Noll, Dominik, Dominik Wiedenhofer, Alessio Miatto, Simron Jit Singh. 2018. Infrastructure expansion, waste generation and EU policies on Circular Economy in Samothraki, Greece: An island's dilemma. Science to support circular economy symposium of the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Anthropogenic Resources, Vienna.

For the Greek island Samothraki, an effective waste management strategy plays a central role, as the export of waste is cost intensive and local disposal possibilities are limited. The EU Waste Framework Directive (EU-WFD) 2008/98/EC demands from EU member states a 70% recycling and recovery rate of construction and demolition waste (CDW) until 2020, which was reinforced with the Circular Economy Package. The construction of a new port in the late 1960s lead to an expansion of the built environment, unprecedented on the island and driven by the integration of Greece into the EU, labor migration and a shift in the local economy, especially through the advent of tourism. As a consequence, new types and expanding quantities of CDW put the island community increasingly in the need for action.
In this study, a dynamic stock-driven modelling approach in combination with a qualitative survey was applied in order to assess material flows associated with the dynamics of different infrastructure and building types from 1971 to 2016. Our results show that the material stock expanded from 175 t/cap to 350 t/cap in the given period, leading to a 15-fold increase of annual CDW generation. With a recycling rate of only 14% from in-situ recycling of road pavements, the island is currently far away from meeting the recycling and recovery targets of the EU-WFD. For future waste management strategies, the island community requires an integrated assessment of CDW avoidance, recycling and recovery potentials. This study marks a first step in this direction.

Fetzel, Tamara, Panos Petridis, Dominik Noll, Simron Jit Singh, and Marina Fischer-Kowalski. 2018. “Reaching a Socio-Ecological Tipping Point: Overgrazing on the Greek Island of Samothraki and the Role of European Agricultural Policies.” Land Use Policy 76 (July): 21–28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.04.042.

Livestock keeping and food production from grasslands play an important role in the Mediterranean region, where grazing has a long tradition and still is a key livelihood strategy. Yet, in many places widespread degradation (caused by overgrazing) severely threatens the natural resource base and prospects for future food security and sustainable development. On Samothraki, a Greek island, several decades of continuous increase of the local livestock population, exceeding not only the local food base by far but also the local farmers’ ability to provide supplementary feed, led to a socio-ecological tipping point turning the dynamics downward. Still, in the face of very restricted marketing opportunities, we find local farmers in an economic deadlock of relying on CAP subsidies as a main source of income and on still too high animal numbers for maintaining an ecological balance of their land while lacking the labor power (due to large-scale migration to Germany in the 1950s and 60 s) to apply adequate management practices. In this paper, we present a feed balance (feed-demand and supply) for sheep and goats from 1970 to 2012 and discuss causes and effects of the excessive growth in animal numbers, as well as reasons for their downturn in the last decade. We describe the island’s groundcover and symptoms of soil degradation, and underline our findings by reference to a remote sensing approach. Our findings recently gained in prominence as in September 2017, a state of emergency had to be declared on the island when a major weather event triggered a series of landslides that severely damaged the main town, a number of roads and bridges and even the 700 years old Fonias Tower, a marker of Samothraki tourism.

Petridis, P. and J. Huber. 2017. A Socio-metabolic Transition of Diets on a Greek Island: Evidence of “Quiet Sustainability”. In: "Socio-Metabolic Perspectives on the Sustainability of Local Food Systems". E. Fraňková, W. Haas, S.J. Singh (eds.). Springer, 263-289.

In the search for sustainable food systems, the Mediterranean diet occupies a prominent place, from the point of view of health, by standards of ecological sustainability and as promoting a culture of moderation and conviviality. Focusing on the Greek island of Samothraki, this chapter tells the story of a community which finds itself in the middle of a dual transition, socio-metabolically, from a traditional agrarian lifestyle to a modern industrial society, and nutritionally, towards a westernization of diets. We aim at understanding current dynamics and identify potential leverage points for sustainability, from a socio-metabolic perspective. Despite an increasing dependence on imports, our findings highlight the significant role of agricultural self-provisioning and informal food networks, as an example of “quiet sustainability”. We propose to reinforce these sustainable elements of local tradition by associating them with values that find resonance within the community, such as health, localness and quality. There is the potential to support a better utilisation of local produce and make adherence to the Mediterranean diet and culture more attractive and economically viable.

