|Fourth National Report to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT
MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT
NICOSIA, SEPTEMBER 2010
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Overview of Biodiversity Status, Trends and Threads
Main Ecosystem types (Habitats)
Woodland and scrub
Rocks and caves
Cultivated and abandoned cultivated land
Biodiversity of species: status, trends and threats
Trends and Threads to Biodiversity
Development: Land use changes, tourism development and urbanization
Abandonment of subsistence and development of intensive farming
Over-exploitation and Contamination of surface and groundwater
CHAPTER II – Implementation of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans
2.3 Forest Policy and Strategy
2.4 Agricultural Policy and Strategy
2.5 Water Policy and Strategy
2.6 Marine Policy and Strategy
2.7 Designation of Sites of Community Importance and Special Protected Areas
2.8 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Biodiversity
CHAPTER III - Sectoral and cross-sectoral integration or mainstreaming of biodiversity considerations
3.2 Country’s integration Strategies
3.3 Addressing the threads to biodiversity
3.3.3 Water and Wetlands
3.3.4 Coastal and Marine Environment
3.3.5 Climate change
3.4 Environmental Impact Assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment
CHAPTER IV – Conclusions- Progress towards the 2010 target
4.2 Progress towards the 2010 target
Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean is situated just 65 km south of Turkey and 105 km west of Syria. It has an area of 9.251 km2 with its greatest length approximately 225 km and its greatest width approximately 96 km. It is endowed with a great variety of landscapes ranging from mountainous regions and plains to an extensive coastal line which is extremely irregular in outline.
Its insular character, the varied climate, geology and topography along with the long history of human activities dating back to 8200 AD, have shaped the landscape and created a wide variety of natural, semi-natural and anthropogenic habitats where a large number of plant and animal species prosper. In Cyprus, as in the rest of Europe, agriculture dominates much of the landscape, extending over half of the island’s territory and comprises mainly rain fed but also irrigated, crops. Small fields with a diversity of arable land and tree crops, such as the traditional olive groves, carob trees and vineyards, create a mosaic of landscapes, ideal for many wildlife species, particularly birds and reptiles. Much of this agricultural land consists of areas of small holdings with a mixture of ploughed crops, vineyards and tree orchards, most farmed in a traditional (non-intensive) way. Very often agricultural land, especially on mountains, alternates with fallow or abandoned land, colonized by shrubby or phryganic vegetation, which further diversifies habitat conditions.
Natural vegetation is made up primarily of extensive, natural pine forests, evergreen, sclerophyllous shrubs (maquis) and phrygana, while other vegetation types occupy more specialized habitats like riverine vegetation along streams, hasmophytes on cliffs, hygrophilous vegetation in water flooded sites etc. In total, 48 habitat types are known to exist on the island providing refuge to a large number of endemic, rare and otherwise important species.
Status, Trends and Threats to Biodiversity
Cyprus is considered as biodiversity “hotspot” area (Myers et al. 2000), as it is the only centre of birds endemism in Europe and the Middle East. Also six out of its 11 wild mammals are endemic and sub-endemic, whereas it is a centre of insects endemism and plant diversity. Consequently, the percentage of Cyprus endemism regarding plants, calculating all the taxonomical levels, is among the highest in Europe.
The natural wealth of the island, its ecosystems, habitats, flora and fauna, is the result of evolution, the influence of special climatic, geological and soil conditions, topography and morphology, the proximity to the three continents (Europe, Asia, Africa), its the long isolation as an island and the influence of man.
Considering the terrestrial ecosystem in total, 48 habitat types are known so far to exist on the island, 14 of which are priority habitat types, according the Habitats Directive of the European Union, including 4 endemic habitat types: Serpentinophilous grasslands of Cyprus (62B0*), Peat grasslands of Troodos (6460*), Scrub forest of Quercus alnifolia (9390*) and Cedrus brevifolia forests (9590*).
