March 1st 2013
Paralimni Lake in Southeast Cyprus. A truly unique wetland area that I first visited in 2009. It was then totally dry - and had been nearly totally dry for many years. I could not imagine it in anyway being a flooded "lake". In fact, I learned reading a book on Paralimni - that many older maps never showed this huge ephemeral wetland at all - and that's surprising (perhaps it was always a nearly ephemeral vernal-like waterbody - really unique....). This year the "Lake" is full of shallow water and full of life. Biologist Athena Papatheodoulou of Terra Cypria and Biodiversity East and our friend Iakovos Tziortzis of Enalia Physis who lives near Paralimni guided me to this spring wonderland.
Today Lake Paralimni looked to me like one gigantic Mediterranean Temporary Pond! We found several hundred dead Tadpole Shrimp, the famous living-fossil (looks like Triops cancriformis). I don't know any reference to this scarce species on Cyprus - so its seemed like a great discovery for us! This is the first time I see Triops - these amazing crustaceans look like horseshoe crabs or trilobites - they are out-of-this-world!!! The specimens we found were huge: more than seven centimeters from head-tip to tail-tip!!!
Paralimni Lake is one of Cyprus' most threatened wetlands and some locals are eager to help stop its degradation. One of the major causes of the people-wetland conflict here are the mosquitoes. People have a long-time phobia of the mosquitoes and the city of Paralimni and the surrounding villages are all built right on the lake's shores. Unfortunately it is not just the lake that produces all the mosquitoes - thousands of tons of garbage and construction-site debris litter the lake shore and here in the tiny water-spots Anopheles and other bloodsuckers breed freely! In the lake, the mosquito fish, dragonflies, amphibians and birds are part of the rich food-web that keeps insect populations under control. So the key is to manage the wetland, clean-up the mess on the lake's outskirts and inform the public. If the public respects and identifies with the wetland it may be protected. Locals should know that during some 'wet-years' mosquitoes will be a real nuisance. Spring 2013 is a wet year at Paralimni! Since malaria is long-gone - people should not worry so much. However, a mosquito management plan must take wetland biodiversity conservation into consideration. And the Lake's biodiveristy and its serene beauty are worth all the fuss!!!
Environmentalism on Cyprus could become much much stronger if we unite and organize smart proposals and campaigns that bring together research, policy, development, recreation and education. Good local scientists are key-players in this super-integration for conservation. For example, our friend Iakovos Tziortzis belongs the the NGO ENALIA PHYSIS - have a look: http://enaliaphysis.org.cy. Athena Papaethodoulou works for years now at another good Cypriot NGO Terra Cypria - have a look: http://www.conservation.org.cy/. Keep-up nature-centered environmentalism on Cyprus!
UPDATE DEC 2014: Limnetica Tabpole Shrimp in Cyprus