It’s called the Green Line, but despite the name, it is a completely accidental wildlife sanctuary. The narrow strip of land that zigzags across the island of Cyprus was imposed in 1974 to separate the parties to armed conflict. As humans moved out, abandoning farms and villages, nature moved in. Thirty five years on, this no man’s land has become a safe haven for some of the rarest endemic plants and animals in Europe and a place of special scientific importance.
In the ecological sense, the Green Line of Cyprus has become a time-capsule, preserving the landscape that is being overrun, demolished and built upon in the rest of the Mediterranean island country. While generally not made public, Environmental Impact studies preceding development throughout the island tell a similar story. For instance, in the Paphos village of Marathounta, developers are trying to build on land that currently supports one of only two or three sites on the island where Bonelli’s Eagle nests and is also the only known location where a rare species of orchid can be found.
Along the Green Line however, people are almost entirely kept out, and the consequence is revealing. As Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot biologists are finding out, some species that could otherwise be wiped out are thriving. Like the Cyprus Tulip or the Cyprus Bee Orchid, which are extremely rare endemics. Observations like this are highlighting the importance of habitats and the effects that we have upon them.
For more, check out the Cyprus Cultural Foundation’s Endemic Plants of Cyprus (English/Ελληνικά), which presents the a detailed description of the 128 recognized endemic plant species in Cyprus along with overviews of their natural habitats. The book is also available on AmazonUK.
Image Credit: Peter Llewellyn