Habitat Protection

One of the most important issues of concern for the EU is the ongoing degradation and loss of natural and semi-natural habitats and the constant undermining of biodiversity and wildlife populations. As a response to the increasing concern about the declining populations of European wild birds, the European Community, as it was called then, adopted its oldest piece of nature legislation in 1979: the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), formerly 79/409/EEC. According to this Directive, all Member States should designate the most suitable areas for the bird species which are listed under Annex I, and for other regularly occurring migratory species, with an emphasis on waterbirds. The species listed in this Annex are subject to special conservation measures because they are rare, vulnerable, threatened or migratory. These sites are named Special Protection Areas, the well-known SPAs. In 1992, the EU nature legislation was enriched with the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), which protects other fauna, flora and habitats across the EU.
Together these two Directives form the backbone of nature protection legislation in the EU. Under the Habitats Directive, the concept of the EU-wide network of nature protection areas called Natura 2000 was introduced. SPAs form part of this network and thus, together with the Special Areas of Conservation (SACs: areas designated for the protection of specific habitats, flora and non-bird species under the Habitats Directive), they form the centrepiece of EU nature and biodiversity policy. 

Having transposed the Directives onto its national law, the Republic of Cyprus designated 41 Sites of Community Importance (SCIs - sites which are proposed to the Commission by the Member State and once approved, they can be designated as SACs) and 30 SPAs (some of which are overlapping with SCIs) since it became an EU member in 2004. In total, there are 47 Natura 2000 sites as many sites are both SPAs and SACs.

Additional sites have been designated as SPA-equivalent in the area of the Akrotiri West Sovereign Base Area under the Sovereign Base Areas Administration’s Protection and Management of Nature and Wildlife Ordinance (26/2007) which broadly replicates the Republic of Cyprus’ 153(I)/2003 Law.

BirdLife Cyprus is lobbying for the effective protection of habitats and sites by advocating for the correct implementation of the Appropriate Assessment process for all proposed plans and projects which could affect Natura 2000 sites, as required under Article 6 of the Habitats Directive and article 16 of the 153(I)/2003 Law. In Cyprus, today several Natura 2000 sites are threatened by plans and projects which are proposed or built,on the basis of poor quality assessments. BirdLife Cyprus advocates the correct use of Appropriate Assessment for correctly assessing the potential impacts of plans and projects to the conservation objectives of Natura 2000 sites and the implementation of and the adoption of decrees that make management plans binding.

Important Bird Areas of Cyprus

The BirdLife International Important Bird Area (IBA) Programme aims to identify the key sites for bird conservation across the globe utilizing standardised and scientifically rigorous criteria, with the aim of securing the protection and sympathetic management of these sites, for the benefit of birds, wider biodiversity and people.

The IBA programme in Cyprus

BirdLife Cyprus, as the partner organisation of BirdLife International on the island, has as one of its principal aims to ensure the protection of the key sites for birds on the island, thereby helping to conserve birds and other biodiversity. Effective bird conservation action in Cyprus can make a significant contribution to wider regional and global efforts to halt biodiversity loss. As with all IBA Inventories approved by BirdLife International, the particular, practical conservation relevance of the new Cyprus IBA list rests in its legally recognised relationship with key provisions of the EU Birds Directive. The Birds Directive is a legal instrument for bird conservation that applies to all EU Member States. Among other measures, the Directive requires the creation and proper management of a coherent network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for almost 200 bird species, subspecies or populations that are considered most in need of conservation action in Europe, as well as for all other migratory bird species, especially waterbirds, and for all wetlands of international importance known as Ramsar Sites (The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, 1971). Along with Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designated under the Habitats Directive, SPAs form the Natura 2000 network of protected areas.

IBAs of Cyprus

The updated IBA Inventory as confirmed by BirdLife International includes a total of 34 sites, covering 310,022 hectares (ha) of wetlands, forest, scrub and farmland habitats both inland and in coastal areas and peninsulas, ranging from sea-level to the highest peaks of the Troodos range.

These sites are of key importance for the conservation of a total of 44 individual species and three species groups or assemblages, namely migrant raptors, wintering waterfowl and characteristic species of the Mediterranean Scrub Biome. The species covered occur in Cyprus in numbers that are of importance on an EU, Regional (European) or Global scale, or a combination thereof. They are predominantly species considered to be of priority for conservation action within the EU (those listed in Annex I of the EU Birds Directive), but also include additional passage migrant and wintering species, plus species of regional importance that are not Annex I but are Species of European Conservation Concern (SPEC species) as defined by BirdLife International.

IBA Monitoring

Effective conservation action is impossible without reliable information. IBA monitoring is necessary in order to develop a better understanding of the state in which these important sites are, to detect the threats they face and to be able to act on time, as well as to assess the progress made towards protecting them, or the lack thereof. Monitoring helps also to expand and update the data for a site, and also provides a broader understanding of the activities that take place in IBAs on a national level.

Monitoring has been deeply embedded in BirdLife Cyprus’ areas of action since its formation in 2003 and it is one of its top priorities in its Strategy for 2013-2020. Inspired by similar examples from other BirdLife International Partners, BirdLife Cyprus envisioned the enrichment of its ongoing monitoring action, expanding it from monitoring species to monitoring sites, through the establishment of a network of volunteers who would become the watchdogs of the island’s most important areas for birds.

‘Important Bird Areas of Cyprus’ Book


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