The Akrotiri salt lake, which is part of the British bases, is to receive a share from a total of £3.75m (€4.25m) in funding from the UK government as part of its commitment to conservation projects in overseas territories, it was announced on Monday.
The environment fund is administered by Darwin Plus, which said in an announcement that the money would be shared between 17 projects around the world. It did not specify how much would be allocated yet to the Akrotiri projects.
“One project focuses on monitoring and understanding drivers of change in the Akrotiri wetlands,” the announcement said, describing the salt lake as the largest inland water body on Cyprus, which is “considered one of the eastern Mediterranean’s most important wetlands”.
The project will use remote sensing, on-the-ground measurements of water quality and vegetation, and assess community interactions between native and non-native species including mosquitoes and will establish baselines and procedures “for evaluating the health of this highly-valued wetland”.
The information collected will then provide long-term species and environmental data for the Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) and wider Cyprus.
It added that bases police had reduced the illegal killing of birds around the SBA by 72 per cent.
“As a major landowner in the UK and around the world, the military has a responsibility to protect and enhance our environment. I’m delighted that a project in RAF Akrotiri has been successful in securing a grant from Darwin Plus, which will be vital to boost conservation efforts in the region,” UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said.
Jodey Peyton, ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and project manager for Darwin Plus, added: “We are delighted to be given the opportunity to collaboratively explore the interplay between invasive non-native species, climate and land-use change across the internationally important Ramsar site, Lake Akrotiri, within the Western Sovereign Base Area.”
“Bringing together experts from hydrological, ecological and societal perspectives, our research will provide evidence to promote and protect the incredible diversity of species that depend on the lake and the functions they provide.”
Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention.
Other projects receiving funding in this latest round include protecting wetlands in the Caribbean and strengthening biosecurity measures on St Helena and Ascension Island, Pitcairn and Tristan da Cunha.