Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Koumoundourou: How polluted is it?

December 2016
Koumoundourou Lake, Attika - near Athens

An uniquely complex site for conservation and restoration is the tiny spring-fed lagoon of Koumoundourou Lake, just 10 or so km west of Athens. It is notorious for its polluted waters- some of the waters polluted from subterranean connections in the aquifer - oil refineries, huge landfill sites and other polluters are nearby. 

Hydrocarbons from the oil industry have been a serious problem and refineries are located right next door. When I was a kid my father used to talk to me about the lake's fish since we had a second home nearby at Eleusis.  Yes, the wetland is connected to the Eleusis mysteries....This sacred wetland was a famous fish-gathering lagoon since ancient times, in fact. Now after the mid '90s - in an effort to stop the seepage of polluted groundwater the water levels have been heightened through the creation of a sluice at the lagoon's outlet to the sea. Increased water levels seem to have change the hydrology and the seepage of oils and polluted groundwaters. But the movement of migratory fishes is nearly totally blocked. Based on anecdotes from local fishermen, several grey mullet species (Mugilidae), a blenny species (Blennidae), sea bass (Dicentrarchus sp.), sand smelt (Atherina sp.) and guilt-head bream (Sparus auratus) used to inhabit Koumoundourou Lake. Now only three species are left, primarily dominated by the alien Mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki)!!

Our research team at HCMR has been working for many years on this area and doing careful monitoring. Locals and local environmentalists are also concerned and spearheading campaigns for the conservation and protection from pollution. But its not just pollution. The whole ecosystem needs careful planning, adaptive management towards restoration. We recently published a diagnosis and specific proposals for incremental steps towards restoration.

Please see the paper:


Wetland inside an  industrial heartland. Can it be restored? And how?

The small lagoon has been a target for monitoring - everything from chemistry, ichthyology and ornithology...

Nutrients (a) and heavy metals (b) concentration fluctuations at Koumoundourou Lake near the weir (average annual values for the period 1984–2012). Pollution is showing a decline. We think this is due to the increased water levels created by an artificial weir in the mid '90s.   
Eels still enter the lagoon but their movement is blocked by the c. 2 m. height weir so their numbers are low. This is one eel that I caught at a nearby wetland and kept in our aquarium for some time - feeding it Gambusia holbrooki (Eastern Mosquito fish) which we gathered from Koumoundourou!
Mediterranean kiillifish (aka Mediterranean toothcarp) - Aphanius fasciatus - these males are from the Vourkari Wetland just west of Koumoundourou Lake. Koumoundourou Lake also has a small relict population. In fact, in the whole of the Attika peninsula there are only three sites supporting this locally vulnerable fish.