Report of Lemnos Agro-Pastoral Ecosystems Flora

By Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (MedINA)

Lemnos (Greece) is a North Aegean island, which shows a special geographical, biogeographical and ecological interest. It is well isolated from the neighboring large islands of Lesvos, Samothraki and Imbros and it is the southernmost of the North Aegean biogeographical subdivision. In contrast to most of the typical Aegean islands, Lemnos is not characterized by steep calcareous rocky coastal ecosystems but by wetlands and by an interesting coastline, which contribute to the formation of an extensive network of wetlands.

Lemnos belongs to the Region of North Aegean (former Prefecture of Lesvos) and occupies an area of 477 km2. Unlike other large Aegean islands, low-altitude hills (maximum altitude 429 m) and a more or less gentle topography characterize the island. This gentle topography is mainly due to the absence of calcareous rocky ecosystems from most of the island and to the predominance of volcanic, schist and psammitic rock formations. The climate of the area is sub-humid or almost semiarid, with a mean annual precipitation of c. 500 mm. Frequent winds, blowing mainly from N or NE, contribute to the dry climate of the island

Although a wide variety of cultural practices shape the High Atlas landscapes, only one practice – the agdal sylvopastoral resource management system – has been studied. To assess the importance of local cultural practices and deepen our understanding of agricultural, pastoral and culinary traditions, Global Diversity Foundation (GDF) and local partner Moroccan Biodiversity & Livelihoods Association (MBLA), carried out in-depth research on cultural practices in the High Atlas communes of Aït M’hamed in Azilal Province and Imegdal in Al Haouz Province, funded by the MAVA Foundation. These activities are at the heart of of GDF’s High Atlas Cultural Landscapes programme. We aim to strengthen these traditional practices for the conservation of unique High Atlas biodiversity while enhancing wellbeing of the communities that have managed and maintained these beautiful landscapes
for millennia.

The island of Lemnos conserves a high-level ecological value, based on a variety of natural vegetation formations but chiefly on human-made habitat types such as of arable and pastoral farmland. Arable farming is closely linked with the history of the Mediterranean cultural landscape (HALSTEAD 2000). More than other Aegean islands, Lemnos with its extensive fertile plains and its geographical position has been a focus of arable farming since historic times and was an important part of the so-called “grain-route” across the Aegean (BRAUND 2007). PHILIPPSON (1959: 227, citing FREDRICH 1906) referred to Lemnos as the most fertile of the North Aegean islands; ‘particularly productive are the areas around the bays of Purniá and Múdros and on the east coast; here one can ride an hour and longer through arable fields. The entire northwest and the Pháko may be used for pasturage only. […] Trees are rare throughout. Fruit trees are almost absent, also viticulture must have declined since antiquity’ (in German, translated by Erwin Bergmeier). RAUH (1949) pointed out ‘the most striking feature of Lemnos today is the almost complete treelessness and absence of woodland’ (in German, translated by Erwin Bergmeier). The arable and multiple-use landscapes of Lemnos combine next to the high ecological also a cultural history value. They are currently endangered by intensification and gradual replacement of sustainable land use practices. This, combined with land abandonment and aggravated by the effects of climate change, have resulted in locally severe land degradation, compromising the functionality of the island’s cultural landscape ecosystems.

In the early 1940s, RECHINGER (1943) gave the first information on the floristic composition of Lemnos, mentioning 196 vascular plant taxa. A few years later, RAUH (1949) in his attempt to describe the plant communities of Lemnos added a few more taxa. A total of 341 plant taxa were known from Lemnos in 1991, due to contributions of ECONOMIDOU (1981) and BROWICZ (1991), who studied the origin of the Quercus ithaburensis subsp. macrolepis relict forest and the woody flora of the island, respectively. YANNITSAROS et al. (2000), BIEL (2000, 2002) as well as TAN et al. (2002) added 34 more taxa to the flora of the island. PANITSA et al. (2003), summarizing the floristic knowledge of the island, presented a list of 681 plant taxa, including the data from the available literature and the authors’ investigations. THOMAS et al. (2012) and STRID (2016a, 2016b) contributed further to the flora of Lemnos and raised the number of known taxa to 882 by the start of the Terra Lemnia project in 2018. The Terra Lemnia project added another 94 species, a number that will be increased as there are still some more plant taxa to be recognized during the following period.

In the context of the Terra Lemnia project an assessment study took place in 2018-2019 to examine the status quo of biodiversity and to assess the impacts of different land use practices according to Strategy 1.2 of the project. This work was also used to set the basis for establishing a system for effective monitoring of the impact of all activities on biodiversity using bio-indicator species
according to Strategy 1.5. Extensive field recordings were carried out in spring 2018, as part of Activity 1.2.1 of the Terra Lemnia project, and a comprehensive report and database of Lemnos’ agro-pastoral flora was produced. Additional field work was carried out in spring 2019, thanks to financial support from IUCN-Med through OI Knowledge and Monitoring of Biodiversity. The main
aim of this follow up work was the establishment of a permanent plot-based monitoring system focusing on arable land to assess the impact (success) of specific agro-pastoral practices on biodiversity using bio-indicator species. Furthermore, the 2019 field visit period was used to expand the knowledge of overall floristic species diversity on Lemnos Island, hence it was concluded with a
further field trip in autumn 2019