Cyprus - Management and Assessment of the Ecology of Cyprus’ Artificial Wetlands (MACAW)


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In pursuit of diversity

When Cyprus constructed over 100 dams and other artificial wetlands to bolster its flagging supplies of groundwater, the areas ended up attracting some high-flying guests.

At least 35 species of birds took refuge in these wetlands, drawn to the island by the rich ecosystems that had sprung up to provide a habitat for birds en route from Eurasia to Africa.

Diarrhizos River
Diarrhizos River

"The wetlands are not just a source of water, but a haven for a wide variety of species", said Nicolas Jarraud of UNDP's Action for Cooperation and Trust, which co-sponsored a project to study the unique mix of plant and animal life of the wetlands.

The initiative commenced in April of this year and concluded in August. It produced a report with basic biodiversity (animal and plant) data on the areas and recommendations for policy makers on how to preserve the biodiversity. The project also created a documentary on the wetlands for the general public.

The need to manage and preserve wetland biodiversity has become increasingly important as Cyprus makes further use of its wetlands to extract water for drinking and farming. The lack of water has become pressing in recent years, as the country attracts more tourists and consumes more water than falls from the sky.

"In my view, artificial wetlands have benefits for farmers, although they do have environmental consequences, in particular by causing the rivers downstream to run dry" said Jarraud. Agriculture accounts for 75 percent of Cyprus's water use, a share that he said needs to fall.

The project also served to bring Greek and Turkish Cypriot academics together to work on an issue of common concern. With a comprehensive political solution to the Cyprus problem still not achieved, it is essential to build trust by addressing common concerns. The environment is one subject on which there is an island-wide desire to cooperate, said Jarraud.

UNDP's Action for Cooperation and Trust works to create opportunities for both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to work together on various projects and thus build up mutual trust and understanding.

"Academics from both sides of the island have said they will continue to work together once this phase of the project is over." The next step involves bringing the report's recommendations to the relevant decision-makers for discussion and implementation.

Project sponsors also included the Frederick Institute of Technology, Birdlife Cyprus, the University of Liverpool, as well as the Institute of Earth, Ocean, Atmosphere and Environmental Sciences, which led the project.


Management and Assessment of the Ecology of Cyprus’ Artificial Wetlands (MACAW)

Focus Areas

Geographic Scope


UNDP Role - Funding, coordination, dissemination

Activities implemented by project partner:

Output 1: Baseline survey of flora and fauna completed


1. Identification of study sites 2. Invertebrate surveys at all sites for four months 3. Bird surveys at all sites for 12 weeks 4. Flora surveys for 4 months

Output 2: Integrated report/sourcebook collating current knowledge on the biodiversity value of artificial wetlands in Cyprus

Activities 1. Assessment of data from ecological baseline surveys and collated data and production of provisional management recommendations 2. Finalisation of recommendations by project partnership 3. Dissemination of outline management recommendations to key stakeholders

Output 3: Summary leaflet suitable for the public, highlighting the importance of wetlands for biodiversity produced.


1. Writing text for leaflet, based on aforementioned outputs 2. Translation into Greek and Turkish 3. Organising design and printing

Output 4: Website for the partner institutions to promote the project

Output 5: Media information campaign completed


1. Press releases 2. TV programme/DVD on the importance of wetlands in Cyprus, based on the materials gathered in the aforementioned activities.

Summary of roles and responsibilities:

  • The Near East University will be responsible for the overall management of the project, with different partners leading on specific activities, as set out above. In addition to their role in overall project management, the University will lead on the flora surveys and will also be involved in the production of the other outputs.
  • Frederick Institute for Technology (FIT) will lead on the collation and assessment of ecological data on artificial wetlands and on overall project dissemination activities
  • With specific expertise on wetland management, SWIMMER (University of Liverpool) will lead on producing the outline recommendations for management of artificial wetlands and will provide inputs as needed to the other activities, in particular the English text for the information leaflet, website pages and editing of the technical reports.
  • The University of Lefke will lead on the invertebrate surveys. Birdlife Cyprus will lead on the bird surveys and the collation of data relating to bird populations at the study sites, with support from Near East University. All partners will contribute relevant expertise to the other activities, particularly the recommendations for wetland management.



Background and Significance

The issue of the optimal management of water resources has important and fundamental linkages with developing strategies for coping with and combating increasing desertification. Water resources are scarce in Cyprus and the climate is showing a trend of becoming increasingly arid. One of the solutions to this shortage over the past two decades has been the construction of wetlands, in the form of reservoirs, in order to store water and increase its availability throughout the year. Water resources from these artificial wetlands are abstracted for use as potable and irrigation water, although the latter function has been declining. In the northern part of the island in particular, these wetlands are also used to recharge groundwater resources so that abstractions can be made elsewhere from the aquifer. At many of these sites there is, however, insufficient hydrological monitoring to determine the contribution of these sites to aquifer recharge.

Although their original purpose was as a solution to water resource issues, it is apparent that these wetlands have become key sites for the maintenance of biodiversity. The most visible support for biodiversity is in the number and species diversity of birds, but these sites are also important for plants and invertebrates. Their particular importance for wintering and breeding of migratory birds is as a consequence of the strategic location of Cyprus on the intersection of waterfowl migration routes between Eurasia and Africa, but without a stable ecosystem provided by other fauna and flora this function would be lost. The presence of introduced fish species has also led to these wetlands becoming important recreation sites for fishing.

Xyliatos Dam
Xyliatos Dam

Despite their obvious function as foci for biodiversity there is, however, little baseline ecological data on these sites and the collective importance of these sites to the biodiversity of the island is unknown.

