A new cycle of interdisciplinary on-site research of the Aegean Islet Conservation Project was completed in the past days, aboard the research vessel Aegean Explorer, in the framework of the Archipelagos Institute’s collaboration with the University of Toronto, , John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape & Design.

This common research that has started since 2021 focuses on the “Documentation of the cultural and natural landscape formations and ecological identity of islets”. Research focuses on numerous islets of the southern and eastern Aegean. 

As we study the financial activity that these uninhabited islets had in the past, it fills us with awe that not only they were inhabited, but also produced and exported dairy products, meat, legumes and more. Our aim is to gather and share knowledge and comprehend the wise management practices based on which the local communities survived and thrived in the small islands of the Aegean with absolute self-sufficiency.

It is remarkable that even though for thousands of years and up to a few decades ago, the small islets were not only inhabited but also produced and exported dairy products, meat, legumes and more, nowadays there is not only lack of any agricultural production, but we have indulged in their total destruction.

With the mismanagement of EU subsidies, livestock (mainly goats) have been effectively abandoned on many of these islands. These are counted to receive European subsidies and then abandoned on the islands where access is very difficult. The result is not only that numerous dead animals are found on the islets, due to dehydration or starvation, but at the same time the desertification and irreversible erosion of the islets is also caused. When the bushes disappear due to overgrazing, the retention of night moisture also stops. The few centimeters of the surface productive soil of the islets are eroded and this ends up in the sea. What remains are the rocks where nothing can grow anymore.

In cooperation with the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Toronto, apart from the study of the architectural and natural history of these small islets, as well as of the factors of threat, the next goal is the  the physical establishment of an on-site research base dedicated on exploring anti-desertification, conservation, and rejuvenation strategies for these diverse, unique and historically significant land and marine systems.

The restoration process will include among other the reconstruction of old buildings using traditional practices and materials that can be found on the islets, the replantation of local species of plants, as well as of anhydrous varieties of agricultural plants (legumes, cereals)  

For this purpose we link digital documentation with traditional practices, in an interdisciplinary approach of environmental and social sciences, ethnography, history and all available local knowledge. 


Nowadays, even though we have access to state-of-the-art technological means, we struggle to survive even in the most rich ecosystems. Therefore the traditional resource management practices which were followed for centuries by the local communities of the Aegean islands, are a topic of research by internationally acclaimed institutions – a research that today is more relevant than ever.

The Aegean Islet Conservation Project is co-led by Thodoris Tsimpidis, Director of the Archipelagos Institute t.tsimpidis@archipelago.gr ;  and
Petros Babasikas, Architect and Director, Honours Bachelor of Arts, Architectural Studies at University of Toronto, Canada, Petros.Babasikas@daniels.utoronto.ca