Friday, January 22, 2016

Alyki Anavyssou Bird Survey Project

Alyki Anavyssou site. Red arrow shows the beginning and end of the survey transect - red dotted line. Yellow dots sketch the imaginary line roughly separating wetland/terrestrial zones. Blue figures show a very rough wetted area distribution on 22.01.2016. 

Alyki Anavyssou, Anavissos Attiki          January 22nd 2016

We are trying to standardize a bird survey scheme at Alyki Anavyssou in Southern Attika - an important wetland area near the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research. I was accompanied by my friends Yannis Kapakos, Ira Theophilou and David Koutsogiannopoulos (who took the pics that follow)

These are some initial organization rules we set today on the second pilot survey:

1. The former salina pans area (fenced area of Alyki) is to be counted in a line transect whereby the birds will be tallied in three following lists: a) within the wetland zone; b) non-wetland zone; c) outside the salina fence area. The so-called "wetland zone" is a roughly outlined in the map above (yellow dotted line) and includes areas dominated by open wetland habitats. Areas outside of this (including the fence itself) are in the terrestrial zone. While walking the transect at a slow and steady pace one holds a record of all species positively identified in their respective "habitat zones". If a species if flushed and moves on to another habitat zone or is overflying it is recorded within the zone it was first detected in.

2. The transect is to be walked the at the same pace each time and at exactly the same route each time (marked in red dotted line above). Two birders, myself and Ira Theophilou know the exact route (mapped roughly above) and we can show this to others who may want to participate.

3. In an effort to standardize this, during the survey one or two people should participate not more than two.

4. The survey should take one hour to complete. (At a slow pace with 4-5 stops). No spotting scope is used. Good binoculars are crucial. Birders should not seek to photograph birds during the transect.

5. We aim to have two survey trails at least two times each month for the next 12 months.

6. The rough wetted area distribution should be mapped each time (as in the map above). A rough estimate will be made (i.e. say % of the Salina Lot's wetland area under water - today it was about 10%).

7. Any disturbance or human interventions must be reported. (i.e. today there was one man picking herbs, no cars, no dogs).

8. Start and end times must be noted exactly.

9. As an addendum to the count-survey the small river-mouth of a tiny stream (the Anavissos Stream) will also be counted (maximum 15 min.). From the river-mouth a quick scan will also help record birds in the cove of Anavissos (an oligotrophic species-poor area).

Today the Alyki Anayssou Site had 23 bird species; 7 species where recorded at the Anavissos Stream river-mouth (a few species such as Moorhen, Kingfisher were found only here).

The whole experiance is a nice walk.

Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls at pooling waters in Alyki Anavyssou. (Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).

Retama retam a winter-flowering North African shrub that is quite invasive in Attica.(Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos - thanks for the great photo David!).

Retama retam: Winter flowers for local bees. (Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).

Stonechat on Cistus.(Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).

Commmon Serin.(Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).
Corn Bunting on Cistus.(Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).

Arthrocnemum (Glaswort species).(Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).

Arthrocnemum (Glaswort Species).(Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).

Upland fringe of Alyki with scattered scrub and Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo).(Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).

Common Kestrel. (Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).

Date Palm in fruit.(Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).

Anavissos stream near its River mouth (near the AB Supermarket across from Alyki Anavyssou).(Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).

Anavissos stream with a fine school of grey mullet (Mugilidae).(Photo by David Koutsogiannopoulos).

Official documents giving the Alykes Anavissou (Alykes Anayssos coastal marsh) protected areas status and delineation of the wetland site for the first time. The delineation is similar to mine at the top of this post. And it fortunately includes some filled-in areas as well. It unfortunately does not include the small estuary mouths of the canals (2) and the periodically flooded pools behind the beach. However the result is good!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Karpenisi Center for Environmental Education: "Fauna in Danger" Seminar

Near Karpinisi... (photo from the Center for Environmental Education

Karpenisi Center for Environmental Education 
January 15,16,17 2016

We had a wonderful trip teaching and electrofishing at Karpenisi in Evritania once again - visiting the same site we fished back on the 9th and 10th of March 2012 to look for trout.

Karpenisi is a mountain town about 300 kms north of Athens, at 960 meters elevation. It is totally enclosed by the Mountains of Roumeli - the southernmost flank of the Pindos Range (an extension of the Dinaric Alps). The rivers and streams flow westwards here -part of the great Acheloos basin- and there is lots and lots of water; and very thick forests everywhere. 

