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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Cyprus

Nature protection and biodiversity (Cyprus)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 24 Nov 2010

There has been great concern about biodiversity loss and the extinction of species worldwide. This loss of biodiversity, at the levels of ecosystems, species and genes, is of major concern, not only due to the fundamental value of nature, but also because it results in a decline in the ‘ecosystem services’ which natural systems provide. These services include production of food, fuel, fibre and medicines, regulation of water, air and climate, maintenance of soil fertility and cycling of nutrients. The recent Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) highlighted that most of those services are in decline, both in the EU and globally. Humanity is wasting the Earth’s natural capital and putting at risk the ability of ecosystems to sustain future generations. This can only be reversed with substantial changes in policies and practices.

Biodiversity loss occurred all over Europe, as a result of the rapid growth of tourism, land use changes, infrastructure development, urbanization, deforestation and agriculture abandonment. Ecosystem destruction and overexploitation through agriculture, fisheries, forestry has resulted in excessive species extinction.

Cyprus lies at the easternmost end of the Mediterranean basin, at the crossroads of the Europe, Asia and Africa and it is widely considered as a biodiversity hotspot. The natural environment of the island, the ecosystems and the fauna and flora, are the result of evolution, affected by the particular climatic and geological conditions, the adjacency with the three continents (Europe, Asia, Africa), the island’s long-lasting isolation and the effects of human activities.

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. However, a number of rare as well as endemic species are threatened with extinction, which can only be protected with the implementation of legislation, suitable management measures and the right-decision making. 

The National Ecological Network ‘Natura 2000’ was initiated in Cyprus in 1999, in order to protect natural habitats and species and extend them by managing and preventing degradation. The Natura 2000 network is an integral part of the European Ecological Network, which aims to the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. In order to implement the Habitat Directive 92/43/EC and Birds Directive 79/409/EC, Cyprus proceed to the designation of 39 Sites of Community Interest (SCI) and 28 Special Protected Areas (SPA).  

The designated areas, are representative of the mountainous regions (e.g. the mountain range of Troodos), the coastal regions (e.g. cape Akama), the wetlands (e.g. the Larnaka saltmarsh) and cover the types of ecotopes and the species of the Annexes of the Directive 92/43/EC. The status of the fauna and flora is summarized as:

  • 150 taxa or 111 endemic plants, 7.3% of total plant species.
  • 39 mammals, 375 birds (~50 residents and ~325 migratory, 2 endemic and 4 sub-endemic species), 24 reptiles (1 endemic and 6 sub-endemic), 3 amphibians, 200 fish, and >5,000 insects.
  • 18.68% of national territory covered with forests (12.84% public ownership, 5.84% private).
  • 3.63% of national territory covered with makki (4.85% public ownership, 8.78% private).
  • 9.48% of national territory covered with garigue (2.67% public ownership, 6.81% private).
  • 328 threatened plant species (Summary of the results of plant evaluation of the Red Data Book of the flora of Cyprus).

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 24 Nov 2010

Cyprus is a biodiversity hot spot area, with 49 habitat types (9 priority habitat) of Annex I of the Habitats Directive, 92/43/EC, rich plant and animal species and mosaic of biotopes.  The island has extensive natural coniferous forests and expansion of phrygama. The ecosystems consist of high forest, shrubs, traditional cultivated orchard trees and vineyards, which constitute important habitats for rare plants.  Biodiversity in Cyprus has not been fully assessed, but within the scope of the  Natura 2000 Network, a survey for the habitat status will be carried out during 2010. Furthermore that Management Plans have been completed for a number Natura 2000 sites and monitoring will commence for both habitat and species.

The most serious threats to the nature of Cyprus are the effects of climate change, land use change, invasive species, illegal hunting and forest fires (with a forested area of 7% burnt in the period 1990 to 2008). The available statistics indicate that in Cyprus  14% of the flora is threatened with extinction, while the situation of all known species found to be in danger is approximately 34%, (Table 1).

Another serious threat to the Cypriot nature is the shortage of water and the long droughts that the island often faces. Due to the dam construction, rivers are dry for more than 6 month per year, with negative effects on the ecosystem and the organism that they sustain.  

 

Table 1 A Red Data Book of Flora of Cyprus (2007).

IUCN Category

Number of Plants

Cumulative Sum

Percentage (%)

Regionally Extinct

23

23

7,0

Critically Endangered

46

69

14,0

Endangered

64

133

19,5

Vulnerable

128

261

39

Data Deficient

45

306

13,7

Near Threatened

15

321

4,6

Least Concern

7

328

2,2

Total

328

328

100

 

Agricultural areas are also a significant part natural environment. The agricultural land comprises  48% of the national territory (CLC 2006), a large percentage of which presents characteristics of noteworthy natural value, in terms of genetic and species biodiversity, as well as that of the landscape, which serves as zone of connection with natural spaces.

