Συμμετοχική και προσαρμοζόμενη διαχείριση: εφαρμογή στην προστατευόμενη περιοχή Δέλτα Αξιού-Λουδία-Αλιάκμονα
Participatory and adaptive management: application in the protected area of Axios-Loudias-Aliakmonas estuaries
The aim of this study was to examine the applicability of successful participatory and adaptive management in the protected area of Axios-Loudias-Aliakmonas estuaries, based on local people‟s perceptions in relation to protection, as well as on main elements considered to be critical for successful participatory processes. Participatory and adaptive management of protected areas includes involvement of stakeholders in decision making and the ability to adjust management policies to emerging needs, associated with complex and dynamic socio-natural systems. The area of the Axios-Loudias-Aliakmonas estuaries is protected under national, European and international environmental legislation. Simultaneously, the area is one of the most dynamic agro-ecosystems of Greece. Agriculture and fishing/mussel culture are well-developed activities of the primary sector of economy resulting in a number of environmental pressures on the protected area. Until recently, there was no substantial institutional protection of the area. The Common Ministerial Decision designating the area protected, pending for several years, was finally published in 2009. This delay was considered associated with reactions of the local people to potential restrictions imposed on their professional activities. The first part of this study attempts to record perceptions of the local population regarding important issues related with the protected area and explore how they are influenced by age and education of respondents, their economic dependence on it and distance of their residence from its borders. Using a questionnaire, the survey was conducted to a total sample of 822 respondents. The first part reveals a strong spatial variation in the views of local people, which requires special management policies. In general, a positive attitude towards protection was recorded, although there was a part of respondents that expressed negative attitude to protection, associated exclusively with economic interests. This study coincided with a pilot application of adaptive management in the area by the Managing Authority of Axios-Loudias-Aliakmonas estuaries. The Managing Authority applied an evaluating method of the main environmental threats to the area by a group of experts. Given the absence of stakeholders of the primary sector from this process, we decided to explore their views regarding threats by applying a similar approach. To this aim, ten focus groups were formed, seven representing agricultural cooperatives and three representing fishing cooperatives. The results of the second part show that stakeholders of the primary sector tend to underestimate specific threats related to their professional activities. However, most groups recognized the wetland‟s value; also, in a number of cases, their assessment of threats approached the experts‟ assessment. It appears that the conditions for implementing participatory and adaptive management in the region are generally favorable, provided the effective tackling of issues which incite conflict or impede management efforts. Important among them are the disparity between different regions and the association of professional activity and financial interests with the attitude to protection. Active and effective involvement of major stakeholders in early decision making stages, that is the process of participatory and adaptive management itself, can help in addressing these issues.