Exchanging knowledge and experience in visiting Aetoloakarnania habitats

The members of the Management Steering Committee of the LIFE-IP 4 NATURA project, as well as the staff of the corresponding LIFE Integrated Project of Latvia, who visited Greece as part of the networking activities of IP projects, had the opportunity to visit the habitats of Griffon Vulture in Aetoloakarnania .

The 11th MSC meeting took place in Messolonghi, in the Municipal Council Ηall (which was kindly granted by the local Municipality), and the two IP projects and their actions were presented at the meeting networking event that followed.

From the side of the Greek project, the results of selected actions were presented, for which there was particular interest from the Latvian delegation: the setting of conservation objectives for Natura 2000 areas, the mapping and assessment of ecosystem services, the development and operation of a decision support system for the competent authorities regarding projects and activities within the Natura 2000 network and the management of Natura 2000 sites, the development of the participatory geographic information system (ppGIS/webGIS) for the visualization and monitoring of ecosystem services, the capacity building programme for competent authorities and for business and social actors involved in the management of Natura 2000 areas, and also the results of communication and dissemination activities.

In parallel, a very interesting presentation of the protected area of the Messolonghi Lagoon National Park was held by the Management Unit of the Messolonghi National Park and Western Central Greece Protected Areas of the Natural Environment and Climate Change Agency (NECCA).

The following day, a visit was made to the habitats of Griffon Vulture: the Kleisouras Straits (SPA GR2310015 Delta Acheloou, Limnothalassa Mesolongiou – Aitolikou kai Ekvoles Evinou, Nisoi Echinades, Nisos Petalas, Dytikos Arakynthos kai Stena Kleisouras) and the Embesos – Perdikaki villages area (SPA GR2110006 Koilada Acheloou kai Ori Valtou). During the visit, there was a summary of the actions included in the National Action Plan for three species of vultures (Bearded Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Cinereous Vulture), whose actions are coordinated by HOS. The presentation focused on conservation measures for the Griffon Vulture, since Aetoloakarnania is home to approximately 70% of the breeding pairs in continental Greece, making it a top priority area for the conservation of this species.

During the visit, Griffon Vulture nests and chicks were observed both in Kleisoura and in Ori Valtou, areas where HOS has been implementing a systematic monitoring program for four years: the period of late June – early July is the one in which the birds born this year they start their first flights, after a long period of almost 120 days from their birth! (for the sake of comparison, it is stated that for small-sized birds the corresponding period from birth to the first flights of the chicks ranges from 15-20 days).

In Kleisoura, the meeting participants also had the opportunity to get to know the Special Poisoned Baits Unit of the Messolonghi National Park Management Unit, i.e. the trained poisoned bait detection dog “Brando” with his handler, who has been active in the Aetoloakarnania and carries out patrols in the birds of prey habitats. At the same time, in the Ori Valtou area, they had the opportunity to hear first-hand from a local livestock breeder about the current state of livestock farming, which is critical for the preservation of vultures, as well as the problems faced by this sector in recent years. During the implementation of the Vultures Action Plan, special importance is given to cooperation with breeders in the critical areas of these species and interventions are foreseen for reducing the intensity of the wildlife-livestock conflict that will be beneficial both for breeders and for vultures.

Finally, with the artificial Kremaston Lake as a background, the attendees watched the demonstration of the operation of the digital application (app) that has been created in the context of the development of the ppGIS-webGIS tool for the recording, assessment and protection of ecosystem services.

The visit to the Ori Valtou area was also attended by officials from the Protected Areas Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf of NECCA, the unit responsible for the management of the Ori Valtou SPA.

The networking event ended with lunch in the welcoming village of Empesos: the Ori Valtou and the Acheloos Valley are rather unknown to the general public, but of exceptional and wild beauty and with great ecological and cultural value, which is worth visiting.

Source: Hellenic Ornithological Society