, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 431-443

Effects on fisheries and waterbirds of raising water levels at Kerkini Reservoir, a Ramsar site in northern greece

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

A new, higher dam was installed at Kerkini Reservoir in 1982, causing habitat and landscape disruption. A decrease in the area of grassland and shallow water areas, the rapid disappearance of reedbeds, the appearance of beds ofNymphaea, and the disappearance of half the forest area were all observed between 1982 and 1991. With the new hydrological regime, a lacustrine system was created, with an extensive, rather deep (4–8 m), pelagic zone favorable for the development of coarse fish species throughout the year. After 1982, an increase in fishing effort and a change in the relative abundance of fish species in the catch, including the disappearance of eels and wels, were observed. The impact of the rise in the water level of breeding aquatic birds led to a general decline in species typical of marshy habitats in favor of species preferring deeper open water habitats. A decrease was recorded in bird species that feed largely on invertebrates and to a lesser extent fish (e.g., glossy ibis) and that require extensive shallow feeding areas. There was a decline in geese, whose nests were regularly flooded, and a major increase in piscivorous birds, particularly diving birds (e.g., cormorants), which prefer deeper open water and benefitted directly from the large increase in coarse fish biomass. The disappearance of birds breeding in flooded meadows (e.g., black-winged stilts) and of those restricted to reedbeds (e.g., marsh harrier) occurred from 1983. Over the same period, the changes in populations of wintering birds at Kerkini were different from those occurring in other wetlands in northern Greece. The changes recorded in the populations of wintering birds at Kerkini did not therefore result from overall regional trends but from the major habitat modifications that occurred to this wetland. As for breeding birds, strictly piscivorous species increased greatly as a result of the increased availability of fish, but also due to the appearance of many suitable night roosting sites (flooded trees) and to the great increase in the area of open water greater than 2 m deep. Today, Kerkini has become the most important breeding site in Greece for a majority of colonial waterbirds. In contrast, wintering shorebirds practically disappeared. The many changes recorded in the status of breeding and wintering birds at Kerkini can mostly be explained by the changes that occurred in the functioning of the ecosystem and in the habitat structure following the inauguration of the new hydrological regime. These changes did not all occur at the same time: some were immediate and others required a delay before they could be detected.