Establishment of a Plant Micro-reserve Netwrok in Cyprus for the Conservation of Priority Species and Habitats

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C) Concrete conservation actions

The project > Actions

C1: Establishment of the Plant Micro-Reserves in the field

The main objective of this Action is the establishment of five plant micro-reserves in the field. In some cases the micro-reserve boundaries will be defined by the placement of signs at their borderline. In cases where external threats are evident, the micro-reserves will be fenced for better protection. Fencing of individual plants or group of individuals will also be used, if necessary. Accessibility to each micro-reserve will be achieved by constructing a pathway. The use of the pathways will minimise the damage to the micro-reserves, which is sometimes caused by the uncontrolled access of visitors in the area. Visitors will be allowed to walk only in specified areas of each micro-reserve. Special interpretation signs will be placed at the entrance and along the pathway. Moreover, at the nearby-inhabited areas and along the roads leading to the pathways, signs will be placed describing the plant micro-reserves concept as well as the value and importance of the neighbouring micro-reserves.

The establishment of the Network on site is a major milestone of the project foreseen to have been concluded by June 2011.

Expected results:

The main result of this Action is the identification and establishment of the plant micro-reserves either by fences or by special signs. Special notice boards will be used within the micro-reserves and in the neighbouring inhabited places as well. Fencing of the micro-reserves will reduce many of the threats facing the priority species (e.g. trampling, plant collecting, illegal shepherding etc.).

The establishment of the micro-reserve network will lead to the identification of the targeted priority species/habitats and the protective measures that are needed for each of them. The communication of the conservation objectives to the local communities and the visitors of the area will promote environmental awareness and thus contribute to the conservation of the targeted species.

C2: Installation of permanent monitoring plots

This Action focuses on the installation of permanent monitoring plots, mainly inside the micro-reserves, but also in neighbouring locations (outside the micro-reserves) for comparison purposes. The total number of these plots will vary depending on the size and the conditions to be monitored in each micro-reserve. Nevertheless, it is estimated that the number of plots per micro-reserve will range between 5 and 15. Additionally, the size and shape will vary and their surface will range from one to several square meters. In certain cases the transect approach will be adopted. Additionally, various other approaches will be followed regarding the actual plot delimitation in the field. Plants will be mapped in permanent plots by fixing a scale onto the frame and determining co-ordinates in relation to the frame.

This Action takes into account the results of the preparatory Actions A1, A2 and A3. The installation of the monitoring plots will be completed by June 2011.

Expected results:

Through this Action, a fully deployed and well-mapped network of permanent monitoring plots will be installed and form part of the monitoring and conservation activities of the project.

C3: Monitoring of the Plant Micro-Reserves

This action focuses on the monitoring of the plant micro-reserves by recording factors related to the priority species and their habitats. Monitoring is a vital element that must be integrated in the development of concrete conservation measures.

For the needs of this Action a system of digital, environmental sensors and data loggers will be acquired. This infrastructure will constitute the micro-reserve's 'monitoring station'.

Automatic monitoring sensor networks will be installed and monitored at each micro-reserve. The sensors will cover a broad range of environmental parameters and will undergo operational tests both in the lab and in the field. The guidelines of the Monitoring Plan (see Action A.3) will be followed for the placement of the monitoring plots, the selection of factors to be recorded and the way of recording. Modification and adjustments will be made, if necessary. For species with part of the population fenced off (Action C.1), monitoring will take place both within and outside the fence. Monitoring will be performed in a strictly standardised and reproducible way. For each micro-reserve, at least 5 monitoring plots will be established, which will cover the habitat variance encountered in the micro-reserve. Monitoring with photoplots (photographs of a defined small area, taken from above at a specific height to provide an overview of the plot) will also take place.

An operational and maintenance protocol will be elaborated in order to provide guidelines for the maintenance and operation of these automatic monitoring stations. With respect to the Monitoring Plan, continuous follow up and adjustment possibilities will be explored in order to meet the objectives of the project. In addition, a justification tool will be used in the communication and consultation processes with competent authorities and local users. A justification tool will also be used for the evaluation of project results and the proposals for future management of the targeted species and their habitats.

