Saturday, February 16, 2019

Boat electrofishing the Evros River: Summer 2018

The Evros
Sampling in September 2018

The Evros, Maritsa, Meriç...In Greece it is a shared river. It has about ten major tributaries entering the main stem from Greek territory. Shared with Turkey and Bulgaria. It is my favorite river.

We have been doing a lot of work here because we love big rivers, and this is perhaps the last "sturgeon river" in the Med and one of the richest in terms of a full sweep of biodiversity - in the Greek part, from its upland tributaries to the Delta.

I'm posting snap shots from our September HCMR visit. Water Framework Directive boat-fishing in the river at four sites (see our map below - near the end of the pics). And many thanks to the Hellenic Army that helped us in this peaceful endeaver.

The Evros is just full of fish! You definately need to nets here...

Sometimes they don't fit in the net: European wells (Silurus glanis).

One of the most interesting predatory fishes in the Evros: Asp (Leuciscus aspius).
Common Bream (Abramis brama)- not at all common in Greek river waters.

The Pikepearch (Sander lucioperca), another predatory species - this is its fry! 

Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio) - an alien from the orient that has led to the extirpation of its wild native cousin, the Crussian Carp - now a mystery fish for Greece (and probably extinct). 
Evros_md (see map below). First site on the Evros across from the Turkish border, south of Edirne/Adrianoupolis. 

Evros_up is across from the Bulgarian border. Here you can easily stray into uncharted waters if you are not careful - I think we officially visited Bulgaria on this survey. 

Erythro_dw is near the town of Didymoteicho. Water abstraction and pollution creates this kind of situation: a very interesting site for bioassessment (only 13 spp here). 

Erythro_dw and the common water chestnut (Trapa natans).

Erythro_dw: negotiating with the trees with military help, before we can dump the boat in the river.

European rudd (Scardinius erythophthalmus).

Top-mouth Gudgeon (Pseudorasbora parva), one of the most threatening aind notorius invasive aliens species in Europe.

Getting boats ready. Ours is a german-made skiff (5 m.). 

Me with the fishermen: Kostas and Alexandros!

Carp (Cyprinus carpio) are known to be native to the Evros.

Yours, Kostas and Vassilis. The tiny islet on the left belongs to Turkey, we think...(judging by Google we did'nt go near it...).

Some kind of huge water snail...abundant in the river, often on the artificial groynes.

One of my favorite fishes in the Evros - a Ponto-Caspian goby that is Native to the river, the tube-nosed goby (Proterorhinus semilunaris). It is abundant. 

The Pontian monkey goby (Neogobius fluviatilis) discovered by our team in 2011 and now after so many years caught again at two sites! This now-to-be sure alien/translocated species is surviving well in the area - but it is not easy to catch by boat-based electrofishing. 

And a new discovery for Greece and the Evros basin, The racer goby (Babka gymnotrachelus). This to our knowledge the first find of this Ponto-Caspian species in the Aegean drainage basins. A new alien species for Greece! We found them both at Evros_up and Evros_md and they should be searched carefully througout the basin.  

Our four sites on the Evros river (in Red). Intenational borderlines are approximate and copied from a widely circulated internet map - we appologise if they are not entirely accurate. The issue of borders is still very sensitive in this area (design by Alexandros Ntakis)

In the Evros we stay at the village of Dadia, inside the National Park. Yes a chance for us to take an early morning birding walk...

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Electrofishing Kosovo and a road-trip through North Macedonia

Could be in Noth Vancouver I know...
December 2017

Ok...its like being in Western Canada but only about a 1000 kilometers North of Athens Greece! Dimitri and I drove up to Kosovo last December and we had a wonderful time! Working with our friend Linda Grapsi from the University of Prishtina the a fish study in the upper White Drin river.

We spent the rainy weekend electrofishing, sightseeing and enjoyed the wonderful food. The people were warm and hospitable like Mediterraneans everywhere - the experience was fascinating for us.  We electrofished in wintry conditions on a tributary of the White Drin (near the town of Kline).The rivers here flood in spring - a very powerful freshet noticeable and alder woods and flood flows are everywhere.  The Drin being one of the largest river basins in the Balkans but its fauna is poorly studied. You need to consdider also that after the late '90s, the disastrous Balkan wars and many socio-politcal changes, little effort has been given to biodiversity research. The Drin is part of the Southeastern Adriatic Ecoregion, one of the poorest explored European Ecoregions....Our work was exploratory; many many questions still. The taxonomic challenges made species-level identification difficult (many of our fishes still have question marks besides their names).

We caught a lot of fish and shipped a lot of them down to Athens (with licence and a good cooperation with the university). We came back with a lot of cheap booze too (but don't do this- it is probably illegal). It was snowing on the drive back and the situation was getting near freezing, we really felt we should be going south. On the way back we had a look at the wonderful country of "North Macedonia" (I truly wish this name-conflict subsides! Please forgive me for branding this newly proposed name instead of the acronym FYROM, for us Greeks, Macedonia is still such a touchy issue - lets get over it!). Exploring our neighbouring republic to the north is fantastic. What a amazing river the Axios/Vardar is!  We saw the Vardar at its birthplace in southern Kosovo and then followed it down to the sunny Thermaikos Gulf.