Noll, D., T. Fetzel, P. Petridis, and M. Fischer-Kowalski. 2017. Achieving sustainable small ruminant farming on Samothraki. Poster for the 6th Symposium of Research in Protected Areas, Salzburg, Austria.

The Greek island of Samothraki has undergone rapid changes in recent decades. The consequences are a wide variety of environmental but also social problems which the island community is currently facing. One of the major threats is the sharp increase in free roaming small ruminants since the 1960s, which has led to overgrazing, soil erosion and infrastructure destruction (Biel and Tan 2014). This development threatens the conservation goals of the large NATURA 2000 sites and future core area of the planned UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (Fischer-Kowalski et al. 2011), covering more than two thirds of the mountainous island and parts of the adjacent marine area (Fig.1). In this presentation, we focus on our work with the local farming community in order to reduce grazing pressure on the island’s ecosystems and restore areas highly a ected by erosion.

Petridis, P., M. Fischer-Kowalski, S.J. Singh and D. Noll, 2017. The role of science in sustainability transitions: citizen science, transformative research, and experiences from Samothraki island, Greece. Island Studies Journal, 12(1): 115-134.

We highlight the importance of island research that aims to achieve sustainability transitions. All too often, developmental priorities are largely defined by economic policy imperatives, and island research either ignores or masks such normative connotations. This article reports on ten years of transdisciplinary socioecological research on the Greek island of Samothraki. We sequentially: (i) introduce socioecological thinking and the conceptual framework of social ecology, and show how this is operationalised and applied on this case study, and (ii) highlight the importance of a transdisciplinary research approach, in promoting island sustainability. We conclude with a plea for more transformative research and citizen research in the direction of sustainability within island studies.

Markus Löw, 2017. Spatial Patterns of Land Cover Dynamics on Samothraki Island, Applying Remote Sensing on complex Mediterranean Pastures

The north-Aegean island Samothraki shows alarming signs of inadequate grazing. Obtaining profound and comprehensive insights in land cover dynamics and its spatial patterns are crucial to assure a sustainable future to finally become a member of UNESCO’s Man-of-Biosphere Programme. Therefore, earth observation data was analysed and discussed in context of the specific local grazing regime. Time series of ecosystem properties (NDVI) reveal that the island’s land cover history can be separated in two periods. Between 1984-2002, vast areas indicate decreasing vegetation cover, pointing out hotspots of land cover degradation. After that (2002-2015), most areas show recovering vegetation properties. First dynamics run parallel with a tremendous increase of livestock numbers. Second dynamics can rather be explained by declining animal numbers and changes of daily grazing management. Today, absent landscape preservation efforts prevent sufficient pasture productivity, decisive for a balanced as well as worthwhile land use.

Sustainable Mediterranean, 2016. Summer University of Samothraki 2016: Integrated Management Approaches for Biosphere Reserves and other Designated Areas, issue No 73, pp.84.

This issue of Sustainable Mediterranean is co-produced by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy); the Global Water Partnership (GWP); and the Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development (MIO-ECSDE) in collaboration with the Institute of Social Ecology (Vienna, Alpen Adria University) and the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR, Athens).

Petridis, P. and M. Fischer-Kowalski, 2016. Island Sustainability: The case of Samothraki. In: “Social Ecology: Society-Nature Relations across Time and Space" H. Haberl, M. Fischer-Kowalski, F. Krausmann, V. Winiwarter (eds.), pp.543-554.

Their very “insularity” makes islands excellent focal points for sustainability studies that systematically analyze the interactions between human activities and the environment. In this chapter, we seek to explore the factors that cause island societies to prosper and sustain themselves and those that lead to collapse. On the island we investigate (Samothraki, Greece), a number of historical cases of collapse have occurred, in the sense of breakdown of complexity and rapid population decline. At present there is a fragile situation of slow decline of population and ecological challenges that might possibly be brought to a “tipping point” by impacts of the Greek economic and governance crisis and climate change. The island community has decided to make an effort at turning the whole island into a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO standards. Building upon a sociometabolic understanding of socioecological systems and using systems thinking (and to a certain degree modeling), we try to identify environmental and social “tipping points” for Samothraki. Moreover, in line with the LTSER tradition, we argue that analyzing society-environment relations for different phases of the island’s history and insights from past collapses can help us identify threats and possible ailments. Finally, this chapter will reflect not only on the outcome but also on the process of doing transdisciplinary research, i.e. research that aims at achieving a practical outcome.

