The inundation of farmland in the Lesser Prespa wetlands caused by periodic fluctuations in the level of the lake has long been a pressure point for conservation in the area. Since the 1950s a large part of the wetlands by the lake had been parcelled out into private hands. Many of these privately owned lands are important for the conservation of Prespa’s globally significant wetland biodiversity and/or are situated within the eco-development zone of the Prespa National Park. They are flooded, or are rendered unsuitable for cultivation, when the water in the lake reaches the level necessary for the creation of extensive wet meadows.
In 2001 the SPP completed a systematic study on this thorny issue, which set out the total Lesser Prespa wetland area that becomes inundated in three different water-level scenarios. The lowest scenario (854.40 m) was set as the required level of inundation of the lake each year in the Joint Ministerial Decision establishing the Prespa National Park in Greece and a Wetland Management Committee of all affected stakeholders has since used a sluice gate restored by a LIFE project of the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP), to manage the water level of the lake in May up to this agreed level.
Recent changes in subsidy policies, coupled with land allotment due to the economic crisis and the development of a drip irrigation system have all increased the pressure to expand the area of cultivation, and precisely due to the installation of agricultural fields in privately owned lands it has become impossible to raise the water in the lake to the level that is desirable for wet meadow creation. Meanwhile, climate change has meant less and less precipitation in the region, with the result that dry years occur with increasing frequency, a fact that favours the illegal and gradual expansion of fields neighbouring the lake, as there is insufficient recharge to maintain high water levels.
In this project the SPP will work to acquire privately owned wetland extents around Lesser Prespa, aiming to strengthen and safeguard their long-term and enduring protection and management, as well as that of the wetlands and biodiversity as a whole. Within the next decade will work to delineate and protect littoral wetland areas from the expansion of the surrounding cultivated areas, restore degraded wetland areas to their former natural condition and organise the management of these areas for the benefit of biodiversity and the ecological functioning of the wetlands of Lesser Prespa Lake.