STRYMON RIVER BASIN
The Greek part of Strymonas
river basin is located at the north of the region of Central
Macedonia and covers an area of 6,472 km2. Strymonas river and Lake Kerkini
(artificial lake fed by Strymonas) are the main surface water bodies in
the basin, which in turn contribute to the Serres plain with ground water.
"system" constitutes a major national asset, above all a wetland of
national importance, particularly for its wealth of natural resources. The
water, the fish, the rich soil, the forest, the wild animals and
especially the abundance of birds are invaluable natural resources,
renewable and sustainable if exploited and managed wisely.
The Strymon project entitled
"Ecosystem Based Water Resources
Management to Minimize Environmental Impacts from Agriculture Using State
of the Art Modelling Tools in Strymonas
Basin" innovates with the use of modern tools
and methods but also always taking into consideration the human factor.
The project aims at the sustainable management of the area and
consequently at the conservation of its rare biological wealth.
Kerkini is commonly referred to
as an artificial lake that functions solely as a reservoir supplying
irrigation water to the plain of Serres. The wetland and its values being
promoted today are seen as the result of the engineering works, which have
been carried out since 1937, to build the embankments and the Strymonas dam.
The area is a paradise for birds and people.
it that makes Lake Kerkini so special? First, it is the enormous wealth of
plant and animal life that led to the lake being designated as a wetland
of international importance. Even today it has one of the highest levels
of biological diversity among Greek wetlands. The conditions that make
such richness possible must be acknowledged in order to be respected and
protected. Let us consider them one by one. The lake, which is rather
shallow for most of the year, is flanked on the north by low-lying land
that is flooded in the spring (due to the absence of embankments,
presenting a high interspersion of water and land). This seasonal
flooding, together with the silt brought down by the River Strymonas, makes
this area very fertile; it is covered with lush vegetation abounding in
plant species. These three factors - the diversity and structure of the
vegetation together with the water ant the fertile soil- produce a
multitude of ecosystems, differing both in structure and function.
They range from the riverine forest, the heart of the wetland, with its
willows, tamarisk, alders, plane trees, ash and poplar trees that make an
invaluable nesting and breeding ground for aquatic birds and also a refuge
for fish, to the impressive carpet of water lilies that covers about 5 sq.
km of the lake, en extraordinary extent for European conditions; from the
wet meadows that provide rich feeding grounds for herons, spoonbills
and glossy ibis, to the shallow waters with Salvinia and water chestnut
(the latter is a globally threatened species that provides excellent
nourishment for many aquatic birds); and from the sandstrips formed by the
river - a superb resting and breeding ground for birds- to the lake's
deeper waters, teeming with fish.
This variety of habitats and flora, the abundance of food and the
geographical position of Lake Kerkini have combined to make this wetland a
paradise for birds, which find there the right conditions to live, breed,
feed, winter or stop over on their migratory flights. Of the 244 bird
species recorded in and around the lake, 70 are protected by the
Directives of the European Union, among them species that are threatened
in Europe or worldwide, such as the Dalmatian pelican. Other rare species
are the white pelican, pygmy cormorant, night heron, spoonbill, glossy
ibis, black stork and all the herons, egrets and bitterns. Most of these
species breed in Lake Kerkini, building their nests in colonies in the
riverine forest. It is thrilling to see such a wealth and variety of life
being born in the flooded forest.
In autumm and winter, when the level of the lake is kept low to prevent
flooding, the lake's area is reduced to 4,500-5,000 hectares from the
7,000 hectares it occupies in the spring. Then the bird life, while
remaining diverse, changes in composition. Almost all the species that
nest in Kerkini in the spring migrate south to warmer climes, and their
place is taken by other birds that will winter in the area. Thousands of
ducks, grebes, cormorants, pygmy cormorants and Dalmatian pelicans, as
well as flamingos, flock to fish in the lake's waters.
Institutional framework for environmental protection of the area
Kerkini Wetland is protected through national, international, and European
Social and economic data
The broader area is defined by the administrative borders of the four
municipalities of Kerkini, Sidirokastro, Irakleia and Petritsi and one
community of Promahonas. Statistical data for the four municipalities show
that the population decreased from 39,694 inhabitants in 1991 to 38,624
inhabitants in 2001. The administration area of the 4 municipalities is
approximately 92,176.8 ha.
Occupation in the primary sector of economy ensures a relative wellbeing in
the area. It could be divided as follows:
Fisheries: Lake Kerkini is one of the most productive lakes in Greece with
many commercial species.