Here the local Environmental Education Center hosted a huge group of school teachers - about 70 participants (!!) in a seminar of the educational network called "Fauna in Danger". I focused on fish but some really important celebs from other fields included Costas Papaconstantinou (fragmentation), Charitakis Papaioannou (chamois), Vassiliki Kati (wilderness, birds), Christos Thomaidis (rock partridge), and veteran envi-educators Manolis Kopanakis and Stelios Sylaiounis. Some spouses and children were also with us so the group was really big.   

The weather was horrible! Rain, rain, cold rain! But we all learned so much from the experience.

I was looking to get some fin samples of the tout. The local trout belongs to a range restricted species now called West Balkan Trout or Salmo fariodes. We found some at a spring-fed tributary stream which we had visited in March 2012 but this time only juvenile fishes, a year old, where found. It was surprising they were only about 10 to 12 cm in size and no large fish in sight. We worked hard. 

Some random shots taken mostly be my spouse Vassiliki Vlami are posted bellow.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

How many species of freshwater fish in Greece: A new book!

New checklist  May 2015

How many species of freshwater fishes in Greece?
The ichthyologists at IMBRIW- HCMR have for years worked on answering this question. Its not easy. And it is important.

We're talking about "species" - a supposedly solid taxonomic unit. is not that solid or easily defined!

The concept of species has evolved. And now, following the Phylogenetic Species Concept (contra the Biological Species Concept) a major revision of species entities has taken place. In Europe the 'revolution' crash-hit us when Maurice Kottelat and Jörg Freyhof published their "Handbook of European Freshwater Fish" in the summer of 2007. This book provided a kind of whole-scale validation for many new species of inland fishes in Europe ("new" chars, whitefish, salmons, trout). All of a sudden we had many  new species, many of them formally and/or formerly known as subspecies just a few months before. Following the new 'evolutionary' approach to species definition, the notion of sub-species is dead. So even if our country is already famously rich in fish species - what do you do when many of the former entities are split-up with new shiny names?

Now how many in Greece?

In April 2015 we published our annotated list and conservatively defined the number at 160 species firmly following our colleagues Maurice and Jörg. Our new checklist booklet is not one to purport brevity - so if you do read it you will see that we do point to the controversies the new species concept has created.

Now how did we keep track?
This is not easy for the following reasons:

a) Several species groups are poorly studied and need to be re-assessed; studies are in the pipeline that will certainly increase the species number, especially where former subspecies existed. So we expect to see at least another 10 species entities arise within the decade - this is a conservative estimate but we have firm evidence that new species units will be described in the genera of Squalius, Eudontomyzon, Alburnoides, Knipowitschia, Barbatula, Gobio, Rutilus and maybe others!

b) Some species are not only created but may be "lumped" into others and re-assessed not as species but as local population units at best. This may be possible but I predict not many such changes will occur. There are some fish that may fall into this category (one or to Cobitid loaches I believe). Also the new taxonomic work may show that species that were to exist in this country are now proven not to exist since the Greek populations belong to other species. (We did "lose" two species in this way during the last list revision - Salmo dentex and Barbus rebeli where recently deleted from the Greek fish list).

c) Aliens species.They come and "go". Now we confirm 23 species are aliens (the last list had 29!) We have proved that several species where never really established and we have no evidence of several species that were included on Greece former ichthyofaunal list. This issue needs careful monitoring. 

d) The evidence of many Mediterranean marine transient fishes in fresh waters is growing; surely the line is not black-and-white. Already many fish that breed solely in marine waters are included in the freshwater list (grey-mullets and eel for example). And including these migratory fishes is commonplace in most inland faunal country assessments worldwide. Some marine fish are common, widespread and often found in pure freshwater conditions not just the brackish river mouth extremes (a.k.a. transitional waters). Our 2007 list estimate guesstimated that at least 55 'marine' species are frequent migrants or transients into transitional waters (river-mouths, coastal marshes etc). So we need to work on criteria to include the most frequent - pervasive marine transients in the inland waters list. I wager this will help the inland waters list increase by about another dozen fishes within the decade. 

So its at 160 and 47 are exclusive endemics to the Territory of Hellas. 

Where do we go from here?

