Conservationists are saying that the proliferation of mosquitoes in the island’s wetlands is mostly attributed to human activities and not merely a natural occurrence.
A report published by BirdLife Cyprus on Monday cites a series of studies carried out by the environment department, which found that a healthy natural wetland attracts natural predators of mosquitoes and their larvae, such as birds and frogs, and therefore controls their population.
In contrast, the studies concluded that conditions that prevail when human activities exert pressure or alter the wetlands only encourage mosquitoes.
“It is therefore not coincidental that the main mosquito breeding grounds around areas close to wetlands, such as the Larnaca and Akrotiri Salt Lakes and the Paralimni and Oroklini lakes, are close to buildings and human activities,” BirdLife Cyprus said.
“According to the study, major mosquito grounds are located in areas with high organic load and shallow water, and which are inaccessible to predators. Such water bodies are usually found in neighbourhoods and back yards, rather than in the wetlands.”
The organisation added that another key factor linked to the proliferation of mosquitoes is the often poorly planned residential development in Cyprus, and not the pre-existence of a wetland.
The NGO said this was especially evident in new developments, such as the case north of Akrotiri, where a rural landscape near a wetland has been rapidly transformed into a residential and tourist area, without the issues with mosquitoes being adequately addressed.
“It is to be expected that complaints about mosquitoes will soon follow, as this up-until-recently rural area will suddenly attract thousands of residents and visitors,” BirdLife said.
“It is also predictable that the very existence of the wetland will be brought into question, as a means to manage the problem. Suggestions such as the draining of wetlands as a ‘solution’ to the problem of mosquitoes have been voiced in Cyprus in the past.”
BirdLife Cyprus called for the implementation of integrated plans for the wetlands, stressing that they are all Natura 2000 protected sites.
“A healthy and diverse habitat that will encourage the biological control of mosquitoes by natural predators needs to be created,” the organisation said.
They made a special mention of Paralimni lake where nearby residents complain about the high numbers of mosquitoes every year.
“If Paralimni lake is restored, and all the illegal human activities in and around the lake stop, then the natural predators of mosquitoes will recolonise the area in healthy populations.”
BirdLife Cyprus said they hoped the proposals would be implemented. “And we hope that as a result, there will be an end to the ‘demonisation’ of natural wetlands as centres for mosquito outbreaks.”