The flora of Cyprus comprises about 1738 indigenous taxa including 143 endemics. There are also hundreds of cultivated species many of which are adventives. About 238 indigenous plant taxa have been classified as threatened during a recently implemented project by a group of government departments and NGOs, based on the IUCN Red List criteria. About 32 mammal taxa (including 18 bats, 3 dolphins, and 1 seal) are known to exist, of which 2 are endemic (mice) and 2 endemic subspecies (muflon and hedgehog). Birds include 385 species of which 2 are endemic and 4 subspecies. There are 22 reptiles, including 2 endemic species and 3 amphibian species. Marine fish species include more than 80 taxa. More than 5.000 insect species have been recorded so far, including many endemics. Mushrooms, bryophytes and lichens have not been adequately studied but there is evidence that numerous species exist.
The present trend in biodiversity shows signs of improvement, after a long period of decline during the 20th century. This positive trend is largely the result of coordinated efforts by the competent government departments, NGOs and the measures taken after Cyprus’s accession into EU, mainly with the establishment of the Natura 2000 network, but also with the enactment and enforcement of relevant legislation.
The main threats to the biodiversity of the island are a result of human activities caused by urban and tourism (mainly by the coast) development, infrastructure, grazing, and rural area abandonment.
Costal habitats have suffered serious destruction and reduction, with consequence of biodiversity loss. The increase of land demand for the tourism development, the land use changes that led to fragmentation of habitats, as well as habitat loss, placed excessive pressure on biodiversity. Many coastal habitats, such as dune habitats and coastal marshes, have been compromised or destroyed.
The construction of dams, overexploitation of water and the diversion of water for irrigation has adverse impacts on the ecology of the rivers and riparian ecosystems.
Furthermore the abandonment of traditional subsistence and the development of intensive agriculture, the use of agrochemicals, along with land-use changes, influenced negatively the agroecosystems and the species that live there.
Illegal trapping of some species (with the use of nets and limesticks) is also a serious problem.
The main threats to biodiversity include the following:
Rapidly expanding construction industry especially for the tourist industry along the coastline, as well as an extensive road network. (highways and rural roads)
Rural abandonment leading to the loss of indigenous species which are dependent on traditional agriculture but also of local varieties of crop plants.
Overexploitation of the scarce underground and surface water resources
Climatic change which is reflected in the reduction of the average annual precipitation by 16% over the last century and increase in average annual temperatures by 1 0C.
Forest and wild fires in general
Invasive species both plant and animal.
Non-sustainable agricultural practices locally, especially in irrigated crops
Overexploitation of fisheries stocks
Pollution of soil, air and water caused by industrial, domestic and farming activities
National Strategies Related to Biodiversity
Cyprus has not yet prepared a comprehensive Biodiversity Action Plan, however the related national policies (Sustainable Development Strategy, Forest Policy, Agriculture Policy, Water Policy and Fisheries Policy etc.), safeguard the biodiversity of the Island. Also National Action plans such as the Desertification Action Plan that are in the process of being implemented, include measures that will further guarantee the biodiversity protection.
The Rural Development Policy of the European Union has been applied across the European territory through the implementation of co-financed rural development programs prepared with the Member States and approved by European Commission.
Accordingly, Cyprus implements the Rural Development Programme (RDP) for the programming period 2007-2013, as well as the implementation of cross compliance.
A part of the RDP is focused on environmental protection measures, such as those under pillar 2. The pillar 2 aims to maintain and further enhance the environment. Funding of the measures under this pillar include measures for the protection of forests from fires, reforestation of burned areas, conservation and improvement of social and ecological functions of forests. The agri-environment schemes provide economic assistance to meet specific agri-environmental commitments in Natura 2000 areas. The agri-environmental commitments concern the protection of the habitats and species in order to maintain wildlife and protect biodiversity.
Furthermore, along with the environmental measures, the program provides financial assistance to disadvantaged areas, promotes organic production of agricultural products, agrotourism etc.