Agriculture: Local people cultivate corn, cotton, wheat, alfalfa and
Animal husbandry: Local people raise cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs.
As most of the rural areas of Greece, the broader area of Kerkini Wetland
could not be an exception to the movement of inhabitants to bigger cities
or even other countries. The villages have less people in each statistical
survey, and those that are left are mostly elderly people. However, the
local economy started to show positive signs due to the tourism
development during the last few years. Small tourism businesses, like
hotels, taverns, enterprises offering recreational activities such as
guided tours, appeared especially through the EU Community Initiative
LEADER. Generally though, the services' sector is only complementary to
the income generated by the primary sector of the economy.
An important observation is that in many cases members of the same household
practice professionally more than one occupation. For example, someone can
be both logger and cattle raiser. This phenomenon takes place quite often
at the local level. People are involved professionally with more than one
activity in order to supplement their main income. Based on the changes
that have taken place to the natural environment and to the management of
the natural resources, someone could well argue that some activities
turned from main to supplementary occupations or they were replaced by new
occupations. For example, fishery used to be the main and unique job but
the decline in fish production forces people to be involved with other
occupations such as building constructions for example and practice
fishery only for leisure. Additionally, logging used to be a main job for
many households but nowadays, it is regarded as supplementary job and
replaced either by farming and cattle - raising or by other activities.
The increased tourism development in the area lead to the construction of
new lodgings, something that can be seen as a positive sign since Lake
Kerkini is evolving to an autonomous tourist destination. Obviously the
daily visit in a place can not generate substantial income. The excessive
stay of visitors is desired both from hotel owners and other professionals
of the area. Actually they prefer less visitors staying longer periods of
time, than more visitors staying shorter periods of time.
The accommodation units currently operating in the area include
"Oikoperiigitis" in Kerkini village, which can accommodate twelve
people in rooms and forty-five people in a guesthouse. In Lithotopos,
there is the hotel "Erodios" which can accommodate fiftyfive people.
In Vyroneia there is a lodging of fifteen beds and a smaller one exists in
Petritsi. In Sidirokastro, operates the hotel "Olympic", while just
out of the town there is the hotel of Sidirokastro's spa. In Poroia
there is the traditional hostel "Viglatoras" and two really small
hotels, "Panorama" and "Belles". Finally in Agkistro, there are
two small hotels, "Agkistro" and "Hamam".
The existing accommodation units are not enough to cover the demand,
especially during peak times. This increasing demand will probably lead to
the construction of new accommodation facilities.
Concerning restaurants, there are around plenty of taverns in the area
(officially twentyfive but actually more), with most of them being in
Kerkini, Lithotopos and Ano Poroia villages.
Changes in the natural environment
There have been major changes in the local environment at the area of
Kerkini most of which are directly related to the building of the new dam
in 1982. This was a big project that affected the natural environment a
great deal as it allowed the lake's water to reach a maximum level of 36
m above sea level, 4 metres higher than the previous dam. The annual water
level range is now 5 metres. This influenced many aspects of the natural
landscape. The most important effect was the damage to the riparian forest
and the decrease of the aquatic vegetation including large beds of reeds
and wet meadows due to the increase at the depth and duration of flooding.
During the first years from the new works a large bed of white water
lilies grew in the lake covering an area of 325ha.
However, continuous rise of the water's maximum level in the early 90's
caused the water lilies to decrease. By mid 90's the area that they
covered was no more than 50 to 80ha. The riparian forest was also exposed
to water for more time than the trees could cope with. As a result in the
90's the forest area had diminished by more than half, down to 325ha
compared to the 700ha that it occupied in the early 80's. Scientists
admit that cormorants nesting on the forest also cause some damage to the
trees. The above changes have meant large-scale damage to the birds' and
fish habitats and have resulted to the reduction of various birds and fish
Logging of the forest by residents of the nearby villages has also been
mentioned as one of the reasons for the forest decline. Destruction of the
lakeside vegetation is also attributed to buffaloes and cattle grazing
uncontrollably. Grazing space next to the lake is not enough to support
the needs of the big number of sheep and goats present at the Kerkini
area, especially during the summer. The result is overgrazing that
doesn't allow the re-establishment of reeds and other vegetation and is
considered one of the reasons for the declining vegetation.
Hunters also mention that natural habitats for animals have decreased in the
mountains due to intensive logging and road building activities.
This page was last updated on 06/12/2007 .