Undoubtly the rapid economic growth of Cyprus causes a certain degree of degradation of the environment,  as well as biodiversity loss. Anthropogenic pressure for the nature and biodiversity could be considered the fragmentation of the habitats, infrastructure, urbanization, development of the coastal areas while invasive species are among the major threats to the environment. The rural area of the island is profoundly abandoned and this can cause degradation of the landscape and the loss of species that live there.

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 24 Nov 2010

The primary threats to biodiversity is the growing demand for natural resources and ecosystem services. Anthropogenic changes in conjunction with natural impacts are causing major alteration on the biotopes. Residential development, infrastructure, tourism, invasive species and quarrying are among the most serious threats that ecosystems are facing today. Furthermore highway and rural road construction has led to habitat loss and a fragmentation of nature areas.

The most frequent types of threats involve the transformation or modification of natural habitats (Table 2).

 

Table 2 Major change of land use 2006

 

CLC 2006 Classes

% of Change

Discontinous urban fabric

 

0.58

Sport and leisure facilities

 

0.32

Industrial or commercial units

 

0.28

Construction sites

 

0.14

Complex cultivation patterns

 

0.28

  

Changes in land use is the greatest threat to the ecosystem, flora and fauna.  Urbanization is considered a main driving force (demographic and economic) and exerts pressure on the natural environment and human health/well-being, at country level. Over the last two decades the rural area of the island has been substantially abandoned, with serious effects on the ecosystems. Agriculture habitats of the traditional landscape are being lost, along with many of their plant and insect species.

Significant is also the impact of the construction of roads all over the island, causing fragmentation, and habitat and landscape looses its functional ability with negative consequence on the biodiversity values.  Most severely threatened habitats are the coastal, which are altered by regulation of river systems and dam construction.

The rise of tourism as a prime economic activity has led to rapid development along the coast, changing the landscape. Many of the most severely threatened habitats are in agriculture land and costal areas, which have been altered by development of housing and sport leisure.

Alien species are threat to the general biodiversity and there are several cases where they cause severe problems.  The problem is expected to increase as a consequence of climate change due to that the alien species can adapt easily to the new conditions.

In respect to the biological diversity and ecological stability, conservation of the natural structure of forest areas is essential, since a significant percentage of these areas represents natural ecosystems. Temperature variation and prolonged droughts are among some of the main concerns regarding ecosystem health. Cyprus has always suffered from prolonged droughts which negatively influence the aquatic and wetland natural habitats and river ecosystems.

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 24 Nov 2010

Biological diversity is the basis of life and economic growth, and its protection needs to be integrated in all policies in order to achieve sustainable development and human wellbeing.

A post-2010 National Biodiversity Strategy should be built on a multi-disciplinary approach involving close cooperation between political decision-makers, administrations, agencies, and stakeholders, so as to achieve social, cultural and economic objectives that reciprocally contribute towards improving the quality of life of citizens over the next few years and for generations to come.

The preparation of a National Biodiversity Strategy Plan is under consideration in order to that will cover:

-         The use and management of land in an ecologically and friendly manner,

-         The maintenance of existing historical, cultural and natural values for the development of ecotourism and agrotourism,

-         The completion of the network Natura 2000of protected areas,

-         The implementation of management plans of NATURA 2000 areas,

-         The evaluation of  the  protected areas which are affected by anthropogenic factors, natural factors and climate change

-         The creation of educational trails and sites, geoparks, information and educational facilities,

-         The support of nature functions in preventing ecological disasters, accidents, floods and droughts,

-         The maintenance of biological, ecosystem, landscape and cultural diversity of the country,

-         The environmental monitoring and information system.

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 24 Nov 2010

Cyprus in order to fulfill its obligations arising from its EU and international obligations, has implemented a number of laws and decrees and has signed numerous Conventions and International agreements aiming at the protection of biodiversity. The Habitats and Bird Directives were transposed into national legislation and at present, Cyprus NATURA 2000 network consists of 39 SCIs and 28 SPAs. Certain areas are protected by the Forest Law No. 1967, Town and Planning Law N. 90/72 (Country site Policy), and the Management and Protection of Waters Law N. 13(I)/2004. 

The implementation of the legislation on Environmental Impact Assessment of projects as well as the legislation on the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), are considered very important tools in reducing the impacts that can prove harmful to biodiversity.

Furthermore, through the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) a number of measures assist the farmers to take preventive action against environmental deterioration and to play a positive role in the preservation of the countryside.

 

Disclaimer

The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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