In order to implement the obligations that arise by the Nature Directives of the EU (Habitats and Birds Directives), Cyprus has included in the European Network Natura 2000, 40 Sites of Community Importance and 29 Special Protected Areas. The Department of Environment and the Forestry Department aiming to achieve an adequate conservation status for the Natura 2000 sites are now in the procedure of preparing management plans for these areas, while for the marine Natura 2000 sites the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research has elaborated relevant management plans. The management plans address biodiversity conservation issues as well as monitoring of habitats and species in order to complete the ecological status of the sites.
Aiming at the protection of biodiversity, a governmental decision was taken for the restriction and prevention of invasive species in reforestations and plantings, and various actions are implemented to eliminate already established invasive plants.
Finally the Ministry of Education has elaborated a national strategy for environmental education that has been approved by the government and parliament and is now being implemented.
The biodiversity concerns are being gradually addressed in the policies and programs of various sectors. The progress so far has been slow mainly because of lack of adequate capacity and partly because of the fact that many of the concepts are new. The Ministry of Education has incorporated biodiversity concepts in the curricula of all elementary school. The agriculture and livestock policies are adopting biodiversity concerns. The declared principal management goal of the state forests which form 21,5% of the area under control of the government, is biodiversity conservation, and to this direction the Forestry Department implements various programmes and actions such as the establishment of protected areas, restoration of habitats and deteriorated sites, fire protection, establishment of Botanical Gardens and gene banks etc.
Progress towards the 2010 Targets
Cyprus has completed the catalogue of the protected areas of the Natura 2000 network. All major habitats and ecosystems are included in the protected area system, which covers 19 % of the area of the country. Cyprus is involved in LIFE projects for protected and non-protected areas. In addition, projects for conservation of species and ecosystems are currently under implementation.
Significant progress has been made towards the sustainable use of water, with the Water Framework Directive being the most significant tool. Cyprus is likely to be seriously affected by climate change and there is growing realization that adaptation and mitigation measures are essential. Undoubtly there are areas of the country that the ecosystems are degrading fast and losing their capacity to deliver goods and services to support the local livelihoods.
Plant Conservation Strategy
Systematic collection and documentation of the flora of Cyprus started in 1987. The flora of Cyprus has been well studied and a Red Data Book has been compiled in 2007, including a computer data base with the coordinates of all threatened and rare plant taxa. Monitoring plans have been prepared for more than 10 plant taxa of Annex II of the Habitats Directive. Ex situ conservation is implemented through the establishment of protected species in Botanical Gardens and storing of propagation material at low temperatures in seed banks at the Agricultural Research Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment (MANRE). Even though no specific plant conservation strategy exists, the targets on plant conservation have been met through the efforts mentioned above.
Cyprus has designated 40 Sites of Community Interest under the Habitats Directive (SCIs – Natura 2000 Network) and 29 Special Protected Areas under the Birds Directive (SPAs – Natura 2000). Also in the island there are 10 National Parks, (15627 ha), 4 Nature Reserves (4788 ha) and 350 game reserves covering about 33% of the government controlled area of Cyprus.
Management plans of the protected areas are required in order to implement the principles of conservation most of which have already been prepared. Progress has been made in achieving partial targets such as filling ecological gaps, addressing policy and legislation. Management of national parks is being integrated into the broader landscape management and is progressively accepted by local communities. There has been no assessment of the protected areas so far to determine the status of biodiversity and effectiveness of the management
The Convention on Biological Biodiversity is considered to be a significant tool that can assist on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in Cyprus. The impact of the Convention is hard to quantify, since many actions are a result of parallel legislation.
Analysis of Lessons Learnt
The progress on implementation of the convention was much better in those thematic areas and cross cutting issues where the country had sufficient institutional and human resources, for example, forestry, wildlife and protected areas. The actions on new areas, for example, access and benefit sharing, bio-safety and invasive alien species still remains slow, as an enhancement of human resource capacity and scientific knowledge is needed.
