Rice paddies and avifauna: major ecosystem service providers in the Axios Delta Protected Area
Presentation by Eva Katrana, Axios Loudias Aliakmonas Management Authority
Eurosite Annual Meeting 2016, Serres, Greece
The Axios Delta Protected Area is located on the Gulf of Thermaikos, near to Thessaloniki and includes a complex coastal wetland area of 47,000 ha. It is protected under the Ramsar International Convention on wetlands and has been included in the Natura 2000 network. The area supports a variety of flora and fauna species, some of which are endangered: 370 plants, 40 mammals, 28 amphibians and reptiles, more than 38 fish, 65 invertebrates, 295 birds and 25 habitat types. The most characteristic habitat types are river estuaries and deltas, saltmarshes, lagoons and sand dunes which host wildlife and offer many ecosystem services (ES) to humans such as water supply, and food provision through agricultural production.
Almost one-fifth of the protected area is covered by rice paddies – valuable artificial wetlands, home to several invertebrate and amphibian species, foraging and resting habitats for birds-, where the 75% of the national rice crop is being produced.
Actually, rice paddies and avifauna are major ES providers, intertwined in a feedback loop (a two-way, win-win relationship). Through their ecological functions, they provide energy, in the form of food and nutrients, and the possibility for recreation and education through bird watching, environmental awareness etc! During the reproduction period (May-June), rice fields, firstly flooded and then sown, are filled with small invertebrates and small amphibians, first quality food for, on average, 128 pairs of white storks and 1,350-1,500 pairs of seven species of Herons, Spoonbills and Glossy ibis present in the area. Also, at the same time, 3,200 pairs of gulls and terns enrich the paddies soil with nutrients through guano deposit. In conclusion, the agro-environmental system “rice paddies-birds” is adding value both to the protected area and to human prosperity and well-being.
Photo: © Lia Papadranga