Noll, D., J.D. Huber, P. Petridis, S.J. Singh and M. Fischer-Kowalski, 2016. Socioecological Research on the Island of Samothraki. Poster for the Gordon Research Conference and Seminar on Industrial Ecology, Stowe, USA 2016.

The Greek island of Samothraki has undergone vast changes in the last five decades. The island had a typical agrarian socio-metabolic profile until the 1960s and has turned towards introducing a - however still moderate amount of - tourism, while at the same time responding to EU agricultural subsidies by increasing the number of small ruminants which threaten the conservation goals of the large NATURA 2000 area covering two thirds of the mountaineous island. Our ongoing research aims at restoring and improving the sustainability of the island, based on a systemic socioecological approach to strengthen synergies between agricultural, tourism and local services and support the island community in its efforts to turn Samothraki into a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In this presentation, we focus on the interlinkage between the livestock system and local food practices, in search for achieving synergies.

Petridis, P., 2016. Establishing a Biosphere Reserve on the island of Samothraki, Greece: A transdisciplinary journey. Sustainable Mediterranean, Special Issue, No 72, 39-41.

On the Greek island of Samothraki an unconventional story unfolds, where under the rubric of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, the Biosphere Reserve (BR) concept has been employed in order to propose and implement an alternative vision of local development from the bottom-up. After several years of research and communication e orts, an idea in the minds of regular visiting scientists was scrutinised by the local community and gradually shared with a wider group of inhabitants and the local authorities. The community council has endorsed an application to UNESCO and committed to pursue an operational plan in the direction of sustainability, inspired by and pertaining to the BR philosophy. From a policy perspective, this –still ongoing– process has generated a unique opportunity to pre-structure, observe and re ect on a process of evolving decision-making and management towards a sustainability transformation of an island.

Fuchs, N., 2015. Sozial-ökologische Effekte der EU-Agrarsubventionen: Fallstudie zur ökologischen und ökonomischen Nachhaltigkeit der Schaf- und Ziegenzucht in Griechenland. Saarbrücken: AV Akademikerverlag.

Das Viehhaltungssystem der griechischen Insel Samothraki befindet sich in einem ökologisch und ökonomisch nicht nachhaltigen Zustand. Die Fördergelder der Gemeinsamen Europäischen Agrarpolitik boten den Landwirten Anreize, die Größe der Ziegen- und Schafherden zu steigern und so die ökologisch determinierte Grenze, natürliches Weideland, zu überwinden. Die Steigerung der Herdengröße und die Entkopplung vom primären Produktionsfaktor Weideland resultieren in einer erhöhten Abhängigkeit von externen Betriebsmitteln. Die Arbeit zeigt die Entwicklung des ehemals Weide-basierten Viehhaltungssystems der kleinen Wiederkäuer auf Samothraki auf und diskutiert die Rolle europäischer Agrarförderungen für das Ansteigen der Tierpopulation. Zusätzlich wird die Nachhaltigkeit auf betrieblicher Ebene durch den interdisziplinären MESMIS-Ansatz operationalisiert. Eine Verlängerung der Wertschöpfung sowie die Reduktion der Herdengröße führen zu einer Verbesserung der betrieblichen wie ökologischen Parameter.

Rau, H., P. Gooch, A. Cardoso, A. Ruether, M.T. Wandel and P. Petridis, 2013. Focus Groups – A Vision for Samothraki in 2030. Final Report.

