Priority habitats conservation in Prespa

11 December 2013 | Article

The Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) in Greece is carrying out several initiatives which focus on agro-forestry. Among these, JunEx is a large-scale EU LIFE-funded project for the conservation of the priority habitat type Greek Juniper Woods (GJWs).  

JunEx was initiated by the SPP in collaboration with the Greek Biotope Wetland Centre, and is fully devoted to the restoration and preservation of this rare habitat. Prespa National Park is the sole area where GJWs are found within EU territory.

Juniper forests in Prespa are threatened by the encroachment of deciduous broad-leaved species such as oak, hornbeam and hop-hornbeam. This significantly changes the habitat. The main factor favouring the expansion of broad-leaved species has been the lack of habitat management over the years, due mostly to the gradual reduction of grazing.

Over the next five years the SPP plans to carry out a series of interventions including selective logging to gradually remove broad-leaved species where they have encroached, fencing the most important areas where the forests are in good condition, clearing out rubbish and dead organic matter and boosting the natural regeneration of juniper seedlings, by germinating seeds and growing seedlings under laboratory conditions, then subsequently planting them back out in the wild.

However, the most important project intervention is undoubtedly the organised reintroduction of grazing in the area, through the creation of new infrastructure for livestock farming. The reintroduction of grazing highlights the socio-economic dimension of nature protection, acknowledging that organised human practices constitute one of the most important biodiversity management and conservation measures.

All the activities are carried out in close collaboration with the Forestry Department of Florina, the Prespa National Park Management Body, the Municipality of Prespa, the Departments of Forestry and Management of the Natural Environment at TEI Thessaly and Eastern Macedonia-Thrace, as well as local stockbreeding and forestry co-operatives.