Wet meadows, the most sensitive and important ecosystems of the region, are formed on the shores of Lesser Prespa Lake. These are lakeside areas, with low vegetation, periodically flooded with water, depending on the fluctuation of the lake water level, where many waterbird species feed and nest and many species of fish and amphibians breed. The extent of the wet meadows directly depends on the seasonal variation of the water level of Lesser Prespa Lake and therefore the management of the lake’s waters is decisive for their existence.
The two lakes used to form a single body of water. Since the end of the 1960s, when wetlands throughout Greece began to be drained to create arable land, the two lakes communicated only superficially with a natural channel at Koula, through which the waters overflowing from Lesser Prespa Lake run into Great Prespa Lake. In the mid-1980s, a manual metal sluice gate was installed in the canal and the amount of water flowing from one lake to the other was regulated by the Local Land Reclamation Authority. The purpose of the construction was to facilitate the irrigation of the fields that extend around Lesser Prespa Lake. Over time this structure corroded and the need arose to reconstruct the system.
Taking into account the fact that the height of the level of Lesser Prespa Lake decisively affects both the ecological balance and the basic primary sector activities of the inhabitants of the area, in early 2000s the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) investigated the water needs of both ecosystems and farmers, in order to propose sustainable solutions for all sides. This effort began with a scientific study, which determined the maximum limit of Lesser Prespa Lake water level fluctuation in the summer, in order to satisfy the needs of nature and people. After discussions and consultations with the local bodies, these limits were approved by the Management Body for the Prespa National Park (MBPNP) and in 2009 they were institutionalised with the legislation establishing the Prespa National Park.
Subsequently, the SPP proceeded with the preparation of a wetland management plan, which, amongst other things, defined specific objectives for the management of the level of Lesser Prespa Lake. As the existing construction was not adequate for controlling the water level with the precision that was required according to the new data, the SPP undertook the construction of a technologically advanced sluice gate to regulate the lake’s water level more effectively in a LIFE project, which was was completed in 2005 with European co-financing in co-operation with the competent authorities and the local community. Since then, the management of the sluicegate has fallen under the MBPNP, which has the mandate for managing the entire wetland.
Each year the MBPNP and the SPP have worked together with the Wetland Management Committee of all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the water levels are well managed for both people and nature. Likewise the SPP has supported the MBPNP in managing the vegetation around the lakes so as to ensure that wet meadows are maintained. This is achieved by a cutting vegetation by tractor or by the specialised amphibious machinery owned by the SPP, and by grazing with stock animals. The cut vegetation is then distributed to local stockbreeders for use as fodder. In the past the SPP has supplemented grazing in the wet meadows around the lake with the use of a herd of water buffalo, but nowadays local stockbreeders’ cattle herds completely cover this need.
Myrsini Malakou, «Traditional ecological knowledge, conservation and socio-ecological perspectives in the Prespa transboundary Park», Chapter 5.2, page 329 in Papayannis, T. and Pritchard, D. E. (2011), Culture and Wetlands in the Mediterranean: an Evolving Story, Athens, Med-INA.
Catsadorakis, G., V. Roumeliotou, I. Koutseri & M. Malakou. 2021. Multifaceted local action for the conservation of the transboundary Prespa lakes Ramsar sites in the Balkans. Marine and Freshwater Research