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Turtles hatch on rehabilitated Polis beach

File photo

Just a year on from implementing heavily-criticised strict measures that included the removal of an expanse of acacia trees at a turtle-spawning beach in Polis Chrysochous, the hatchlings have emerged, according to the department of forests.

“The first turtles appeared in the area that was previously occupied by acacia trees, (Acacia saligna) and the natural vegetation of the area gradually began to recover,” the department announced on social media.

The Natura 2000 beach ‘Polis-Gialia’ is considered the most important nesting beach for the sea turtle Caretta caretta in Cyprus.

They are protected by both national and European laws and the future of the species is uncertain, due to development, pollution from rubbish, especially plastic, overfishing, sea tourism and climate change, according to BirdLife Cyprus.
”We consider the protection of this species and its habitats, such as its valuable nesting beaches, a legal obligation for the government and also a duty of society,” the NGO says.

The forestry department said that their actions last year were now vindicated, and had proved to be correct, despite the criticism over the removal of acacia.

“Specifically, in the areas occupied by only acacia, which are alien to Cyprus, a variety of local species have begun to appear and the characteristic natural habitat of the area with sand dune vegetation was gradually created,” the department said.

Sixteen nests have been recorded in areas from where the acacia has been removed and this number look set to grow in the coming years.

The invasive trees were planted in the state forests ‘Gialia’ and ‘Mavralis’, around 40 years ago, to help stabilise the sand dunes and cover mining waste from a nearby mine.

However, the acacia took over the area, covering much of the natural environment, so they were removed to restore the sand dunes and improve the conservation of important sand-loving flora.

Acacia is included in the EU’s list of invasive alien species that pose a threat to biodiversity by displacing local species, altering natural soil processes and altering natural habitats.

The minister of agriculture, Costas Kadis, was quoted in Phileleftheros on Monday as saying that with the measures taken so far and with those that were planned, the area was being rehabilitated and its natural habitats being restored with the aid of an action plan for the area.

The planning is being undertaken in two main phases, the first has now been completed. The second phase includes the removal of mineral waste after the turtle breeding season is well over. There will also be improvements to the picnic area.

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