Title: Action for Nature Protection in the Buffer Zone: Reviving abandoned trees and boosting biodiversity in Varisha and Selemani
The island of Cyprus is an important biodiversity 'hotspot' with significant biodiversity inhabitants. Preservation activities are limited outside the buffer zone. The island's biodiversity is under severe pressure due to a series of natural and human related reasons including climate change, rural abandonment, and forest fires. One of the TCE's objectives is to take a more active role in protecting and preserving natural heritage and addressing climate change on the island. As a pilot and demonstration project, the TCE initiated an action to cooperate with experts and the owners of the land in the buffer zone at the abandoned villages of, Varisha-Şirinköy and Süleymaniye-Selemani. One of the first targets of the project that was realized on the 11/01/2023, was a site visit. Members of the TCE, accompanied by experts /specialists visited the site, aiming to evaluate the current condition of the flora and fauna of the area and provide know-how and proposed ideas of good and sustainable practices for the support and enhancement of the local biodiversity.
Varisha-Şirinköy and Süleymaniye-Selemani are Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot settlements in the buffer zone that have been abandoned for about 50 years. Nature has thrived in the absence of humans in the area. Species such as mouflons, barn owls, and bats are now the only inhabitants of these abandoned villages and their surroundings. The area is rich in dry crops such as almonds, carobs, and olive trees, as well as wildflowers and rare species like orchids. Decades passing have resulted in overgrowth and the development of thick, unproductive branches of the trees. The conservation of the plants is vital as being an important refuge and food source for wildlife. Helping nature to thrive can turn the area into a very important biodiversity hotspot.
The purpose of this assessment visit was to examine the region and collect all the information needed to create an action plan. UNFICYP escorted the group that included specialists, the TC TCE-co chair, and environmental technical consultants to the location. The group was led across the villages and the surrounding region to see firsthand the enormity of the problem connected to trees withering. Several pieces of evidence (feces, pellets, and trail pathways) of wildlife residing in the region were also observed.
As a next step, TCE is planning to organize a volunteer-based tree pruning event involving technical experts, young people and landowners. The trimming and pruning of these trees can facilitate the regeneration and production of more fruits in the following years. Other fruit trees, such as figs and carobs, can be planted to serve as food for the biodiversity of the area. Bat boxes and barn owl nests can also be installed to let wildlife utilize them as shelter to ensure breeding grounds and at the same time help to the natural control of the rat population. These actions can help the maintenance and protection of the trees, preserve air and water quality, and conserve habitat and natural beauty of the area.