Web-based ichthyofaunal tracking tool:

We are now building a special website that will include all photos/drawings of fishes in Greek inland waters. Plus added information on identification, distribution and conservation and their common names (we especially worked hard to help standardize common names). The web-based tool will also be in Ελληνικά. The first phase of this project will be on air after June 2016. So please keep watching IMBRIW at:

The fish checklist booklet is available free-of-charge as a PDF download at and hardcopies may be ordered for libraries and scientific institutions from

The book can also be ordered free-of-charge, if one writes a polite note to us at: 

c/o Mrs. Sofia Giakoumi,
Institute of Marine Biological Sciences and Inland Waters - IMBRIW
46,7 km Athens-Sounio, Anavissos, Attiki, GR-19013 Greece
Tel.: +30 22910 76393
The Aoos river near the Greek-Albanian border: Several new species recently became named and valid as such in this river just in the last 10 years. Still we have doubts about the valid names of at least couple of species (Squalius, Chondrostoma). Research is needed to clear up the taxonomy in this globally important ichthyofaunal area.
Without genetic work it is no longer possible to identify most trout species in Greece. There are five species of native trout. However, unfortunately these fishes are being genetically polluted by mixing through unregulated stocking practices. Stocked fish sometimes show deformities they made in hatchery enclosures (see dorsal fin on this fish from the upper Acheloos - caught at near Anthousa Village in 2007).

The Endengered Beotian Riffle Dace (Τelestes beoticus). This species has a very restricted distribution and seems to require good flowing waters - it may be rarer than we think. More research is urgently needed. (Photo near Livadia in the Kiffisos river catchment).
One of the most enigmatic fishes in this part of the world is the anadromous Atlantic Sea Lamprey. This one was caught by a spearfisher on Kefallonia. We have anectodal evidence for the fish in the Louros river, it may spawn elsewhere. It si a protected species and very rare in Greece. (photo from Tassa Gouzi (Τάσσα Γρουζή) from Kefalonia, downloaded from: The find was published  in

Common Carp in Greece...does the wild form exist? Probably not,  as our book states. Perhaps the wild stock should be considered extirpated. This photo from the Aliakmon River near Polyphyto reservoir shows a wild-like form of Carp. It did look a lot like the sazan type of the Danube to my experienced friend, Uwe Dussling (Photo by Alkis Economou).

Manos Sperelakis, Yannis Kapakos and Graphics Artist and Publisher, Aris Vidalis (R) with a pallet of Books at HCMR.

The drawings in the book are by our Italian colleague Roberta Barbieri who has been part of the HCMR team since the late 1980s. This is certainly one of the most important aspects of the book - not just decorative. (Catfish).

Finally some notes about HCMR's new book:

The new annotated checklist of Greece’s freshwater fishes was  published in April 2015, the latest such booklet since Economidis’s 1991 seminal popularized checklist. The 134 page book features a brief introduction and carefully coded annotated accounts for 160 species. Particular emphasis is given to the interpretation of recent name changes and taxonomic validity. The book stresses the conservation value of Greece’s freshwater fishes; 47 taxa are noted as exclusively endemic to Greece and there are still important knowledge gaps on the taxonomy of several taxa. Many species are threatened at a global scale and there are fears that some may already be close to extinction; a notable example being the Vistonis Shad (Alosa vistonica) endemic to Lake Vistonis, a large wetland system which has suffered from extreme water abstraction, salinization and pollution. This book’s compilation is based on a group effort; it is authored by 12 members of HCMR and is illustrated with fine line drawings made by Roberta Barbieri. Professor Konstantinos I. Stergiou provides a forward and lends support to initiatives that strive to scientifically compile and maintain national fish checklists.

And finally some thanks to all who helped so much.

Firstly there are many poeple who keep reminding us to dessemintate our work to the public - to popularize our work. These people send us photos and location information about fishes in Greece - and this book is really inspired by them.

I want to thank some people for really working carefully on this book. First of all Alkis Economou who passed through the book with fine-toothed comb so many times. The rest of the team worked extremely hard - it's hard to explain how hard it is not making mistakes in a checklist! Evan simple things like the fishes totally lenghs need to be checked and re-checked. The English was edited my good cousin in Minnesota, Emily Green. And finaly Dimitra Bobori, Jörg Freyhof and Nicolas Bailly did an excellent job of reviewing and finding even more uncertainties and details. I especially want to thank Jörg Freyhof - who is an expert naturalist and knows about lists. And finally our friend Aris Vidalis for publishing with patience.