A new study will investigate the drivers of ecological change at an internationally important wetland site in the Sovereign Base Area of Akrotiri.
The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Ministry of Defence Joint Services Health Unit and the Akrotiri Environmental Education Centre will receive funding for the two-year project at Akrotiri Salt Lake from the UK Government’s Darwin Plus initiative, which supports conservation schemes in the UK Overseas Territories.
Situated in the Sovereign Base Area of Akrotiri, the lake, which is the largest inland water body in Cyprus, is designated as a wetland site of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. It is home to many species of birds, invertebrates and plants, some of which are restricted to Cyprus.
The research team will use remote sensing and on-the-ground measurements of water quality, alongside biodiversity surveys, to assess community interactions between native and non-native species, including those that have negative impacts in the area, such as mosquitoes. It will establish baseline metrics and develop pragmatic and sustainable procedures for evaluating the 'health' of this highly-valued wetland.
The information collected will add to our understanding of the interactions between humans and the environment. The research team will collect new data on both species and the environment, and produce guidance on biosecurity that will be relevant for all military UK Overseas Territories.
Jodey Peyton, an ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology who will manage the project, says: “We are delighted to be given the opportunity to collaboratively explore the interplay between invasive non-native species, climate and land-use change across the internationally important Ramsar site, Lake Akrotiri, within the Western Sovereign Base Area. Bringing together experts from hydrological, ecological and societal perspectives, our research will provide evidence to promote and protect the incredible diversity of species that depend on the lake and the functions they provide.”
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson says: “As a major landowner in the UK and around the world, the military has a responsibility to protect and enhance our environment. I’m delighted that a project in RAF Akrotiri has been successful in securing a grant from Darwin Plus, which will be vital to boost conservation efforts in the region.”
The CEH-led project, Addressing drivers of ecological change in Lake Akrotiri SBA, Cyprus, is one of 17 conservation projects on the UK Overseas Territories to receive financial backing in the latest round of funding, worth a total of £3.5 million, in the Darwin Plus initiative, which is overseen by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The UK Government says Darwin Plus delivers commitments in its 25 Year Environment Plan.