UK designates salt lake in sovereign base area on Cyprus


The Ramsar Secretariat is extremely pleased to announce that the United Kingdom has designated as it latest Wetland of International Importance a salt lake and associated marsh located within its Sovereign Base Area of the Royal Air Force on the Akrotiri Peninsula in southernmost Cyprus. "Akrotiri" (2,171 hectares; 34°37'N 032°58'E), also an Important Bird Area, is being added to the Ramsar List today but its designation is effective as of a year ago, 20 March 2003, because of some minor technicalities in sorting out the RIS data for the site.

Ramsar's Assistant Advisor for Europe, Estelle Gironnet, has prepared this succinct description of the site for the Annotated Ramsar List based upon the RIS information provided by the UK's Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). In addition, in June 2002 the Senior Advisor for Europe, Dr Tobias Salathé, was invited to visit Akrotiri and advise the authorities and local NGOs and stakeholders on its conservation and wise use [news], and his report on that visit can also be viewed here.

Akrotiri. 20/03/03; Cyprus (Western Sovereign Base Area); 2,171 ha; 34°37'N 032°58'E. The largest aquatic system in Cyprus, located on Akrotiri Peninsula, the southernmost part of the island. Also listed as an Important Bird Area, the site is of a special European interest because it presents 11 natural habitat types listed in annex 1 of the European Commission Habitats Directive and 45 bird species included on Annex 1 of the EC Birds Directive, and it supports 13 endemic species of plant such as Ophrys kotschyi. It is composed of two distinct areas that are hydrologically connected - the first and largest area is the salt lake and sand flats situated in the centre of the peninsula. Over the past three centuries, this former lagoon has been isolated from the sea and a number of saltmarsh vegetation communities now surround the lake. A eucalyptus forest borders the northern side of the lake and is an important raptor roosting area. The second distinct area, northeast of the salt lake, is the Fassouri marshes made up of a matrix of freshwater habitat types, including grazing marsh and reedbeds. Rain water is the key hydrological input for both areas, though the lake does get occasional input from the sea during storms. The site is part of the UK RAF military Sovereign Base Area; a management plan is under development with local stakeholders. Ramsar Site no. 1375.

In its letter of designation of the Akrotiri site, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs wrote:

"The designation is the result of the conclusion of consultation with local communities, land owners, the Environment Service of the Republic and other interested parties to establish the boundary of the site. The MoD ecologist who has been working on the designation is also satisfied that this is a scientifically sound boundary and will of course have been aware of your thoughts in your report of the site visit you undertook.

I can confirm that in addition to the UK commitment to manage existing British facilities in the salt lake to ensure that any significant impacts on the Ramsar Site or other important conservation features will be avoided, the SBM have given a commitment to promote the wise use of the wetland complex through implementation of an environmental management plan for the wider area The environmental management plan, which is currently being produced in consultltion with local stakeholders, will be based on clear conservation objectives for the Akrotiri Ramsar Site. It will cover a wider area than just the Ramsar Site itself, including all of the communications facilities in the area, in order to protect the site from any significant potential impacts including indirect and cumulative effects and ensure the ecological integrity of the area. It will be based on principles such as sustainability and biodiversity and will include nature conservation, positive land management, access and recreation management, water management, tackling issues related to existing and potential threats such as hunting, uncontrolled access, development, waste/pollution, invasive alien species, and adjacent land use."

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