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Nature’s wonder, our treasure

The word “biodiversity” is short for biological diversity. It is the variety of species, their genetic make-up, and the natural communities in which they occur. The biodiversity we see today is the result of millions of years of biological evolution. It has been shaped by natural processes and, increasingly, by the influence of humans. Biodiversity supports all our lives, it is vital for our survival and it shows us how healthy is our planet.

We depend on biodiversity every day. The air we breathe is a product of photosynthesis by green plants. Insects, worms, bacteria, and other tiny organisms break down wastes and aid in the decomposition of dead plants and animals to enrich soils. Also, biodiversity has direct economic benefits. Without the products and services that natural systems provide, we would not be able to survive, let alone prosper. Many medicines are developed from plants and animals. Also, for most people, the natural world is beautiful and valued for its aesthetic appeal.

Prespa: A Global Hotspot of Biodiversity

The basin of the Prespa lakes is endowed with an exceptional biodiversity. The region has been recognized as a European and Global Hotspot of Biodiverity, not only because of the sheer number of species and habitats present, but also due to their quality, such as rarity and conservation significance.

For instance, there are 1249 species of higher plants in the Prespa National Forest in Greece alone. The studies of the  Macedonian part of the basin identified 13 habitat types of European importance, 33 globally significant plant species and 84 globally significant vertebrate species. Let us mention, among others, the endemic forest with Juniperus species, the Macedonian pine (Balkan Pine), Viola eximia, Pelister stream trout, Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant and the Balkan Lynx. The uniqueness of the basin is assured by numerous local endemic species both plants and animals, to be found in the basin and nowhere else in the world.

Protected Areas: The Guardians of our Natural Heritage

Various human activities in the basin have been threatening the rich and important biological diversity of Prespa Lakes leading to loss of habitats and species. To mitigate these threats to biodiversity in the basin, over the past six decades, national governments of the three countries have established a number of protected areas in the basin. These protected areas are essential for safeguarding the unique natural heritage and the benefits these areas provide to human well-being.

Strictly Protected Ornithological Reserve Ezerani

This reserve in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia occupies 2,080 ha of the coastal area to the north of Lake Macro Prespa. In 1995, the reserve, together with the Macedonian part of Prespa Lake have been designated a Ramsar site, i.e. a Wetland of International Importance. 

Pelister National Park

Pelister National Park in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is the oldest protected area in the basin. It was proclaimed in 1948 to protect some 10,000 ha of the Baba Mountain, including the primary habitat of the Macedonian Pine (Balkan Pine). Currently the park covers 17,150 ha, reaching the border with Greece. More than a dozen of plants have been described from the park, including two local endemic species. The park is also significant for its animal life, including several endemic – found nowhere else in the world – invertebrate species.

Galicica National Park

Galicica National Park in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was proclaimed in 1958 to protect the woodland of the Galicica Mountain (25,000 ha). Biodiversity in the park is rich and exceptional. There are 12 species of higher plants to be found in this mountain only and the total number of higher plants of conservation importance exceeds 200. The rich biodiversity of plants is matched only by the varied and exceptional animal life. There are 71 local endemic invertebrate species in the park, 100 species are Macedonian (e.g. endemic to The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and 123 are classed as Balkan endemic species.

Prespa National Forest

Prespa National Forest in Greece was designated in 1974. It spans an area of 19,470 ha, covering most of the Greek part of the Prespa lakes basin.  The “core area” covers Lake Micro Prespa (4,914 ha), the adjancent reed belt, small land areas on the north and east side of the lake and a small area with age-old cedars near the Psarades village (0.120 ha). The south-eastern part of PNF has also been proclaimed a Wildlife Refuge - Sfika (6,700 ha). Moreover, the Greek part of lake Micro Prespa is a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Its limits coincide with the "core" area of the PNF, except for the Agios Giorghis site.

The Ramsar status strengthened the conservation of freshwater biodiversity in this part of the basin. As a result, today lake Micro Prespa hosts the world largest colony of the Dalmatian Pelican (1,000 breeding pairs), rated as a Vulnerable species internationally.

Prespa National Park

Prespa National Park in Albania was established in 1999 to provide for the protection of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the Albanian part of the Prespa lakes basin (27,750 ha). The terrestrial ecosystem is dominated by the calcareous Mali i Thate (Suva Gora) - an extension of the Galicica Mountain in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The aquatic component includes the Albanian shares of the Prespa lakes (including the island Mali Grad).

Prespa Park: Safeguarding Biodiversity Accross the Borders

The transboundary Prespa Park constitutes an important step forward toward a coordinated and integrated approach in the conservation and management of biological diversity in the Prespa lakes basin. The implementation of the Strategic Action Plan for the Sustainable Development of the Prespa Park will contribute to a more effective management of the existing protected areas and, more importantly, bring a cross-border, basin-wide framework for the protection of Prespa’s biodiversity. More specifically, following the Strategic Action Plan, the Prespa Park Coordination Committee will oversee a range of efforts including:

  • Coordination of activities for integrated water management in the basin;
  • A basin-wide assessment and transboundary management of fish and fisheries;
  • Implementation of joint conservation measures on key transboundary species and ecosystems (e.g. joint forest management plan);
  • Establishment and implementation of a basin-wide transboundary monitoring system which includes emphasis on biodiversity and pollution.
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