Expected results:

The main results expected to arise from this action are:

- The operational and maintenance protocol for the Monitoring Stations (April 2011).
- Monitoring Reports that will be prepared each year (five monitoring reports in July 2012 and five in June 2013) presenting the results for each micro-reserve. These reports will be submitted to the Scientific Committee for approval. The relevant files will be continuously updated and evaluated in order to immediately adjust the management measures, on the basis of the Monitoring Report. The Scientific Committee will evaluate the Reports each year and decide if management adjustments are to be made. The first Monitoring Report for each of the micro-reserves will be completed in July 2012 and the second Monitoring Report in June 2013.
- A report on the Monitoring Database / Diagrammatic summaries (models) describing and correlating the ecological attributes, the monitoring parameters and the management measures (see Action C.4) will be ready in June 2013.
- Finally, a Post-Project, Long-term Monitoring and Management Plan, aiming to contribute towards the sustainability of the Network in the long term is due with the conclusion of the project (July 2013). The plan will be discussed with the Scientific Committee and the Stakeholders Board and will be finalised by the end of the project.

C4: Application of conservation measures within the Plant Micro-Reserves

This will be the core action of the proposed project. It will focus on the development, testing and applying of concrete environmentally friendly conservation management measures for the conservation of the targeted species and habitats.

Continuous mild interventions within the micro-reserves are envisaged in order to enhance the structure and composition of the habitat and to improve the conservation status of the targeted species.
A non-exhaustive list of active management measures to be carried out, according to the specific characteristics of each PMR and targeted species appears below:

1. Protection of naturally emerging seedlings by artificial cover or through the 'nursing effect'.

2. Selective fencing/cover of adult individuals to reduce or eliminate seed/fruit predation. Selective fencing will be applied only in cases where external threats, such as illegal shepherding or fruit consumption are evident.

3. Sustainable control of seed/fruit predators. This activity will primarily focus on
Astragalus macrocarpus ssp. lefkarensis.

4. Hand pollination to achieve fruit setting and promote sexual reproduction. This activity will focus on
Ophrys kotschyi.

5. Small-scale relief modifications to reduce erosion and enhance plant protection.

6. Mild pruning, weeding and removal of seeds, seedlings and saplings of the main competitors to decrease the competition factor.

7. Removal of dried, flammable biomass (against wildfires).

8. Moderate provision of water in extreme drought conditions.

9. Moderate provision of fertilizer/manure in order to increase reproductive success in
Astragalus macrocarpus ssp. lefkarensis, which presents high rates of flower/fruit/seed abortion, possibly as a result of the lack of nutrients.

10. Course modification of human and animal pathways to minimise the impacts.

11. Dispersal of seeds from the local populations in appropriately prepared areas.

Expected results:

The main results expected to arise from this action are:

- Protection of at least 30 seedlings from each targeted species (except
Ophrys kotschyi) by artificial cover of selected individuals.
- Elimination of seed/fruit predation and overgrazing through fencing.
- Sustainable control of seed/fruit predators in 30 individuals of
Astragalus macrocarpus ssp. lefkarensis and possibly other targeted species - increase of the seed output.
- Increase of sexual reproduction in
Ophrys kotschyi through hand pollination, which will result in the production of approximately 10.000.000 seeds during the project period.
- Protection of 20 individuals of each targeted species (except
Centaurea akamantis) per PMR from erosion through small-scale relief modifications
- Decrease competition for 20 individuals of each targeted species per PMR, through mild pruning, weeding and removal of seeds, seedlings and saplings of the main competitors.
- Reduction of the risk of wildfires through removal of dried, flammable biomass.
- Increase the survival rate and the reproductive output of 30 individuals of each targeted species (except
Centaurea akamantis) per PMR through moderate provision of water in extreme drought conditions.
- Increase of the seed output of
Astragalus macrocarpus ssp. lefkarensis through moderate provision of fertilizer/manure.
- Minimisation of the negative impacts from humans and animals through course modification of human and animal pathways.
- Increase of the sexual reproduction of the targeted species through artificial seed dispersal.
- Increase of the Relative Reproductive Success of the targeted species. It is estimated that the measures that will be applied will enhance the reproductive success of species with low ability in sexual reproduction, thus promoting the enrichment of their populations. Relative Reproductive Success is expected to be increased from 0-10% to 90-100% in
Ophrys kotschyi and from 0-30% to more than 50% in Astragalus macrocarpus ssp. lefkarensis.

C5: Enrichment of the populations of the targeted species

Enrichment of the populations of the targeted species will be carried out by outplanting plantlets which will be produced in the nurseries of the Department of Forests. It is expected that at least 200 plantlets from each targeted species (except from
Ophrys kotschyi) will be planted in the respective PMR. The enrichment of the populations will be based on the report that will be produced in Action A5 on the necessity and feasibility of reinforcement of existing populations. Enrichment of the populations of the targeted species will start from October 2011 (after the finalisation of the Report that will result from Action A5). The exact timing of the enrichment activity is expected to be defined in the Report.

