Efforts are underway to protect the critically endangered Ipomoea sagittata or morning glory thanks to a three-year project funded by Darwin Plus UK aiming to restore and enhance key wildlife areas within the sovereign base areas, focusing on the Akrotiri wetlands and the native scrubland on Cape Pyla (Dhekelia).
Found only in Akrotiri, the Ipomoea sagittata is a climbing plant with beautiful purple flowers of a diameter of 5-6cm and arrow-shaped leaves, BirdLife Cyprus – which is a coordinating beneficiary of the project – said on its Facebook page.
In Cyprus, it has been recorded only at Akrotiri marsh and as critically endangered has been included in the red book. It is under threat because of the degradation of its habitat, changes in the water balance and over-grazing.
But, thanks to the project ‘habitat restoration and wise use for Akrotiri and Cape Pyla’ actions have been taken to protect this and another three critically endangered plants. Two areas have been fenced in, so as to control accessibility and grazing certain months of the year.
Additional actions are planned to boost the population of the Ipomoea sagittata by collecting seeds for storage at the seed bank of the Agricultural Research Institute and by replanting.
The Ipomoea sagittata flowers in July to August, which is the ideal period to enjoy the plant, responsibly, the NGO added.
The project for habitat restoration and wise use for Akrotiri and Cape Pyla started in July 2021 and will last for three years. Besides BirdlIfe Cyprus, the project partners are Terra Cypria, the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas Administration Environment Department (SBAA ED) and the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) UK.
Within the Akrotiri Peninsula, the project will focus on restoring specific wetland areas by managing the reed beds in Zakaki Marsh and the protection of important plant species by targeted fencing.
At the same time, the project will support the sustainable cattle grazing as a conservation tool at Akrotiri Marsh. It will develop and support eco-friendly tourism opportunities for the enhancement of the local economy and encouraging the wise use of the area. An access management plan will be developed, for the reduction of the disturbance on key wildlife species and sensitive habitats of Akrotiri.
At Cape Pyla, the project will focus on the management of the invasive alien species, Acacia saligna.