The Samothraki 2014 project was intended to both facilitate data collection and offer research methods training for graduate students. The qualitative module entitled ‘Focus groups and visioning’ involved future-centred focus groups with people from Samothraki (Greece). Participants were asked to talk about their vision for the island in 2030 and to discuss steps to turn that vision into practice. The concluding part of the focus group involved a questions and answers session which provided opportunities for both participants and researchers to raise and answer specific questions. Six focus groups were conducted between 3-7 May 2014, involving 37 local people from diverse economic sectors and social groups, including farming, fishing and bee keeping, tourism, public sector administration and civil society. A particular effort was made to involve adults from all age groups. All groups were organised, facilitated and translated by local people. Across all groups participants raised a number of key issues that relate to 1) current challenges affecting the island, 2) hopes for the future of Samothraki in 2030 and 3) ideas how to achieve this desired future.

Fischer-Kowalski, M., I. Pallua, L. Xenidis and S.J.Singh, 2014. Samothraki. Die Geschichte einer Insel, die sich aufmachte, ein UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat zu werden. In: Dressel, G., W.Berger, K.Heimerl, V.Winiwarter (Hg.). 2014. Interdisziplinär und transdisziplinär forschen. Praktiken und Methoden. Bielefeld: Transkript Verlag, S.239-246

Die Insel Samothraki (180 km2, knapp 3000 Einwohner) liegt im Nordosten des Ägäischen Archipels. Sie zeichnet sich durch archaische Schönheit aus und durch landschaftliche, ökologische und kulturelle Besonderheiten. Das zentrale, 1600 Meter hohe Gebirge, das circa zwei Drittel der Gesamtfläche einnimmt, ist seit 2001 Natura-2000-Schutzgebiet; vor kurzem wurde auch noch ein Meeresschutzgebiet eingerichtet. Samothraki ist bis jetzt dem Phänomen des Massentourismus entgangen. Mit nur 0,5 Tourismusbetten pro Einwohner liegt die Insel in einem Vergleich am unteren Ende der Skala (Spilanis/Vayanni 2004). Selbst in der (sehr kurzen) Hauptsaison beträgt nach unseren Ermittlungen (offizielle Statistiken sind irreführend) die Zahl der Besucher der Insel (Familienangehörige, Touristen, SaisonarbeiterInnen und ZweithausbesitzerInnen) pro Tag nur etwas mehr als das Doppelte der Einwohner. Dennoch beläuft sich ihre Zahl auf knapp 40.000 Personen jährlich. (Berechnungsmodus: Fischer-Kowalski et al. 2011: Tab.1). Gründe dafür sind die isolierte Lage der Insel (Samothraki kann nur durch eine zweistündige Überfahrt von Alexandropoli, der östlichsten Stadt auf dem griechischen Festland, erreicht werden), dass sie nur über Kiesel-, keine Sandstrände verfügt, und der Umstand, dass wegen der wechselvollen Geschichte der Insel zwischen Griechenland und der Türkei Landbesitz rechtlich oft umstritten ist (was den Verkauf großer Grundstücke für die Errichtung touristischer Anlagen erschwert).

Nichtsdestotrotz sind die Ökosysteme der Insel stark bedroht, vor allem durch Agrarsubventionen der EU, die Überweidung massiv fördern. Die Ziegenund Schafpopulationen überschreiten die geschätzte ökologische Tragfähigkeit der Insel um das Vier- bis Fünffache (Skapetas et al. 2004; Greek Ministry of Agriculture 2008). Große Flächen, auch im Bereich des Natura-2000-Schutzgebiets, werden durch beschleunigte Erosion zerstört. Ungeregelte Süßwasserentnahme trocknet trotz des großen Wasserreichtums Flüsse und deren Mündungsgebiete, besonders wichtige Hotspots für Biodiversität, zunehmend aus. Schleppnetz- und Treibnetzfischerei gefährden Arten und Habitate, die im Mittelmeer ohnehin bereits stark bedroht sind. Auch wenn die oben erwähnten Schutzbestrebungen zu rechtlich verbindlichen Maßnahmen seitens der griechischen Regierung führten, scheint der Grad der Durchsetzung eher gering zu sein und der Druck auf die Umwelt zuzunehmen. Das ansteigende Müllaufkommen und unzureichende Entsorgungsinfrastruktur schaffen zusätzliche Probleme. Lokale Nichtregierungsorganisationen (NGOs) kritisierten die Politik deshalb und forderten eine wirksame Strategie, um die Ökosysteme der Insel zu schützen.