Expected results:

This action is expected to enrich the genetic variation and strengthen the natural populations of the 5 targeted species and
Cedrus brevifolia. Moreover, it will result in a substantial increase of the targeted species population within the PMRs, since at least 200 plantlets from each species (except from Ophrys kotschyi) will be planted in the respective PMR.

C6: Utilisation of existing Botanical Gardens of the FD to achieve the ex situ conservation of the targeted plant species

The main aim of this action is to contribute to the long-term survival of the targeted species outside their natural environment, through the establishment of particular sections within the Botanical Gardens that are located within Troodos, Athalassa and Akamas National Forest Parks. At each section an effort will be made towards creating the habitat type of each species, so that the plants will grow in conditions as natural as possible. Significant numbers of individuals from each targeted species will be planted to ensure a sustainable, genetically representative subpopulation. Demonstration activities will include the presentation of the plants and their habitats with descriptive signs. Interpretive signs presenting the importance and conservation status of each targeted species will be placed both at the entrance of each Botanical Garden and the entrance of the proposed particular sections.

The three Botanical Gardens were created and are managed by the Forestry Department. They are located in public land and in areas with different climatic conditions. Therefore they fulfill the climatic requirements of all the targeted taxa as follows:
- Troodos Botanical Garden is suitable for
Arabis kennedyae.
- Akamas Botanical Garden could host
Centaurea akamantis and Astragalus macrocarpus ssp. lefkarensis.
- Athalassa Botanical Garden is appropriate for
Ophrys kotschyi and Astragalus macrocarpus ssp. lefkarensis.

In addition to their importance on the
ex-situ conservation of the targeted taxa, the Botanical Gardens will also substantially promote public awareness (Action D3). The new sections of the existing Botanical Gardens, which will host living collections of the targeted plants, will be established by December 2011 and will be continually enriched.

Expected results:

This action will result in the creation of five new sections in the existing Botanical Gardens of the FD, each one of them hosting living collections of the targeted plants. These sections will be designed in a way to simulate the natural habitats of the targeted species so that they better serve their conservation and demonstration purposes. The Botanical Gardens are located in areas with different climatic conditions and they thus fulfil the climatic requirements of all the targeted taxa.

C7: Collection and storage of seeds of the targeted species at the seed bank of the Agricultural Research Institute to achieve the ex situ conservation of the targeted taxa

The main aim of this action is to contribute to the long-term survival of the targeted taxa by storing and preserving a representative range of their genetic diversity at the seed bank of the Agricultural Research Institute, Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment.

Within the framework of the project, seeds will be collected from the natural populations of the targeted species. The "Seed Collecting Manual for Wild Species" that has been prepared by the European Native Seed Conservation Network - ENSCONET" will be adopted for collecting seeds of the targeted species. International standards and recommendations will be also followed for further processing and manipulation (drying, cleaning, storage and general management) of the seed lots. Special care will be given in order to preserve the survival of their natural populations.

After seed collection, several parameters relating to the behaviour and viability of the seeds will be studied. Such parameters include: seed weight, storage behaviour, dormancy types and dormancy release treatments, temperature requirements of germination and rate of germination, seed ecophysiology. Data on these parameters, acquired during previous studies on the reproductive biology of the targeted species, will be certainly utilised. Practical protocols for collection, storage and germination of the seeds of the target species as well as from other important species of the study area will be proposed.

Expected results:

This action will result in the long term,
ex situ conservation of the targeted taxa. Seedlots of each of the targeted taxa will be collected for three successive years and stored in the seed bank of the Agricultural Research Institute. Protocols on seed storage, germination, growth and outplanting of the targeted taxa will be prepared.

C8: Safekeeping of the Plant Micro-Reserves

Safekeeping of the plant micro-reserves will be implemented by frequent patrolling of trained staff of the Department of Forests.

The training of the Department of Forests staff will cover all pertinent theoretical and practical issues. The members of the FD staff that will be engaged in safekeeping the micro-reserves, will be in position to give basic information on the micro-reserves and the targeted species. They will have an identity card with their name, the project and LIFE logo written on it.

The main activities of the trained members of the FD staff will include:
- Inspecting on a regular basis the proper operation of the field equipment that will be established in each micro-reserve,
- Facilitating visits of interested groups of people to the areas.

Expected results:

Safekeeping of the micro-reserves will be implemented immediately after their establishment in the field.

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