In 2001, biologists Giorgos Catsadorakis and Myrsini Malakou were awarded the Goldman Prize for their efforts to create the first trans-boundary protected area in the Balkans, an area better known for conflict than cooperation, at the borders of Greece, Albania and Macedonia. Read below for an exciting update on Malakou and Catsadorakis’ work on the Trans-Boundary Prespa Park and wetlands throughout the region:
“In the years since winning the Prize, Malakou and Catsadorakis have continued to work on the Trans-boundary Prespa Park, leading the locally based NGO, the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP). Since the early years of the last decade their work has concerned the integration of basin-wide management approaches throughout the trans-boundary Prespa Lakes area. Following the establishment of the first trans-boundary protected area in the Balkans in 2000, an international agreement between the three countries sharing the Prespa basin and the European Union was signed in 2010.
Prior to this they worked in the Greek part of Prespa addressing major challenges to restore wet meadows as part of the conservation of the Lesser Prespa Lake wetland, gradually moving on to promoting effective conservation and integrated management at a trans-boundary level.
Their work in Greece aimed to restore the globally important Ramsar wetland of Lesser Prespa Lake, which was severely degraded in the 1980s having fallen prey to the prevailing trend of “rapid economic development at any cost”. Wet meadows along the shores of the lake had dwindled and populations of water birds and fish species had decreased. Conservation practices focused on the restoration of wet meadows by addressing the two main issues of water and vegetation management.
The strategy was based on the promotion of integrated river basin management by combining traditional practices and scientific knowledge in collaboration with local stakeholders. The long-term conservation effort to restore the wet meadows is today recognized as a case study of best practice for the recovery of an ecosystem.
As a result of this work, wet meadow areas tripled in extent. Consequently the glossy ibis began to breed in the area once more and the colony of globally endangered Dalmatian pelicans grew by 240% to reach over 1,200 pairs, 15% of the global population. Today the management of Lesser Prespa Lake is in the hands of local stakeholders following guidelines produced by the SPP as part of the conservation measures.
Malakou and Catsadorakis’ strategic approach is characterized by their persistent promotion of co-operation and mutual understanding between a wide variety of trans-boundary organizations and individuals at a grassroots level. In this context, all the trans-boundary initiatives of the SPP aim to develop solid relationships, as the only way to ensure the sustainability of co-operation. This bottom-up approach has already begun to pay dividends, sidestepping the complexities of the relationships between the three countries at a political level.”