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  • Δρεπανοσκαλίδρα / Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) (E. Stets)
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In the Evros Delta, I like to:

Life Nature programme

The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental and climate policy and legislation by co-financing projects with European added value.

LIFE began in 1992 and to date there have been four complete phases of the programme (LIFE I: 1992-1995, LIFE II: 1996-1999, LIFE III: 2000-2006 and LIFE+: 2007-2013)

The purpose of the LIFE project to Evros Delta was to restore and manage Drana Lagoon and the habitats of the species red-breasted goose, lesser white-fronted goose, slender-billed curlew and the pygmy cormorant.

In order to restore the lagoon, the project planned to: • Rebuild of the dykes around the lagoon; • Open up the natural connection between the lagoon and the sea; • Construct ditches to improve freshwater circulation; • Prepare a management and monitoring plan for the lagoon.

For bird habitat restoration and protection, water resources would be managed through the creation of a network of ditches and canals, the installation of water pumps, and the creation of a dam on the River Loutros, including the planting of verges. All these activities would be backed up by continuous monitoring of the avifauna and of the various lagoon parameters in collaboration with the local forestry inspectors, as well as by various public-awareness measures aimed at visitors, local authorities, fishermen, hunters and farmers, among others.

An important result of the project was the total restoration of the Drana lagoon, which was reconnected to the sea. It now covers an area of 500 hectares and has an average depth of 0.4m. Restoration work included the construction of a water gate, an embankment around the lagoon, ditches, sluices and fresh water canals. A 30 hectare area of humid grasslands was also created allowing a better balance in the levels of salinity in the surrounding areas and providing an important biotope for avifauna.

Water monitoring stations were installed, and water quality assessment will continue after the end of the project. Another key result was the extension of the riparian woodland vegetation of the Loutros stream by 22 hectares, which provides habitat for the nesting and feeding of raptors and more specifically the two priority species: the imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca) and the greater spotted eagle (Aquila clanga). The employment of wardens significantly reduced illegal hunting in the project area and increased the guarding efficiency by up to 60%. It also reduced the negative impact of visitors. Wardens were able to raise awareness among visitors and locals. The project also created a database and monitoring protocols for the population trends of the avifauna. The everyday operation of the visitor centre was another successful aspect of the project. Finally, the beneficiary strongly pursued synergies with other programmes and co-operated closely with local authorities.

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