The re-introduction of animal husbandry as a conservation measure for the Grecian juniper woods of Prespa

 

The importance of the Grecian Juniper Woods[1] (GJWs) and the role of animal husbandry as a management tool for their conservation was the central issue of a meeting held on Thursday, 20th March at the old Town Hall in the Prespa village of Laimos.

The meeting was held under the new LIFE+ Nature project, JunEx, which is being implemented by the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) with the cooperation of the Greek Biotope Wetland Centre. The main purpose of JunEx is to improve, restore and promote the GJWs of the Prespa National Park.  To that end the meeting was co-organized by the SPP and the Greek Biotope Wetland Centre together with local stakeholders, namely the Municipality of Prespa, the “Pelekanos” Bean Co-operative and two local livestock associations.

Experts were invited to give speeches on issues regarding forestry, animal husbandry and the environmental management, which were followed by open discussion.

The forestry expert, and partner of the SPP in JunEx, Dr. G. Fotiadis, stressed that the re-introduction and regulation of sheep and goat grazing within the GJWs will contribute to their restoration and conservation, as their grazing will control the encroachment of broadleaved species, which, during the latest years, have invaded and changed the characteristics of the GJWs. Livestock grazing in the forests is very important for the preservation of the GJWs structure and of their rich plant diversity[2].

Dr. V. Papanastasis, emeritus professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, confirmed the problems created by the lack of grazing, not only in the structure of GJWs, but also in other types forest ranges and grazed forests in Greece. He highlighted the institutional problems in recognizing woodland pasture, but was optimistic for adopting relevant measures under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for installation agro-forest ecosystems.

The vice president of the Greek Husbandry Association, Mr. E. Gitsas presented the practical problems of animal husbandry and the changes that need to be made for livestock products so that they can be more competitive. Finally, the representative of the company “Agricultural Development SA”, Mr. K. Bliatsios, stressed the need for cooperation and the establishment of groups of producers as a basic tool in the development of the animal husbandry in the future.

Moreover, Dr. A. Garcen from the Institute of Animal Genetic Improvement pointed out that, “Whilst the grasslands, where the local breeds, are fully adjusted to graze remain unexploited, we buy expensive fodder for other introduced breeds”, pointing out the lack of planning in the agro-environmental issues.        

The main conclusion of the meeting was that forestry and animal husbandry should not be perceived as competitive to each other. On the contrary, important advantages can arise from combining the different problems and seeking common solutions. As Mr. P. Papaioannou, acting Director of the Florina Forest Directorate, states, “Animal husbandry constitutes an activity that, with the right studies and organization, can benefit the management, the development and the improvement of a woodland ecosystem, such as the GJWs, with multiple socio-economic and environmental benefits”.     

For further information

Irene Koutseri, LIFE-JunEx Project Manager – Society for the Protection of Prespa, (+30) 23850 51211, (+30) 6977015525

Information for editors

  1. Greece is the only member state of the EU in which juniper woods with the code 9562 have been recorded and are found only in the Prespa National Park. The particularity of the area is due to the fact that the Prespa basin is home to one of the largest and most well-preserved areas of juniper woods in the Balkans, covering more than 2,000 hectares.
  2. The LIFE+ Nature project (2010-2013) – JunEx: “Restoration and Conservation of priority habitat type 9562 *Greek Juniper Forests (Juniperetum excelsae) in the Prespa National Park.” is being implemented by the Society for the Protection of Prespa in cooperation with the Greek Biotope Wetland Centre and is 75% co-financed by the European Union Life Financial Instrument. For more information about the project please visit the website www.junex.gr
  3. The meeting was co-organized, within the LIFE-JunEx project, by the Society for the Protection of Prespa, the Greek Biotope Wetland Centre, the Municipality of Prespa, the “Pelekanos” Agricultural Co-operative of Bean Producers and the livestock associations of the Municipality of Prespa and the “Agios Germanos”. The speakers of the meeting were: George Fotiadis-Society for the Protection of Prespa, Vassilios Papanastasis-Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Eleftherios Gitsas-Vice president of the Greek Husbandry Association, Konstantinos Bliatsios- Agricultural Development SA.  


[1] Grecian Juniper Woods with Juniperus excelsa and smaller proportion of Juniperus foetidissima

[2] More than 800 plant species, 140 of which are important, have been recorded in the distinctive clusters of Prespa’s juniper woods.