Goats desert the islands of the Aegean Sea

Goats desert the islands of the Aegean Sea

Goats desert the islands of the Aegean Sea

A few days ago, on-site research was carried out on the islands of the Aegean Sea within the framework of an interdisciplinary program in which the School of Architecture of the University of Toronto participates, together with the “Archipelagos”. In recent decades, sheep and goats have landed on many islands, deforesting them and leaving a barren place. Photo T. TSIMPIDIS

They have stood for centuries against the waves and winds of the ocean, and they have become bases for the reproduction of life and the development of human activity in difficult conditions. Today they are delivered in March desertification, through… European programs. The reason for many Aegean islandsplagued by subsidized overgrazing!

“What we are facing is a tragedy. We are destroying our own place, throwing away centuries of experience.” said Thodoros Tsimpidis to “K”.Director of the Marine Conservation Institute “Archipelago”, days after returning from another round of field research on the Aegean islands with the research vessel Aegean Explorer. The research was carried out within the framework of the interdisciplinary program for the conservation of the islands of the Aegean Sea (Aegean Isles Conservation Project)where, with the “Archipelagos”, the School of Architecture of the University of Toronto participates Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design John H. Daniels. In recent decades this has happened on many islands landing of sheep and goats (subsidized).

Goats desert the islands of the Aegean-1

“The grant is at the head. So some people have a crowd some goats then left them animals on an island. A cheap solution, because no fencing or guarding is required. Zero care. Some didn’t even bother to feed the goats, who started eating everything that grew on the island. In some cases they even give up without water and many people are found dead. In one case, the goats were left without food or water for five years because their owner died!” says Mr. Tsimpidis, Aegean Islet Conservation Program Manager. sustainable.

“Today, many islets are destroyed, mainly due to overgrazing by uncontrolled herding. Some abandoning goats on the islets has led to decades of desertification.” Petros Babasikas explains to “K”., architect and director of the architecture program (HBA AS) at the University of Toronto. “Goats deforest everything, even the roots, they also dig underground to find food. Nothing remains, they leave a sterile place. The subsoil is essential because it is where all the nutrients are gathered, all material for the next phase,” notes Babasikas.

As “Archipelagos” reports, overgrazing also leads to irreversible erosion of the islets. When the bushes, which the goats eat, disappear, “the nighttime moisture retention (the so-called ayazi) also stops”. The few centimeters of productive soil surface of the islets are eroded and this ends up in the sea. The rocks remain, where nothing can grow anymore.

Goats desert the islands of the Aegean Sea-2

“We have already recorded dozens of islets. Each one is different from the other, it has an interesting story to tell us,” explains the Greek architect. because before there was a social and economic life on the islets.

“We are destroying our own place, throwing away centuries of experience,” Mr. Tsimpidis, director of the archipelago’s Marine Protection Institute, told ‘K’.

“Rainwater and moisture retention practices had been developed, in some there were trees, in others gardens to support the presence of people, while small agro-pastoral units were developed, which were part of traffic networks for their products to other islands. In addition, the islets are a refuge for fauna, such as migratory birds. In some there were historical observatories. Each islet is a small world, “explains Mr. Babasikas Thodoris Tsimpidis has lived in the Aegean Sea for many years, he has seen a lot, and despite all this, he keeps coming across situations that impress him.

“Petrokaravo, north of Patmos, is a terrible landscape. Cliff all around, except for an opening on the north side. How do you tie the boat there? And yet up there there is a citadel and houses well maintained. How did they live there, on the rock? How did they coexist with nature and save resources, when we want a supermarket next to us?

Another islet under study is Anhydros, also north of Patmos, as well as the islets of Megali and Mikri Anthropofas near Fournos. “People lived here, we found buildings, they farmed, they had animals, they had barns, so they milked, the animals had to be in good condition,” adds the director of “Archipelagos”. According to the researchers, cheese products, meat, cereals, legumes (such as the famous dehydrated broad bean) and others were produced on the islands.

Goats desert the islands of the Aegean-1

Recovery practices

The next objective of the joint program is the establishment on an island of a research station dedicated to the implementation of practices to combat desertification. The process will include, among other things, the reconstruction of old constructions with the traditional practices and materials present on the islets, the replanting of local species of shrubs and low vegetation, and the cultivation of local arid varieties (legumes, cereals).

“We are preparing to test a revitalization program on an islet that will be granted to us. We will apply traditional methods of water retention, restoring structures with clay, seaweed and cedar roofs. It is also important to record local knowledge and traditional techniques, so they don’t get lost with older craftsmen,” says Babasikas.The team will be multidisciplinary, with foresters, landscape architects, anthropologists and other specialties.

“Is the trend towards desertification reversing? we ask. “Yes, but you have to start from very deep, from the deepest substrate, to redistribute the soil”, answers the director of Toronto Architecture.

Many Aegean islands are under regime Nature protection, as Mr. Tsimpidis points out. “Environmental protection in Greece is completely inadequate. What are the agencies doing to confront and stop the destruction of nature?” Is anyone listening?

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