Threats to the Kotychi – Strofylia Wetlands National Park region
The protected region encounters intense problems of degradation to its natural features due to human activities that are uncontrollably carried out, including waste disposal, vehicular traffic and illegal hunting. Degradation implies the reduction to the ecological and aesthetical value that may be caused by abandonment or arbitrary human activity.
The expansive sandy beaches combined with the uniqueness of the pine tree forest are a point of attraction for visitors and a frequent tourist destination, especially over the summer period. There is a huge concentration of predominantly single usage waste strewn along the outskirts of the roads leading to the most frequented beaches and recreation spots. In addition to the aesthetic degradation to the landscape, they are also sources of infection and a continued fire risk.
Furthermore, vehicular and visitor traffic all along the protected coastal zone has resulted in the trampling of species constituting the region’s vegetation, some of which are endemic, a disruption to the ecosystem’s continuity, the degradation and destruction to certain sand dune positions that act as a protection to the forest and the unregulated growth in tourist activities along the beach. It is worth noting that the entire length of the protected region (approximately 20 km) is a significant nesting site for the Caretta caretta sea turtle, as well as one of the most developed sand dune zones in Greece.
Illegal hunting is a significant threat to the region’s avifauna and it is mainly observed in the Prokopos and Kotychi lagoons. According to the protected region’s definition, the wetlands, forest and the coastal zone is a Zone A (Nature Protection Region) in the National Park, a section of which has furthermore been defined as a Wildlife Refuge. Hunting of all species is prohibited throughout the year in this region. The wetlands are a migratory stop for a huge number and variety of bird species, as well as a significant breeding area for endangered species. Illegal and intensive hunting threatens species using the lagoons for feeding or nesting and has resulted in the gradual reduction to the number of birds that are observed in the region. It is also a nuisance to visitors that constantly express their dissatisfaction with activities that are not consistent with the definition of a “protected region”.
The region’s establishment as a National Park and the demarcation of protection zones are a significant tool for identifying and effectively controlling authorised or unauthorised activities, depending upon the needs for conserving and protecting the natural environment in connection with the economic and social needs of the region’s residents and users.