We promised we will be back; we are organizing a re-visit soon.

Here we share some snap shots and a compilation of field aquarium fish photos taken at the sampling sites.

My friend Linda and my son Dimitri with Albanian colleagues in the background. Expedition style!

Trying to catch fish is not easy in winter.
Note the in-filled river bank; debris and rubble from the war back in 1999. 

Another site on the Klina river, water up, floods are common here. Woods are alder Alnus glutinosa.
The old man near a rushing river: reminds me of the valleys near Vancouver again. This is one of the huge karstic springs of the White Drin.

Yes these are the western Balkans, but with alder and lots and lots of rain - it could be anywhere on a temperate west coast. This upper stretch of the river is a trout zone (only Trout and Minnows present- waters always cold). 

Dimitri and Linda on a clear cold river. Note the extensive amout of war rubble and construction-site debris!  This is not just unplanned sloppiness; it is the result of war. And it is disturbing. Sampling using electricity near bombed bridges was not particulary safe....
But the rewards of fishing here...a selection of collected fishes near the Nora Hotel near Kline town, on the  mid-section of the upper White Drin.  A. Alburnoides ohridanus (sprilin, Juvenile); B. Alburnoides ohridanus (spirlin, Adult), C. Rhodeus cf. amarus (bitterling), D. Squalius platyceps (chub), E. Salmo fariodes (trout), F. Pachychilon pictum (moranec), G. Gobio skadarensis (gudgeon, Juvenile), H. Gobio skadarensis (gudgeon, Adult). Taxonomy will be soon confirmed using genetic screening.

Selection of collected fishes on the upper White Drin. A. "Barbus cf. rebeli/balcanicus" (barbel); B. Barbatula sturanyi (stone loach) at Site 3; C. Alburnus scoranza (bleak) at Site 1, D. Alburnus scoranza (bleak) (large-sized adult), E. Phoxinus cf csikii (minnow), F. Phoxinus cf csikii (minnow, adult female), G. Phoxinus cf csikii (Minnow, Juvenile at 'fry' stage), H. Salmo fariodes (trout) showing extensive skin disease (Adult). Taxonomy will be soon confirmed using genetic screening.

Selection of collected fishes on the upper White Drin. A. Squalius platyceps (chub, adult) at Site 2; B. Chondrostoma cf. ohridanus (nase, adult) at site 2; C. Chondrostoma cf. ohridanus (nase)  at site 3 (Juvenile); D. Sabanejewia balcanica (loach, juvenile) at Site 2, E. Pachichylon pictum (moranec) at site 2.  F. Salmo fariodes (trout) at Site 2. , G. Gobio skadarensis (gudgeon) at site 2. Taxonomy will be soon confirmed using genetic screening.

Somewhere in NW Kosovo.
Typical roadside scene in the upper Vardar Valley in Kosovo very close to the 'North Macedonian' border.

Huge albanian flage on the Kosovar side of the Kosovo-'North Macedonian' border.
The Vardar in North Macedonia. 

The Vardar in North Macedonia. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

University of Patras Herbarium: a new Botanical Museum!

December 2018
University of Patras

We visited the opening of the new Botanical Museum at the herbarium rooms of the University of Patras (at Patras in Western Greece). The new professors and researchers established here have taken the initiative to re-furbish and turn the old archive to a brilliant little museum! Professors Dimopoulos, Panitsa and nature interpretation experts Vassilis Hatzirvassanis and Aris Vidalis with the help of students and friends have done a great job - and this should be GOOD NEWS both locally and beyond. And this will benefit the society of Patras and Greece as a whole - a new landmark for environmental education. Its such actions that go over-and-above the call of duty but remain a legacy for education and the environmental movement. 

We sincerely hope the Botanical Museum of the University of Patras be incorporated within a much larger Natural History Museum to include outdoor exhibits (the Botanical Garden) as well. Its a great revival! 

This is a tribute wall to the many older expert botanists (almost all foreigners) who collected in Greece. The numbers below show the new taxa described by each explorer - botanist from material collected in Greece.  
This is the herbarium case archives. 
This is the herbarium case archives, the panels here 'decorate' the herbarium shelves (on Left).

There were many pioneering botanists at the grand opening of the exhibit, here Dimitris Christodoulakis. 

The collection process explained. 

A collage of photos outlining the history of the Herbarium collections. 

The recent development of this exhibit is the brain-child of my friend Professor Panayotis Dimopoulos.

The well-developed themes are helpful for students of various levels of interest. Artwork by V. Hatzirvassanis.

Detail of the artwork by V. Hatzirvassanis.

More famous Botanists and other visiting scientists at the grand opening. 

The flora of Greece themed panel. 

Plant pressing and taxonomy.

Professer Maria Panitsa, at center with her students. 
Nicely lit panel. 
The humble entrance to the herbarium, with Vassiliki Vlami and our friend Ioannis P. Kokkoris, both associated with University of Patras conservation and research projects. 
And the full team credits for the new Botanical Museum. Congrats to all!