Petridis P., R. Hickisch, M. Klimek, R. Fischer, N. Fuchs, G. Kostakiotis, M. Wendland, M. Zipperer and M. Fischer-Kowalski, 2013. Exploring local opportunities and barriers for a sustainability transition on a Greek island. Social Ecology Working Paper 142, Vienna, Austria.

Since 2007, the Institute of Social Ecology (SEC) has been conducting socioecological research on the Greek island of Samothraki. Because research is not the only aim, the institute is simultaneously supporting the local population in a process of placing the island on a path towards a sustainable future by “transforming” it into a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Based on our research, administrative efforts and networking work, an application signed by the Mayor and unanimously supported by the municipal council has been submitted by the Greek National MAB committee to UNESCO. The application, currently under review, points at including Samothraki in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Within this framework, in October 2012, we organized a 1-week student excursion to the island of Samothraki during a crucial phase of the official application process. The objectives of the course were manifold: to (a) expose students to sustainability and development challenges in a local setting seen from the perspective of social ecology, (b) reflect and engage in the design of a management plan to include initial project ideas for the new Biosphere Reserve, such as sustainable tourism, land use, water, waste and energy systems, and (c) allow for the experience of a transdisciplinary research process by learning to interact with stakeholders and conduct interviews in a culturally challenging environment.

Methodologically, during the excursion two main approaches were pursued: (a) focus group interviews with local stakeholders (such as fishermen, farmers, local professionals, elderly people in need of care etc.) in order to explore alternative visions for the future of the island and (b) distance sampling methods in order to estimate livestock densities in different area types. This was performed in order to assess the pressing problem of erosion and biodiversity loss due to overgrazing. The aim of the working paper is to provide insight into these methodological approaches and the outcome of research conducted during the course, while reflecting on some of the challenges encountered in this transdisciplinary process and those that might still arise.

Petridis Panos, 2012. Perceptions, attitudes and involvement of local residents in the establishment of a Samothraki Biosphere Reserve, Greece. Eco.mont-Journal on Protected Mountain Areas Research, 4(1): 59-63.

The process of establishing a biosphere reserve (BR) under UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme on the island of Samothraki in the NE Aegean (Greece) is conceptualized as a case study of transdisciplinarity. The point of departure has been the wish to preserve an island with unique natural and cultural heritage from potentially destructive pathways of transforming it into just another Greek beach tourist destination and to come up with an alternative development model. This has generated a unique opportunity to pre-structure, observe and reflect on a process of evolving decision making and management towards a sustainability transformation of an island. After several years of research and communication efforts, the mayor of Samothraki, with the unanimous support of the municipal council and the Greek National MAB Committee, submitted an application to UNESCO for Samothraki to be included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. A positive decision will make Samothraki the first post-Seville BR in Greece. After briefly introducing the study area, this report will discuss the opportunities of this new perspective, as well as the challenges that need to be faced, both on the ground and in people’s minds, for the island of Samothraki to become a true model of sustainable development in the wider region.

Fischer-Kowalski, M., L. Xenidis, S.J. Singh and I. Pallua, 2011. Transforming the Greek Island of Samothraki into a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: An experience in transdisciplinarity. Gaia, 20(3): 181-190.

This research explored the feasibility of transforming the island of Samothraki, Greece, into a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The goal was to assess whether this would help to foster a sustainable socio-economic development and to preserve the unique natural and cultural heritage of the island. In recent years the number of seasonal residents and tourists on the island has been growing substantially, and so, too, have the demands upon facilities and infrastructures. The number of livestock, primarily goats and sheep, has increased exponentially, enhanced by the agricultural policies of the EU. Overgrazing, in combination with the steepness of terrain, has led to severe soil erosion, even within the existing Natura 2000 conservation area. Such conditions made it apparent that a new development model was needed, and an initiative was started to create a biosphere reserve. In a transdisciplinary process, the scientists gradually transferred ownership of this vision to local stakeholders. A biophysical and socio-economic assessment showed that a biosphere reserve would be appropriate and be welcomed by the majority of stakeholders. The community council recently endorsed an application to UNESCO.