LIFE Prespa Waterbirds

Bird conservation in Lesser Prespa: benefiting local communities and building a climate change resilient ecosystem

The gradual reduction of traditional animal husbandry over time, combined with various practical problems, has gradually limited the extent of the managed surfaces around Lesser Prespa Lake. Due to reduced water inflows, mainly because of climate change, the lake’s water level no longer rises sufficiently enough to create wet meadows, and this is leading to further shrinkage of waterbird feeding grounds. In 2016, the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) launched a new LIFE programme, “LIFE15 NAT/GR/000936 Prespa Waterbirds (2016-2021)”, which included extensive management of aquatic vegetation from both the land and the lake, using amphibious cutting machinery, to create permanent reed-less surfaces with shallow water. At the same time, it sought to use the harvested biomass as animal feed, soil improver and fuel for heating. The aim was to create a mosaic of managed and unmanaged surfaces as the ideal areas for birds’ nesting and feeding, but also fish reproduction. Thus, combining economic benefits for the local community in Prespa resulting from the management of vegetation.

The overall aim of the LIFE Prespa Waterbirds project was to improve the conservation status of nine target waterbird species in the area by addressing the major threats, such as limited foraging areas for wading birds, obstruction by reedbeds of the potential foraging sites and spawning of fish, and the potentially devastating impact of avian flu on pelican meta-populations. The project’s conservation actions also aimed to help the ecosystem adapt to climate change, while providing benefits to the local community.

The project’s specific objectives were to increase suitable feeding habitats of the target species (dalmatian pelican, glossy ibis, squacco heron, ferruginous duck, great white pelican, little egret, pygmy cormorant, great egret, black-crowned night heron) and to minimise the target species’ mortality risk and breeding failure due to reedbed fires. In addition, further objectives aimed to increase knowledge and capacity on how to respond to disease outbreaks in pelicans, benefit the local community by providing reed biomass for agricultural fields, enhance transboundary collaboration on wetland management, and increase the environmental awareness of the local community.

As part of the LIFE project’s concrete conservation actions the SPP undertook an assessment of wetland vegetation dynamics, produced guidelines for wetland vegetation management and vegetation management, completed technical studies for the restoration of function of stream mouths and interventions in mouths and a feasibility study for alternative uses of reed biomass and pilot applications, and produced guidelines for responding to incidences of disease outbreak.



Layman’s Report



van der Schriek T., Varotsos K. V. & C. Giannakopoulos. 2019. The impact of future climate change on the water level of Lake Lesser Prespa: assessing the vulnerability of fish spawning grounds, and bird nesting- /foraging sites. 2nd International Conference Adapt to Climate – Heraklion, Crete, Greece

van der Schriek, T., Giannakopoulos, C. & Varotsos, K.V. The impact of future climate change on bean cultivation in the Prespa Lake catchment, northern Greece. Euro-Mediterr J Environ Integr 5, 14 (2020).

Papathanasiou, F., Zaralis, K., Koutseri, I., Malakou, M., Papadopoulos, A., Pliantsa, A., Aggelaki, M., Karetsa, V. & I. Papadopoulos. 2021.  Nutritive value of riparian common reed biomass for ruminants. AGROFOR International Journal, Vol. 6 (4). Doi: 10.7251/AGRENG2102098P

Papathanasiou, F., Tzotzi, A., Koutseri, I., Malakou, M., Parisis, T. & I. Papadopoulos, I. 2021. The effect of direct use of lakeside biomass as soil amendment on the productivity of dry bean crop. Agriculture and Forestry, Vol. 67 (4): 7-14. doi:10.17707/AgricultForest.67.4.01

Alexandrou, O., Malakou, M. & G. Catsadorakis. 2022. The impact of avian influenza 2022 on Dalmatian pelicans was the worst ever wildlife disaster in Greece. Oryx, Vol.56 (6), p.814




2016 - 2021


Species, Habitats & Landscapes, Local Society
Pelicans, Waterbirds, Endemic Fish, Wetlands, Climate Change, Threats, Raising Awareness, Wetland Management Committee