Sarantaporos Science Week 2024

© Dimitris Papageorgiou, MedINA

 

The Sarantaporos

The Sarantaporos River forms a vital tributary in the Aoos/Vjosa river system of northwestern Greece. Flowing approximately 55 kilometres through the region of Epirus, the Sarantaporos merges with the Aoos to form the Vjosa river. With a combined length of 272 kilometres, this river network stands for Europe's last and longest free-flowing waterways.

Albania recently made history by proclaiming the Vjosa as the world’s inaugural Wild River National Park. However, safeguarding the unobstructed flow and pristine ecological state of the entire river network demands attention to its tributaries. This includes placing the Sarantaporos as an important tributary under protection and expanding the Vjosa National Park into a cross-border Vjosa-Aoos Wild River National Park.

There are plans to increase hydropower capacity in Greece by 15 % by 2030. This expansion targets the Aoos River Basin in Epirus, including the Sarantaporos, Aoos, and Viodomatis rivers and their tributaries, with at least 26 projects planned for the Sarantaporos basin alone. Despite recognition of its ecological significance as a Protected Landscape and Protected Natural Formation alongside Pindos National Park by the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy (November 2023), the Sarantaporos still faces the threat of proposed construction of multiple small hydropower plants. These projects threaten the integrity of a whole river network and biodiversity that has not been assessed for the Sarantoporos catchment. 

Rich with diverse plant and animal species, the river's watershed plays a central role in biodiversity conservation. Acknowledging the value of the entire river network, it is vital to seize this opportunity for protection, with the scientific community playing a crucial role in this effort. In view of the past Vjosa Science Weeks, where the data obtained on biodiversity and the ecosystem as a whole made it possible to establish a national park, it is now necessary to follow the example in its catchment area to highlight what is at risk. 

© Dimitris Papageorgiou, MedINA

 

Sarantaporos Science Week 2024

The concept of Science Weeks within the Scientists for Balkan Rivers network has a long tradition within the Blue Heart campaign, with a multidisciplinary team of scientists collecting and promoting data. Over the course of a week, the aim is to capture the importance of an ecosystem. The participating scientists not only lend their data but also use their independent voices to advocate for the protection of rivers. In order to make their voices heard, the scientists are accompanied by international media. This year, the Sarantaporos Science Week is dedicated to emphasise on the environmental value and biodiversity of the Sarantaporos. Our aim is to conserve the river and its catchment, thereby supporting the concept of establishing a transboundary Wild River National Park for the Aoos/Vjosa river system.

Organized by MedINA in cooperation with EuroNatur, RiverWatch and EcoAlbania, this Science Week is part of the Save the Blue Heart of Europe initiative. Our project involves a coordinated voluntary endeavour aimed at addressing knowledge gaps within the Sarantaporos ecosystem. This entails comprehensive documentation of all forms of biodiversity associated with the river, exploration of its natural riverine dynamics, and examination of the impacts of current pressures and threats. A diverse team of around 50 Greek and International scientists will collaborate in conducting extensive field studies from June 28th  until July 5th 2024.

Sampling Invertebrates at the Sarantaporos in 2018 © Gabriel Singer

 

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