Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Sampling in Cyprus (Part II)


My Turkish-Cypriot friend, Professor Salih Gucel and I explored Cyprus' east coast to look at the Pediaios and other rivers and associated lagoons and wetlands. Around Ammochostos and Salamis I was impressed to see some rather extensive surviving wetland patches. As in many places on Mediterranean islands this area's wetlands are severely degraded and threatened - building, roading, dumping, water pollution from various urban effluents and water abstraction everywhere. In fact I think these are the most vulnerable wetland areas on Cyprus and they definately have an outstanding international interest that remains unrecognized.

Sometimes, discoveries can be made even at a wetland's life last minute...We made a fantastic re-discovery today: a small protected fish species, the Mediterranean Toothcarp, was relocated here. I was told by Dr. Andreas Demetropoulos that a population was known from this general area - but its current status was a total mystery. To be sure, we do not know exactly what species this Toothcarp belongs to. The taxon is usually ascribed to Aphanius fasciatus but its systematics and taxonomy on Cyprus have not been explored. I believe this population is an evolutionary significant relic that needs immediate attention. Here on the east coast, we managed to locate two populations - one at Silver Beach Lagoon, next to Ancient Salamis and another further south behind the subtropical azure beach of Glapsides. The first site is very fragmented and most of the water had evaporated - leaving the entire Aphanius population dead!  We estimated over 20 0000 dead fish- a remarkable mass death due their lagoon habitat shrinking away in the summer heat.  Aphanius is known to be found only on one more location on Cyprus, at the Akrotiri wetland west of Lemessos. So, here at Ammochostos - at beautiful Famagusta - we report an important conservation priority.  

All photos below taken by S.Gucel

Using Fry Net at Glapsides Lagoon - it was full of shrimp, dozens of Aphanius and two species of  Grey Mullet, plus a small eel. 
Silver Beach -Salamis Lagoon - most of it totally dry. Site of amazing mass deaths of over 20 000 Aphanius and hundreds of Grey Mullet.
Less than two weeks ago mass death of Aphanius - now salt encrusted on the muddy  flats left by the evaporating lagoon.
Finally! Living Aphanius. At Glapsides Lagoon.

One of the rarest and most endangered vertebrates on Cyprus : Common Eel (Anguilla anguilla), next to an Aphanius.
The most important known habitat for Aphanius in Eastern Cyprus: Glapsides Lagoon.
Neapolis Lagoon in the heart of Ammochostos - water is clear shallow and tiny islets have many waders - over 70 Black-winged Stilts present today. 

Agios Loukas freshwater lake, also in the heart of Ammochostos . Fantastic for birdlife - Glossy Ibis is breeding here as Night Heron, Cattle Egret. Many more.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Sampling in Cyprus (Part I)


Back in Cyprus.

We have been sampling in the rivers and streams since the 11th of July. Its a low-key, low-budget two man job (myself and Vassilis Hatzirvassanis). We worked well in conditions that are rather rare in Europe. Often braving 43 C conditions in the lowlands. Finally we added 32 new sites to our fish-amphibian-habitat monitoring. Its a great feeling - but also a feeling of total exhaustion.

This kind of research here is not something you do everyday on a consultancy - and we could not have done it without an amazing amount of help from local organizations and friends. I want to thank the Forestry Department for their hospitality at Platania (on Troodos) - I have said before that their managment of the forest parks here is exceptional and world-class.  My thanks to the Water Development Department, and also to the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research for tons of help, patience and good will. And thanks to 6 great friends who came out to volunteer and help us find water - and fishes. 

We had some very interesting discussions on conservation, ways of working together, things-to-do.

This morning we just sat watching the Sunfish and Big-mouth Bass with our binoculars at Xiliatos Dam and thought - wow...aliens are so beautiful!

I'll get back with photos soon.