Future Priorities and Capacity Needs
The country has made a lot of progress on 2010 biodiversity targets, through the establishment of the Natura 2000 Network and the efforts in managing these areas. Despite this, the need to identify future priorities and take measures to build institutional, financial and human resource capacity for implementation of the convention still exists.
Overview of Cyprus Biodiversity Status, Trends and Threats
Cyprus’s biodiversity is a result of its long isolation history, its geology and geomorphology and the Mediterranean climate, along with the effect of human intervention.
The Island lies in the north-eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea at a longitude of 33o20’’ east and a latitude of 35o12’’ north and is the third largest island in the Mediterranean basin region, with an area of 9,251Km2.
The geomorphology of the island, the great variation in temperature and rainfall, its location between the three continents (Europe, Africa and Asia), along with 10,000 years of history and civilization, yielded a flora and fauna of great diversity and richness. The island its divided into three geomorphological zones, the Troodos mountains, the Pentadaktylos Range and the Mesaoria plain, which separates the two upland areas and is divided into three geotectonic zones: a) Troodos including the Mesaoria plain, b) Mamonia and c) Keryneia zone. Its climate is typically Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and mild winters, with rainfall occurring predominantly between November and April. The island is characterized by bio-climate ranges from hot semi-desert in the central plain of Mesaoria, to wet and cool climate on the top of Troodos mountains. This creates a remarkable biological diversity, with a variety of plant communities, such as coniferous forests, maquis, garigue, while more localized communities occur around salt marshes, sand dunes, stone walls and mountain streams, with a considerable number of endemic species.
The climate of Cyprus is characteristically Mediterranean, with relatively short, mild and humid winters, followed by long, hot and dry summers. The mean annual rainfall is roughly 480 mm, and varies from 300 mm in the central plain to 1100 mm at the top of Troodos (Olympus). The highest precipitation is between November and March. The rainfall during summer is very low, and falls mainly on the mountainous regions. Snowfall is frequent on the Troodos mountain range, mainly during December to March. Regarding the temperature fluctuations in summertime and particularly in July and August, the mean daily temperature varies between 29°C on the plain of Mesaoria to 22°C on the Troodos, while the mean highest temperatures during these months are 36 and 27°C respectively. The mean daily temperatures in winter (during January) is 10°C on the central plain and 3°C on Troodos, while the mean lowest are 5 and 0°C respectively.
Cyprus faces intense problem of water shortage and drought, which is expected to worsen as a result of climate changes. During the last decades a gradual reduction in rainfall has been observed, with simultaneous increase in temperature and incidents of long periods of drought. Base models of simulation, have indicated that the temperature is expected to be increased, proportionally with the seasons, from 1,3 until 1,9°C in a period of thirty years i.e. 2021-2050, accompanied by rainfall reduction and increase in the periods of drought. These drastic changes of climate obviously have negative effects on biodiversity.
The geographical position and the morphology of the island play an important role in the weather and micro-climatic conditions in the various areas and the creation of local effects, while the sea causes considerable local effects on the coastal areas.
Cyprus is geologically and biogeographically one of the most isolated Mediterranean islands (Hadjikyriakou, 2002). Due to this isolation, a large number of plants and animals, which colonized the island, evolved into endemic species. Because of climatic variation and the variety of habitats present, the island hosts a considerable biodiversity and it is considered a biodiversity "hotspot" area (Hadjikyriakou, 2002). In relation to its size, Cyprus has one of the richest flora in the Mediterranean region (Tsintides, et. al. 2002) and in comparison to other Mediterranean countries, it is rich in endemics. This is due to its geological structure, climatic conditions, geographic location (at the boundary of three continents), its insular character, the surrounding sea, and the topographical configuration.
