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Impacts of Climate Change on Europe’s South Eastern Frontier

Impacts of Climate Change on Europe’s South Eastern Frontier

Nature Exchange. Kato Drys Village Council, Cyprus

23rd to 29th September 2014

Shieling site in Troodos Forest Park

Shieling site in Troodos Forest Park

Pano Lefkara

Pano Lefkara surrounded by a cultural landscape of
olives, almonds and carob trees

Introduction

In the most southerly and easterly corner of Europe, Cyprus  has a rich flora and fauna that is essentially European but has many endemic species and others from Asia and Africa. The  island is a migratory ‘bridge’ for birds and in Mesolithic times hippopotami swan to the island from North Africa and fallow deer were common; now only the moufflon, fox and the  super-rare monk seal are left of the larger mammals. Trees,  both for food production and as part of a complex of forest  types are horizontally zoned. These zones change – seemingly through climate change and there have been severe droughts in the last 10 years; olive production moves up another 300 metres and at sea level some mature Pinus Brutea trees die from drought. Animals and birds change their habits and patterns of migration and the introduction/ invasion of exotic species has had some negative effects. In the cities the Planning Authorities plant more shade trees to reduce ground temperature, the electricity Authority invests in renewable energy (below) and the Forestry Department has developed arid land afforestation techniques. This one-week programme looks at changes and focuses on the reaction of the Cypriot Authorities and people.

Kato Drys

Kato Drys – named from its ancient oak trees – few remain today

Day One: Arrival and transfer to Pano Lefkara – 650 metre altitude village in the foothills of the Troodos mountains. Accommodation is in a traditional courtyard house. We have dinner together in a traditional tavern and discuss the week ahead.

Day Two: 30 minute off-road drive over the mountain to the village of Kato Drys (named from ancient Greek for oak trees). We see some spectacular vistas but also some degradation – two massive fires have destroyed marquis type vegetation and there has been large scale land abandonment. We visit the Muhktari  of the village and hear his plans for more trees (and cultural development). We have lunch at the rural museum and are  joined by a prominent meteorologist who describes some changes in vegetation zones. In the afternoon we climb the ‘vouni’ (small artificial hill) behind the village and gaze over the ‘doma’ (terraces). With local lady, Panayiota Demetriou, we reflect on the way this (still beautiful) landscape looked 50 years ago.

Day Three: Below Kato Lefkara are olive trees planted by Franks in the medieval period. We sit under the ancient canopies and talk about this ancient agroforestry system and the pollarding that allows trees to become so long-lived. Will they be here in 50 years? Climate change, migration to towns and cities and fewer and fewer young farmers, make us fear the worst. Shepherd Andreas and his son Angelos join in our discussion. We have a cultural break to visit the ancient (9th century) chapel of Archangel Michael before a lunch from a traditional wood-fired oven. In the afternoon we review plans for a shady footpath down he valley from Pano Lefkara and meet the Mayor for his views.

Renewables

Renewables

Day Four: We visit the Troodos Forest Park and meet foresters who tell us about climate change impacts on the forest – investigated through an EU-supported ‘COST Action’. We walk the ‘Persephone Trail’ which winds through ancient Pinus nigra and juniper forests (if we’re in luck we find edible mushrooms). The area has the remains of shielings from a  bygone era of transhumance. At the end of the trail, we gaze over the island from our 2,000 metre vantage point. On the  drive down the mountain we visit Kouris dam and discuss the water crisis.

Day Five: A morning in the remote forested valley of Kyprovasa includes talking to shepherds, viewing fire damage, looking at invader species and insect damage, which has increased in trees suffering drought stress and considering the objectives of the forest management and its practical unction. After a picnic lunch we meet with Panayiotis – an olive and orange farmer.

Pine Cones

Pine forests have greater susceptibility to fire due to vegetative and climatic changes

Shade Trees

Shade trees become more critical within the pastoral landscape

Day Six: Morning visit to a forest area in the rain shadow of both mountain ranges. For three years there was no measurable rain but foresters still managed to establish forests of pine, cedar and juniper through engineered terraces and onsideration of aspect. We go on to Athalasa forest nursery to hear about Government schemes to plant more native forests. In the afternoon we go deeper into Nicosia for cultural visits. Our evening meal will be in the Turkish Cypriot part of the city after crossing the ‘Green Line’ controlled by the UN.

Day Seven: Before departing for the airport, we spend some free time in Lefkara – we can visit silversmiths, lacemakers.  Confectioners and icon painters; also some of the 45 chapels / churches. We depart for the airport after a farewell lunch  in a traditional restaurant.

Archangel Michael

Archangel Michael (right) is revered in several of the 45 local chapels/churches