Regenerating the Cycladic Ecosystem

(2018) 7.600€ awarded

We are so excited with our new partnership with the Friends of Paros Park Association and the Environmental Park of Paros! Have you ever visited it? It sits on a 80-hectare area of municipal land, typical of the Cycladic landscape, exploited for millennia. The vicious circle of tree-cutting, overgrazing, fire and, more recently, the tourist industry, have put an enormous pressure on the local ecosystem and almost stripped it bare. Since 2008 the people of Paros have stepped in in an effort to stop the degradation and have created what the Paros Park is today: a sanctuary for nature lovers, a hub for high quality cultural activities, an emerging model of sustainable development in the Cyclades. Nevertheless, there is still a lot to be done to prevent the severe erosion occurring, to reverse the biodiversity loss and to regenerate the fragile terrestrial and marine ecosystems, that are both affected by erosion.

The CPF is proud to support these efforts and help the local community come together in a positive way, enhancing multiple functions of the Paros Park as a place of education, recreation, tourist attraction, environmental awareness and protection! The projects aims: a. to provide a replicable and scalable model for erosion mitigation and regeneration of the fragile island ecosystems of the Cyclades, b. to revegetate and enhance biodiversity in a typically degraded area, where agriculture or animal rearing is no longer desirable, interesting or economically viable, c. to create a garden/sanctuary/showcase of the Cycladic flora, where tourists and locals alike can discover the rich but threatened biodiversity of the Cyclades, d. to raise awareness about the problems of the Cycladic ecosystems and about the cheap but effective solutions and practices used traditionally in the Cyclades and elsewhere in the world to prevent erosion and revegetate degraded land.

Read here the relative Press Release in Greek!

UPDATE- 2019

We are excited to sharing with you the report we received from our partner  in early May of 2019:

‘ The spring phase of the botanical garden construction and the anti-erosion earthworks at Paros Park has almost been completed. A few additional actions need to be taken in order to prepare for summer.
As far as the anti-erosion and water-retention works are concerned, we built a new set of one-rock dams on the now abandoned road leading to the Korakas Lighthouse, on the inactive road leading down to the organized beach, as well as in the wider water basin draining to the Monastiri beach. In combination, we planted along the road adjacent to the beach to take advantage of the rainwater run-off from the hill, to increase the vegetation along the coast and reduce the amount of rainwater running off to the sea.

During construction and throughout the winter, we were pleased to observe that, despite the heavy rainfall we had this year on the island, formation of gullies due to erosion has stopped, and the dams themselves, as well as the space around them, has been filled with vegetation . The beneficial effect is multiple: the rainwater running off from the dams flows clean, without carrying debris (soil, stones, sand), and is absorbed by the soil. This enhances the vegetation and the dams start to integrate harmoniously into the landscape, restoring it naturally.

The botanical garden was built in the place of a small parking lot positioned behind the open-air theater “Archilochos”, in the form of terraces supported by stone walls, built by a Parian craftsman. Over 45 species of perennial plants, native to the Cyclades and the South Aegean, were planted. Indicatively, we mention a few species: thyme, sage, savory,phlomis, spruce, capers, rockrose, sea fennel, euphorbia, juniper tree, myrtle, laurel, carob.

While waiting for the plants to grow in this new section, we also built a walking path connecting it to a wider adjacent section where plantings have been made by the
Association with the help of numerous volunteers for more than ten years. This area gives the visitors an insight of how this place was in times before overgrazing and other human uses exhaust it and also how the garden will look like in the future.
The cooperation with local stakeholders has been remarkable. Paros Park Municipal SA has added significantly to our budget, the Municipality offered plants, services and materials for the irrigation system, “Naias” nautical club of Naoussa has offered countless hours of volunteer work, we had a volunteer photographer from the Photo Club of Paros documenting the works, locals offered plants and services for free.’

UPDATE -2020

EARTHWORKS FOR EROSION CONTROL

We doubled the number of one-rock dams in the area of concern and we applied the method on another deserted road that was cause to significant erosion heading directly to the organised beach of the site.

All relevant earthworks have worked extremely well during the winter, preventing any soil, rocks and other debris running off to the beach. We have to note that precipitation this season (winter 2019-2020, ~290mm until today) was about half compared to last year (September 2018-April 2019, ~600mm), with no extreme rain events.
So, while the rain events would not be highly erosive this year, the one-rock dams have successfully held soil and moisture for much longer time than the wider area, so that the dams themselves and the surrounding areas are full of vegetation.
Many of the smaller structures are completely full of vegetation, so that they have integrated completely in the landscape, healing it slowly but steadily.
What is more, we have observed an increase in plant diversity. We have been seeding the rock structures with native plant species not previously present in the Park, and we are now seeing them growing in various spots.

This anti-erosion project has been a painstaking process that demands patience, close observation and careful intervention. It tries to repair degenerative human activities and at the same time to withstand harsh climatic conditions and a very challenging topography, typical to the Cyclades. The results are promising and we are encouraged to continue.

BOTANICAL GARDEN

At the end April, we completed the first phase of the Botanical Garden. The construction of the traditional dry stone-wall terraces was completed and we planted 75% of the garden, with native plants of the Cyclades and a few from Crete. This was already a remarkable feat because native plants are not commercially available and there are very few, if any, professional nurseries that produce them. We also accepted donations of plants from locals and organised so that we have more native plants in the coming year.

In spring 2019 more than 1,000 school children from 7 out of 8 elementary schools of Paros and Antiparos visited the Botanical Garden in a series of visits funded by the Paros Park and facilitated by our Association. We used the garden to raise awareness of the importance of the Cycladic ecosystem, the Paros Park endeavour, and to inform and inspire children about their natural and cultural heritage. In September 2019, on the Paros Park 10-year anniversary, we also had the opportunity to tour with local people around the garden and the wider area, presenting and explaining our project of erosion mitigation, as well as preservation and promotion of the Cycladic flora.

This past winter was a test-run for the new plantation: it had to withstand harsh winds, one of the most important factors shaping the landscape of the Park area, apart from human interventions. We can now safely say that this garden can thrive, especially if we provide for some additional works for wind-breaking. A positive side-effect of the botanical garden, that was nevertheless taken into account in the design process, is that it itself functions as an anti-erosion feature in the landscape: the terraces and planted vegetation absorb most of the rainwater coming from the northeastern rocky side adjacent to the theatre main entrance and the restaurant side entrance, benefiting the garden itself as well as the maintenance of the site. This is a clear demonstration of how terraces work in the Cyclades and why it is important to preserve and vegetate them.

Adjacent to the botanical garden is an area which has been the main focus of most planting efforts in the past ten years, the results can clearly be seen in the aerial image shown below. This area has many native plants already established and it inspires us to think of the whole Paros Park as a big Botanical Garden. In this context, some of the funds available were spent to create a walking path that traverses this area and leads to the abandoned road leading to Korakas Lighthouse, where the majority of the anti-erosion works are. Thus, we created a Botanical Trail that connects all elements of our project and gives an insight to the potential of regeneration for the entire peninsula.