Approximately 18 percent of Cyprus’ area is covered by forest and 47 percent is considered arable land, 21 percent of which is irrigated. The dominant types of woody plants are the extensive pine forests, the sclerophyllous evergreen, high and low maquis, and garigue ecosystems. Also more localized habitats are found, consisting of riparian vegetation, endemic cedar forest, cypress forests and Cyprus oak relic forests. Herbaceous plants consist mainly of grasslands, vegetation of sand dunes and cliffs, and perennial pond plants.
The coastal zone of Cyprus is characterized by rich wildlife of high ecological value. Along the 772 km of the Cyprus coastline, coasts are almost everywhere low and shelving. Sea cliffs of any magnitude are extremely rare. According to its substrate, the shoreline is rocky, mainly with pebble beaches (54%), sandy beaches and many small coves (46%). Sand dunes, salt flats, salt lakes, salt marshes as well as freshwater marshes occur in the Cyprus coastal belt although they are limited to few areas. As far as the sand dune ecosystems, these are confined to 22 sites (Hadjichambis et al., 2003). Dunes, at many places, are low and beaches narrow, mostly because of a restricted sediment supply which is the result of dam construction over the last 20 years, as well as tourism activities and beach erosion.
The island is characterized by a distinct mosaic of landscapes, where the particular microclimatic and topographic characteristics, the diversity of vegetation, forested and agricultural land contribute to the creation of variable types of biotopes which satisfy the requirements of many types of organisms. The flora and fauna of the island is adapted to the various natural biotopes and climatic conditions, resulting in a large number of endemic and rare species.
The great diversity of plant and animal species derives from a sharp altitudinal gradient of climatic conditions, extending from the warm and semi-arid environment of the central Mesaoria plain (average temperature 17-19°C, annual rainfall <300 mm) to wet and cool conditions on the mountains of the Troodos massif (average temperature 9-13°C, annual rainfall 1100 mm).
Species diversity has also developed due to the island’s isolation from the mainland, as it was formed through compression and uplift of oceanic crust within the Mediterranean Sea that was never directly connected to the surrounding European continent.
The Cyprus flora includes in total 1910 taxa (species, subspecies, varieties, forms and hybrids) as native or naturalized, among which, 143 taxa are endemic. Consequently, the percentage of Cyprus endemism, calculating all the taxonomical levels, is 7.39% which is one of the highest in Europe. The percentage of endemics can reach over 20% within the Troodos massif, where large numbers of endemic plants such as the cedar (Cedrus brevifolia) and the golden oak (Quercus alnifolia) are found. The island's great variety of habitats, attributed to a varied microclimate and geology, is the main reason which contributed to this high number of endemics.
Since Cyprus has always been an island, the first arrivals were hippopotami and elephants, which are both excellent swimmers. The largest wild animal that can still be found on the island is the Cyprus moufflon (Ovis orientalis ophion), a rare type of wild sheep that can only be found in Cyprus. Cyprus is a very important migration route for birds during their migration from Europe to Africa and back. The Island is characterised by a variety of fauna species and includes among others 385 birds, 32 mammals, 22 reptiles (8 snakes and 11 lizards) and 3 amphibians.
Marine animals include seals and turtles. Two marine turtles, the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), have been found to breed regularly on the island's sandy beaches of Akamas Peninsular, the last remaining wilderness area.
The biodiversity of the island is affected by the man-induced alterations, the invasion of alien species, forest fires, epidemics from livestock-born diseases affecting wildlife, management practices etc. It is also vulnerable to the exponential increase in human population and the intense land overexploitation that is taking place on the island.
As mentioned in the Red Data Book of the flora of Cyprus (Tsindes et al., 2007), 328 plant species are characterized as threatened, whereas a number of endemic species show a decline in their numbers.
Total indigenous flora (pteridophyte and spermatophyte) is comprised of 1610 species (trees, shrubs, sub shrubs, herbs) or 1738 taxa in the level of variety, adventives flora is comprised of 238 taxa.
Very important areas of endemism is the National Forest Park of Troodos with 94 endemic taxa, the Pentadaktylos range with 56 endemic taxa, and the Akamas Peninsula with 44 endemic taxa.