the littoral vegetation, incorporating water level considerations in order to improve wet meadow formation and function;
- detailed mapping of the area under management, including firebreaks;
- defined no-intervention zones for the protection of other rare flora and fauna species;
- assigned priority areas for interventions;
- proposals for the use of cut biomass.
Wetland vegetation is managed using a mixed model i.e. livestock grazing and cutting the reedbeds by using specialised machinery. The by-products derived from the active wetland management are used by local farmers for fodder and soil conditioner. The completion of the ten-year review of wetland management is a typical example of the long-term (more than 15 years) fruitful and successful collaboration between the SPP and the Management Body of Prespa National Park, in which capacity building activities through the implementation of specific conservation projects has led to successful results, shared planning, co-operation and increased capacity in both actors.
Transboundary Wetland Management Technical Group
The first meeting of the new Transboundary Wetland Management Technical Group took place at the premises of the SPP in March 2018. Through this mechanism, some of the successful measurements on the Greek side can be replicated in the other two countries which share the basin with the assistance of PONT co-financing.
Transboundary conservation activities for large carnivores are being undertaken in close cooperation with the staff of the protected areas and the involvement of local people and young volunteers.
PONT encourages the PrespaNet partners to share the initial results of this exciting programme to protected area managers and other stakeholders and provides co-financing to continue the programme for another two years. The co-financing for this activity comes from the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation with technical assistance provided by EuroNatur and KORA. PONT is grateful for the support provided by our cooperation partners.
The restoration works of the mouths of the Lefkona and Mikrolimni streams are progressing in order to improve the ecological function of the stream mouths, allowing the passage of spawning fish and providing feeding grounds for important water birds.
Pan-European Green Belt Conference
The Pan-European Green Belt Conference took place in Eisenach Germany in October. More than 100 participants listened to a presentation by the SPP on the establishment and first steps of PONT. The presentation made a lasting impression to the participants, who then went on to consider how this innovative tool to finance conservation could inspire similar efforts elsewhere.
The cultivation of a common vision for water management across the Prespa basin forms a long-term goal of the SPP.
The principle of Integrated River Basin Management, as adopted in the EU water legislation, forms the backbone of the Society’s work in this field. This principle calls for a holistic approach to the management of water resources within their natural boundaries and therefore requires co-ordination of action between the three states.
A milestone in 2018 is the first PrespaNet joint position paper on water governance in the transboundary Prespa basin, launched on World Water Day (March 22nd). At the same time, to counterbalance the gap caused by the delay in entering into force of the Prespa Agreement, the SPP is gradually shifting the focus of its water policy work to non-statutory transboundary collaboration schemes. On that account, besides activating the NGOs to lobby the national authorities on water governance in the basin, the SPP is investing in the establishment of additional informal non-state collaboration schemes in this area.
In this context the SPP organised the first transboundary workshop of experts involved in the national/regional water quality monitoring networks running in line with the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), in Laimos in November 2018. Some of the most promising suggestions made include:
- the development of a roadmap for harmonising water quality assessment efforts at cross-border level according to the WFD requirements;
- the installation of an automatic, telemetric monitoring station at Great Prespa Lake that will provide measurements of water quality parameters and disseminate data to all three sides;
- the implementation of joint field monitoring campaigns;
- the common use of installations and equipment already in place in the basin.
PONT would like to congratulate the SPP for the successes achieved in 2018 and is looking forward what exciting news 2019 will bring.