Monday, October 7, 2013

Campaign: Alykes Anavissou and Agios Nikolaos Attika

The Agios Nikolaos coastline with the characteristic tombolo and small marine lagoon. The island in the distance is Arsida- located across from HCMR headquarters (Photo by D. Klouras).

Early October 2013

The west coast of the Attika Peninsula from Varkiza to Sounio is certainly one of the most beautiful coasts in the southern Greece! This is not hyperbole; but it is a very subjective statement. And unfortunately the area is aesthetically degraded due to building sprawl at various areas near Athens. Sprawl of all sorts and ineffective planning are rife despite the beauty of the relief, the variety of landscape formations and the magnificent sea-scapes. So much has been lost: the coast road, the extensive in-filling of wetlands and creeks and haphazard development of all kinds has done extensive damage. Distasteful degradation.
So what can we do?

Find the remaining open places;
assess values, and save them!

Large and important open spaces first.
Important beyond the local scale. One such area is Alykes Anavyssou (Anavyssos Salina) and the the beautiful coastline south to the tombolo of Agios Nikolaos (about 50 km south of Athens). The area is public land belonging to a government organization intending to sell-off public lands for rapid development.

Since HCMR headquarters at Anavyssos is located very close to this area, several scientists have visited many times and there is a certain understanding about the area's potential.

These are the main values as biodiversity experts see things:

Alykes Anavyssou
  • Alykes Anavyssou is a wetland area- one of the largest in southern Attika. The wetland area covers nearly 900 stremmata (90 hectares); a basin that was formerly an active salina until 1969. It is a huge expanse of beach-side coastal lowland.
  • Although degraded by Wetland habitats exist (Juncus rushbeds, steppe-like limonium flats, small temporary ponds and scattered shrubs (Tamarix, Retama etc)). 
  • Rare wetland plants have been recorded (various charophytes such as Chara canescens, Chara vulgaris s.l. and the rare water moss Riella helicophylla have been recorded by my friend botanist Uwe Raabe in 2011). 
  • The area is of moderate ornithological importance; at least 36 species have been recorded in 2011 when we visited during a wet Spring. This includes rare and protected species (collared pratincole etc). It potentially could have a high local importance if semi-aquatic conditions were better managed. Due to the salina's embankments, roads etc. the hydrology is severely cut-off from the basin and rarely fills with water. It is usually dry and quiet most of the year. 

Regenerated wetland habitats after Spring rain (March 2011) at Alyki Anavyssou. 

Summer air-photo. The tombolo - a slice of sand- connecting the
islet of Agios Nikolaos.The coastline is public land all the
way to the unbuild basin of the Salina, At Upper Right behind
the beach of Anavyssos Bay
(Photo from Enotita Saronikou NGO).
Agios Nikolaos Coast

  • Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • Small wetland lagoon fringed by rush beds, low dunes, salt-wart salt marsh, reeds.
  • Natural tombolo formation.
  • The area is a rare marine formation (beach-rock naturally embanks the shallow lagoon).
  • The area is of moderate ornithological importance; It potentially could have a high local importance. 

This area is vulnerable not because it is one of the last open spaces it is immanently threatened. It is public land that may be sold -off to developers. Local government, NGOs and some knowledgeable members of the public are very intersted in seeing this area "protected".

Off-hand recommendations

a) This issue is local, but can be developed into one of regional value if the uniqueness and "larger" potential values of the site are recognized (biodiversity, recreation, education, landscape conservation potential).

b) Alykes Anavyssou should remain a greenspace. This can be combined in harmony with specific development actions only if it is planned in such a way as to be a small-scaled thematic development- functional and not distasteful. Attika and much of coastal Greece is full of so much distasteful sprawl and assorted ugliness.

c) A vision for the Alykes Anavyssou area is needed. Already some proposals (thematic parks etc) have been put forward. Many local environmentalists want to see the are rehabilitated and its natural character retained.

d) The coast along the beach of Alykes Anavyssou has been gentrified (lawns, etc); distasteful and typical of so much development. The Agios Nikolaos area fortunately does not have this; this relative naturalness means it has an outstanding value of naturalness. All the public land of Agios Nikolaos must remain unmodified.

In short, yes lets save it. Worthy of a fight!

On the 4th of October we had a very successful public meeting on the issue at HCMR. About 70 people gathered including many specialists from the Municipality, public authorities, university and HCMR. We thank the local NGO Enotita Saronikou for making this possible. 

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