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

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Project objectives

The main objective of this project is to improve the conservation status of four priority plant species and two priority habitat types of Cyprus that are found in NATURA 2000 sites, through the establishment, monitoring and management of a network of five Plant Micro-Reserves (PMRs). The project will focus on the detailed monitoring and effective conservation of a significant part of the population of the priority plant species of Cyprus * Arabis kennedyae, * Astragalus macrocarpus ssp. lefkarensis, * Centaurea akamantis and * Ophrys kotschyi and of two priority habitats, namely; * 9590 Cedrus brevifolia forests (Cedrosetum brevifoliae) and * 9390 Scrub and low forest vegetation of Quercus alnifolia. So far, no other LIFE project has focused on the conservation of the targeted sites/priority species populations/habitat types, while the threats affecting the targeted species/habitats have not been adequately addressed.

More specifically, the project aims at:

- Describing in detail, monitoring and reducing the threats arising from recreation activities and disturbance of natural habitats, which affect the populations of *
Ophrys kotschyi, *Centaurea akamantis, *Arabis kennedyae and the habitat types *Cedrus brevifolia forests and *Scrub and low forest vegetation of Quercus alnifolia.

- Enriching the natural populations of the targeted species/habitat types quantitatively (by increasing the population size) and qualitatively (by increasing the genetic diversity of the natural populations). This is considered of outmost importance, since the majority of the targeted species is likely to have low genetic variability and suffer from genetic erosion.

- Increasing the genetic diversity of the populations of
Cedrus brevifolia so that they can better face the threats arising from climate change. Being endemic species of mountainous areas in a Mediterranean island (Cyprus), C. brevifolia might be seriously affected by climate change.

- Reducing the negative impacts of fire on the populations/habitats of
Ophrys kotschyi, Arabis kennedyae and Cedrus brevifolia.

- Preventing the uncontrolled expansion of cultivated areas towards the habitat of
Ophrys kotschyi and minimising the use of pesticides around the targeted population of the species.

- Promoting
ex situ conservation activities to secure the survival of the targeted taxa in the long term.

- Increasing public awareness on the importance of the conservation of the targeted species/habitats. Enhancing the participation of different stakeholders in the PMR conservation effort and promoting awareness among the general public about the PMRs and the overall EU conservation policies.

- Utilising the knowledge and experiences that have been accumulated during the last 15 years from successful PMR projects for the conservation of the targeted species/habitats.

- Establishing a European network of PMRs, through which scientific information and best practices will be exchanged. The wider aim of this initiative will be to establish close cooperation between scientists and other stakeholders that have been involved in the PMRs approach, towards the effective conservation of the threatened plants of Europe.

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