Apart from its high fisheries value (the fish management is assigned to fishers by the Sub-region of Messinia), the area attracts students and visitors from all over the world due to its high educational, aesthetic and cultural value. It is part of a wider area which is characterized as an Important Bird Area, a Wild Life Refuge, and is included in the Natura 2000 network as a Special Protection Area (SPA), under the Birds Directive (site: GR2550008, 2001; Birds Directive 2009/147/EC, 2009), as well as a Site of Community Importance (SCI) and as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), under the Habitats Directive. In addition to the site’s natural value, the lagoon and the surrounding area are part of the extended archaeological site of Pylos which includes many important monuments from different eras, demonstrating the importance of the sites for the communities in different times. As such, it is vital not only to the areas’ local economy, but also to the area’s identity.
The functions of the wetland and the corresponding ecosystem services (e.g. provision of fish, habitat for waterbirds, educational/touristic destination) depend on the water balance of the system, which is controlled by the availability of fresh water inputs and the water exchanges with the sea. However, since the 1960s, the water balance has been greatly affected by existing constructions which limit surface freshwater inflow by diverting it to the sea as well as by the increase use of groundwater resources for irrigation and domestic use. Recent studies have shown that at present the lagoon is characterized as saline with hypersaline conditions for nearly 30% of the year, a percentage which is expected to increase under future warmer and drier climatic conditions. The increased salinity at the wetland has already profound implications in the area’s habitats and species (especially on fish and waterbirds), and concrete water management decisions are needed to tackle the degradation of the wetland. However, such management decisions need to be based on a holistic approach which will aim to ensure a) better wetland conditions for fish, waterbirds, and mosquito management, and b) sufficient water availability for irrigation and domestic use.
To that end, and to further help our stakeholders to understand the complex connections of the Gialova system, we have constructed a model which describes how the different inland water uses affect the wetland water conditions under current and future climatic conditions and water uses. The model is quantified based on available data on the area, and has the possibility to provide outcomes based on decisions proposed by the stakeholders (e.g. increase fresh water inputs from Tyflomitis, increase fresh water inputs from Xerolagados, improved network efficiency) during the upcoming MAL workshop.
Authors: Giorgos Maneas (NEO), Erasmia Kastanidi (HCMR)