Ongoing research on Samothraki’s aquatic ecosystems is focusing on ecological quality assessment, biodiversity conservation, education and integrated resource management initiatives.
The Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) – Institute of Marine Biological Resources & Inland Waters (IMBRIW) personnel have been instrumental in delineating the Samothraki Natura 2000 protected-area in the past (extending the boundaries of the Natura 2000 SCI site) and have studied both marine and inland aquatic environments of the island. A special focus now centers on the islands’ stream environments. Island stream ecosystems, in contrast to continental systems have been poorly studied in the Mediterranean. Located in the northern Aegean Sea, Samothraki’s stream corridors are characterized by abundant waters, with many perennial streams showing a high degree of naturalness. The variety of stream environments includes waterfalls and rock-pools often buffered with ancient riparian woodlands. These remarkable river valleys provide excellent outdoor field study areas and IMBRIW scientists are involved in an initiative for of a long-term study on the island.
IMBRIW has been studying the Island’s freshwaters for about 15 years. Particularly, during the implementation of European research projects (AQEM- ENVK1-1999-00132 and STAR- ENVK1-CT-2001-00089), two perennial streams (Fonias and Platia) were included in research for the development and standardization of metrics and indices applied for the ecological assessment of rivers in Europe according to the prescriptions of the Water Framework Directive. In addition, these streams were included in the National Monitoring Program Network which, led by IMBRIW, has begun in 2012, and is ongoing. Moreover, from 2013 and onwards, HCMR, in collaboration with the Municipality of Samothraki, initiated a detailed island-wide research program focusing on the assessment of the ecological quality and biodiversity – this includes research on benthic macroinvertebrates, diatoms, fish, birds, riparian vegetation in streams and wetlands. The institute’s researchers strive to connect research to practical conservation proposals and are interested in assisting in the development of a sustainable protected area on the Island. IMBRIW scientists participated in a proposal coordinated by Alpen Adria University, Vienna, to designate the island as a MAB UNESCO site.
Finally, IMBRIW has initiated a long-term study scheme called “Samothraki Nature Observatory”. This is a joint initiative between HCMR and the Municipality of Samothraki and is open to all researchers who want to support research and conservation. An MoU for the establishment of the Observatory was signed on 16/12/2013. The aims of Samothraki Nature Observatory are: a) The establishment of a Research Station for long-term monitoring and systematic research of Samothraki’s natural environment and biodiversity, b) Contribution to management and conservation of the natural heritage of the island, c) Contribution to the promotion of the natural environment to benefit local society; and, d) Promotion of environmental education and educational tourism targeting particularly the nature environment. Through the Observatory, IMBRIW scientists strive to assist in the creation of a linking network among scientists working and visiting Samothraki. The idea of an Observatory is founded on developing and sharing conservation-relevant research and educational experiences. The Institute’s scientists are eager to continue to work together with locals and visiting researchers to promote the conservation of Samothraki’s ecosystems.