The wetlands of Préspa in northwestern Greece are one of the most biologically rich and diverse regions in Europe. Over 260 species of birds migrate, winter and breed there, including the world's largest colony of the rare Dalmatian pelican. In the mid-1960s, government projects introduced large irrigation systems, commercial fertilizers and mechanized farming, quickly endangering the intricate wetland's ecology.
Biologists Myrsini Malakou and Giorgios Catsadorakis used their research in the region to help the local communities seek alternatives. They taught organic farming and reintroduced traditional practices that sustained both the people and the wetlands. They founded the community-based Préspa Center for Man and Nature, and they continue to serve as scientific advisors for the Society for the Protection of Préspa.
Thanks to their dedication and years of work, the destruction of the wetlands has been halted and restoration has begun. Their singular groundbreaking achievement came on February 2, 2000, when, in response to their proposal, the prime ministers of Albania, Macedonia and Greece signed an agreement establishing the first transboundary protected area in the Balkans. At the signing ceremony, the prime ministers declared that the Préspa Park would be a model of peaceful collaboration among their countries. Malakou and Catsadorakis are currently working on a management plan for the sustainable development of the new park.
Goldman Environmental Foundation
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