The Psili Ammos wetland on Samos is a very valuable habitat for many different bird species, including breeding, migratory, endemic, and threatened species. However, for the past five years or so, there have been increasing human impacts including illegal bird hunting, illegal joyriding with quad bikes within the dry wetland in the summer months and more. This area is an important habitat for many different species of birds, including migratory, endemic, and threatened birds. As this rare island wetland habitat is protected under Natura 2000 framework, there are laws in place now that prohibit all destructive activities within this specified region, but many are perpetrated, sometimes out of ignorance and other times out of defiance.
With the aim to promote the efforts for the protection of this rare habitat, in cooperation with the North Aegean District Authorities, Archipelagos’ Terrestrial Research Team is monitoring the bird species that are present in the region, determine each species’ population abundance and density, and to monitor long-term the populations. We are conducting this research in order to raise awareness to the local communities and visitors, about the importance of the birds in this region. There are many significant bird species found at Psili Ammos wetland, at different times of the year, with most impressive being the Greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) which is a key winter visitor of this site. The large number of threatened and protected bird species found here, which makes it a quality area for bird watching. If Psili Ammos were to officially be labeled as an important region for birding it would not only raise awareness about conservation efforts, but furthermore boost ecotourism and help to stimulate local economy. Subsequently, unwanted activities, such as illegal hunting, would be kept under closer surveillance to preserve the health and quality of the ecosystem.
In order to detect the most bird species possible during our surveys, two different count methods are being employed. The first and most common bird counting method is a point count, which consists of surveyors identifying and counting every bird seen at each point from a 360-degree angle. Our points were chosen strategically, keeping in mind the spots that would offer the clearest view of the given area. The other count method used was the line transect method. The reasoning behind choosing this method was two-fold in that it is useful for detecting cryptic bird species, and that it also allows for accurate measurement approximations for distances between detected birds and the transect line. This distance estimation can be used to help determine species abundance and distribution.
Though this research project has only recently been put into action, the results are already promising. After the first two surveys at the salt marsh, five new bird species have been added to the previous species lists created from the previous years. A success of this nature in so short a time period has lead Archipelagos to also expand these surveys to other wetlands across Samos, and other sites are already being vetted.
Fourth year BSc Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Kentucky, USA