Pushing the boat out in Prespa on Biodiversity Day

The UN’s International Day of Biodiversity 2015 will be marked by the launch of the country’s first water monitoring station to help restore the ecosystem of Lake Prespa.

 

The official opening of the new state-of-the-art monitoring station on May the 22nd is especially appropriate to the theme of this year’s International Day of Biological Diversity—‘Biodiversity for Sustainable Development’.

 

The station is set to make a significant contribution to preserving the rich variety of natural habitats and species of the Lake Prespa basin, one of the most ancient freshwater lakes in the world, with a unique ecosystem that has evolved over five million years providing a habitat for more than 2,000 species of fish, birds, mammals and plants.

 

The survival of this invaluable biodiversity depends directly on the health of the water, which has suffered greatly over the last 40 years—above all from the prolonged dry period and pollution caused by unsustainable farming practices, including excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides and the dumping of waste.

 

For more than a decade now, UNDP has been leading a major programme to restore the health and biodiversity of Lake Prespa, helping to implement numerous measures aimed at encouraging more sustainable farming practices and supporting research into identifying and addressing the causes of pollution.

 

One of the central findings has been the urgent need for more efficient and regular monitoring of the health of the water. Indeed, the lack of regular monitoring has been shown to be one of the underlying causes of the degradation of Lake Prespa, with insufficient data seriously impeding attempts to identify and respond effectively and swiftly to challenges such as surges in pollution.

 

“It was difficult to know the right actions to take,” explains Gjoko Strezovski, the Mayor of the Municipality of Resen, “because it wasn’t possible to detect accurately all the changes in the ecosystem. We didn’t have the data available, for example, to tell which of the changes harming the biodiversity and the water ecosystem were being caused by man-made activities and which were natural activities. By investing in monitoring now we are investing in the future. The station and the data it collects will enable new generations to make smarter, wiser and more informed decisions from now on.”

 

The new two-storey monitoring station, fitted with its own dock and lift for the monitoring boat, includes a laboratory with modern equipment capable of measuring the water quality on a regular basis in a cost-effective manner.

 

Two experts and a technical person employed full-time at the station will conduct research into water samples collected by the monitoring boat.

 

Besides regular monitoring, the station can also offer technical and logistical support to all domestic and international institutions interested in working and studying in Prespa.

 

“The opening of this station is the crowning achievement of a long process of building up the monitoring capacities for the management of the Prespa ecosystem,” says UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Alessandro Fracassetti. “Investing in early monitoring saves funds both in the mid-term and long-term and is itself a major contribution to preserving valuable diversity and helping to foster sustainable livelihoods at local level.”

 

Investments have been made into monitoring the water of Lake Prespa since 2004, with generous financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Global Environment Facility.

 

Together with partners from the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning and the Municipality of Resen, UNDP has helped establish a hydrological monitoring station on the Golema Reka tributary of Lake Prespa, a central meteorological/climatological station for the entire Prespa Lake basin, a system of seven agro-meteorological stations to ensure timely and less polluting control of pests and diseases, and a number of water quality monitoring programmes at national and transboundary level.

 

Preserving the planet’s rich variety of plants and animals is an urgent global priority that has led the United Nations to designate 2011–2020 the UN Decade on Biodiversity.