For sound management of these sites that simultaneously meets the original water resource objectives and optimises their management for biodiversity there is a need for baseline ecological data and a greater understanding of the interaction between the hydrology and ecology. This need is particularly urgent given the pace of development of the areas surrounding these wetlands and the expansion of the tourist industry in Cyprus. Baseline data on the biodiversity will help with early identification of problems and allow timely intervention at wetland sites.

It is also important that the potentially critical role of these sites in protecting the biodiversity of the island is publicised to policy and decision makers and the general public in order to promote an awareness and understanding of their value. Through education of the public, behavioural changes can be achieved that both encourage and facilitate decision makers to take appropriate action and provide a greater degree of protection to wetlands.

Goal and Objectives

Project Outcome

The objective of the project is to improve the understanding and promoting the ecological role of artificial wetlands in a context of increasing pressures on water resources, through the creation of durable inter-communal partnerships for sustainable development between civil society organisations and academic institutions (contribution to UNDP-ACT thematic area 3, which seeks to develop partnerships for sustainable development).

Indicators (and how they will be measured)

  • Indicator 1 – Quantitative and qualitative assessment of follow-up project by project partners (This project is intended as a preparatory action for a larger interdisciplinary project examining the hydro-ecology of wetlands in Cyprus. The project partnership is currently exploring funding opportunities for this larger project).
  • Indicator 2 – Baseline ecological data for improved assessment of artificial wetland biodiversity
  • Indicator 3 – Uptake and implementation of policy recommendations by relevant authorities
  • Indicator 4 – Media coverage of the project (and hits on the website)

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions


The setting has been described in the "background" section above. The approach is described in the outputs and activities described above. What makes this intervention different to to other approaches is the unprecedented cooperation between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot stakeholders on the issue, and the large number of different actors involved: Academia (Near east University, Frederick Institute of Technology, University of Liverpool, University of Lefka) and NGOs (Birdlife Cyprus)



UNDP-ACT is funding this project as one of a series of World Environment Day projects in response to a World Environment Day Call for Proposals.

Near East University, Institute of Environmental Sciences IEOAES (The Institute of Earth, Ocean, Atmosphere and Environmental Sciences), is an interdisciplinary institute which is established to solve environmental problems of the TCC. Increasing public awareness and sustainable development planning are the major topics which the institute addresses. The IEOAES contribution will be led by Dr Salih Gücel. The IEOAES will be responsible for implementation of the project.

The University of Liverpool The Institute for Sustainable Water, Integrated Management and Ecosystem Research (SWIMMER), contribution to the project will be led by Dr Conor Linstead.

University of Lefke The University of Lefke contribution will be co-ordinated by Mrs Ozge Ozden.

Frederick Institute of Technology The FIT contribution to the project will involve two senior scientists, including Dr Costas Kadis, and will be co-ordinated by Mr Constantinos Kounnamas.

Birdlife Cyprus The Birdlife Cyprus contribution will be co-ordinated by Dr Iris Charalambidou, who is the organisation’s manager.


The project examined several wetlands all over Cyprus.
Panagra Wetlands
Panagra Wetlands


The project began in February 2006 and is now in the final stages.


The Activities and Outputs have already been described above. The total funding provided by UNDP-ACT was CYP 7,300. There were no major challenges, the different partners from both communities worked smoothly together (they all had complementary expertise) and the film was screened at the Ecoforum, a large environmental conference organised by UNDp-ACT on World Environment Day.

Results and Impact

The aim of the MACAW project was to increase the understanding of the value of artificial wetlands in Cyprus and help to improve their management. This was done by monitoring the baseline biodiversity (plants, insects and birds) at a number of sites and using this information to make recommendations for how to manage the sites, as well as by public awareness raising activities.

Lessons for Replication

The results were achieved because of:

1- The complementarity of expertise 2- The commitment of all partners involved 3- The seamless bi-communal cooperation (the buffer zone was not an obstacle to cooperation in this case)

However, in the future, it might be preferable to provide more funds and more time for such a project, in order to allow for the partnership between the different stakeholders to become more permanent and ensure sustainability.

Main Results

1. The research aspect has yielded a better understanding of the fauna and flora biodiversity of wetlands in Cyprus 2. Specific policy recommendations for the management of these wetlands are being drafted 3. The film poduced is a key public awareness tool

Outlook (Conclusions and Next Steps)


As stated earlier, this project is intended as a preparatory action for a much larger interdisciplinary project examining the hydroecology of wetlands in Cyprus. A concept note of this project, for which the partnership is currently exploring funding opportunities, is attached as an Annex. As such, the project partners view this project as the starting point for a long term programme of work. This project would be scaled up to include a longer period of ecological monitoring to elaborate the ‘snapshot’ that would be given by this project, hydrological monitoring, GIS analysis and detailed management guidelines.

As a preparatory action for the larger intended project, this project will not only address some of the key scoping questions but will also allow the development and strengthening of the project partnership that is to be carried forward in the development of the larger project. For the larger hydro-ecological study, the partnership will be expanded, where possible, to include public bodies. It will also provide the basis for collaboration on bi-communal projects between the partner institutions on other environmental topics.

Moreover, the film will be used, through different media, as a valuable advocacy tool, as will the final report, which will contain specific policy recommendations.

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

Timeframe & Status

The Project is in the final stages, and will be completed by the end of the month. All the data has been collected and the wetlands film produced.

Waterbirds of Cyprus

In 2007 and 2008, UNDP-ACT supported a project implemented by Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot scientists aimed at completing the first island-wide survey of the waterbirds visiting the wetlands of Cyprus, in particular in the winter season (many of these wetlands are seasonal in any case). The resulting report is attached.  Waterbirds Book Final.pdf


See also

Water Knowledge Fair 2006

External Resources


 Cyprus Wetlands.doc

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