Posidonia banquettes; suggestions to promote their importance and protection

The Independent Directorate of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support of the Region of Central Macedonia in collaboration with the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature organized a Conference in which proposals of action plans were presented to highlight the importance of proper management and protection of Posidonia oceanica, in the pilot area of Epanomi and Schinias Marathon National Park, with the perspective of wide dissemination of management knowledge in Regional and National level.

The event was held hybridly on Thursday of November 25th, 2021, at the Center for Dissemination of Research Results KE.DE.A, AUTH Campus and online via zoom.

The event highlighted the importance of Posidonia as a vital indicator of health and good quality of the coastal zone, as well as its importance as an element of protection against erosion of the seabed and the coastline. Good management practices of the entire Posidonia system (banquettess, grasslands, sand dunes and endemic environments) can help tackle climate change and anthropogenic pressures on the coastal environment.

The event brought together the main responsible stakeholders for the management of the coastal zone, in order to join their efforts and implement actions necessary for the sustainable management of the marine habitat and posidonia banquettes in the pilot areas of Epanomi and Schinias Marathon National Park, as well as the development of a methodological framework of guidelines for the development of a comprehensive strategic action plan at local and National level.

The common view of all was that for the sustainable management of coastal systems in protected areas with banquettes and posidonia meadows and in order to ensure the conservation of Posidonia, it is necessary to develop an action framework plan with the best decision-making practices through collaborations. The main pillar of the implementation of the plan is the awareness and information of the local and wider society about the benefits of Posidonia on the coasts as well as the cooperation of stakeholders for the formulation and implementation of a plan that will include actions such as information to schools, visitors and businesses.

The initial speaker of the conference was the Deputy Regional Governor for Development and Environment, Mr. Konstantinos Gioutikas. He made brief reference to the Regional Operational Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change. The RCM is one of the first Regions of the country to prepare an integrated, costed, directly applicable program with specialized measures to enhance its resilience. Concluding, he noted that the Region of Central Macedonia is one of the first Regions of the country to prepare an integrated, costed, directly applicable program with specialized measures to enhance its resilience, per region and per production sector and called for the cooperation and contribution of stakeholders in order to preserve the functionality of underwater habitats.

Mr. Nikolaos Tzolas Regional Advisor for Innovation issues of the Region of Central Macedonia. He highlighted the contribution of the region to the protection of the environment and biodiversity, such as the POSBEMED2 project, which aims to develop the framework for the transfer of best decision-making practices and the management of the conservation of Posidonia.

Ms. Sissy Hadjilakou, representative of the Natural Environment and Climate Change Agency (NECCA), addressed a greeting to the attendees and thanks for the invitation to the Region of Central Macedonia and the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature and supported the adoption of environmentally sustainable practices, new management approaches and the joint emergence of recommendations friendly and practical to the environment and stressed how the Organization for the Natural Environment and Climate Change, as a managing authority, is ready to contribute in all directions of good cooperation between all coastal zone management bodies.

Ms. Anastasia Kasapi, General Secretary of the Municipality of Thermaikos, pointed out the importance of the pilot study area which is a Natura 2000 protected area and is a very rich wetland with very high biodiversity.

On behalf of the external consultant of the Region of Central Macedonia, Consortis company, presented by Ms. Anastasia Tsirika (PhD Biologist) of the Department of Agriculture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Ms. Maria Tsiafouli (PhD Biologist) of the Department of Biology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the results so far of the mapping of the existing situation regarding the poseidon banquettes formed on the coasts, the measures and practices currently applied by the management bodies in the pilot under monitoring area of Epanomi and Aggelochori. Finally, the proposals formulated to the Local Government and other stakeholders were presented in accordance with the international evaluation standards based on Natural Based Solutions (IUCN) on how to manage the Poseidon banquettes that are indicated for the conditions of the Epanomi pilot area.

Mr. Nikolaos Papadopoulos (PhD Agronomist), a member of the Department of European Programs and Partnerships of the Independent Directorate of Innovation and Entrepreneurship of the Region of Central Macedonia, stressed the importance of Posidonia as a structural component of the ecosystem, which provides special characteristics to the habitat in which it grows, as well as to the fact that it gives unique direct and indirect benefits to the wider environment. In addition, a historical review was made and the importance of the earlier European project Accolagoons prepared by the RCM was highlighted, which was an important legacy of knowledge in order for the Region to participate in the current Project PosBeMed2. He referred to the need to develop a Framework Action Plan in the area of Epanomi which will bring together the main management bodies of the coastal zone and presented the categorization of the area into zones of action and non-action depending on the presence of the banquettes of Posidonia but also the anthropogenic pressures that are being exerted.

Ms. Anthi Karamouchtari, member of the Department of European Programs and Partnerships of the Region of Central Macedonia, referred to the five main pillars of the Framework of an Action Plan, describing the proposed actions and the methods of their implementation. The following actions are briefly mentioned: Actions concerning the accumulation of the banquettes, actions in the area of the coast, in the sea area and actions for the development of skills, education and awareness of citizens. In addition, were presented the proposed methods of monitoring: the trends of the coastline, the surface of the spread of the Posidonia system, the quality of the water and the public mentality.

The actions of the Management Body of the Protected Areas of the Thermaikos Gulf in the area were developed by the representative Ms. Evangelia Papadranga presenting possible proposed solutions for highlighting the importance of Posidonia in order to sensitize the local community as it is of the utmost importance to change the mentality and culture of the users and bathers of the beach in order for the proposed management measures to be applicable and have long-term results. She referred to the agency's multiple responsibilities but underlined the lack of staff as the scope of action of the Management Body is very large and cannot respond to the protection needs of the wetland.

Mr. Dimitrios Vandarakis, representing the Hellenic Center of Marine Research presented meticulously with a very detailed report the results of the depiction of the current situation regarding the Posidonia banquettes formed on the coast, in the pilot area of the Schinias-Marathon National Park which is under monitoring. The results of the proper management were presented in detailed diagrams and maps in comparison with historical data from 1946, reinforcing the importance and role of conservation of Posidonia on the coast.

Afterwards, Ms. Chara Agaoglou, representative of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, partner of the POSBEMED2 project, took the floor and analyzed extensively the case of the National Park of Schinias - Marathon and presented the proposed Action Plan, highlighting in details the measures and practices currently applied by the competent bodies for the management of the pilot area as well as the measures and practices proposed to be implemented.

From the discussion, which was moderated by Mr. Konstantinos Michailidis, Deputy Head of the Independent Directorate of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support, important conclusions were drawn on the decision-making and management responsibilities of Posidonia in the coastal zone on the basis of the peculiar ownership status, the need for training, awareness-raising and public opinion, finding natural alternatives to join their efforts in order to implement actions necessary for the sustainable management of the marine habitat and the Posidonia beach dune systems.

The discussion and monitoring of the event was attended by representatives from the General Directorate of Forests and Rural Affairs of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace, Mrs. Athanasia Panagiotou the President of the Protected Areas Management Authority, Mr. I.Karakasis Professor of the University of Crete and Mr. A.Miliou from the Institute of Marine Protection "Archipelagos".