Aegean gets aerial inspection

Researchers Adrien Normier and Clementine Bacri recently teamed up with a local environmental group to aerially photograph the ecosystem in the eastern Aegean. The result is thousands of photographs which depict coastal erosion, shrinking seagrass beds and the desertification of small islands. The images have also provided helpful information about the Aegean’s mammal population.

Normier and Bacri are scientists who, with the help of a small two-seater single-engine airplane, were able to record man’s intrusion into nature as a part of a project titled “Wings for Science,” which took them to more than 30 countries. The researchers visited Greece for five days before the end of their tour, during which they photographed areas of the eastern Aegean. The trip to Greece was supported by the Archipelagos Research Institute for Marine Conservation.

“The two scientists came to Samos, where our headquarters is located, and aerially photographed the island and the northern bit of the Dodecanese, including Leros and northern Patmos,” the head of the institute, Thodoros Tsibidis, told Kathimerini.

“We asked them to photograph specific areas in which we were interested, and they produced over 6,000 photographs per day.”

The scientific interest was based on the erosion of the coastline, the state of the seagrass beds and the desertification of small islands.

“Coastal erosion is a problem which has yet to be properly researched. According to the photographs, several small islands have lost their vegetation and soil as a result of overgrazing and have been transformed into barren isles, from which there is no return,” said Tsibidis.

It appears that there is a connection between the coastal erosion and the shrinking seagrass meadows.

“We compared today’s aerial photographs to others taken in 1946 and 1952, and we saw that in certain areas, such as Samos, there are serious problems. Samos is losing large chunks of dry land, especially areas that have been repeatedly burned. Soil and rocks repeatedly end up in the sea and bury the seagrass beds, which in turn disappear, leaving the coastline unprotected and susceptible to erosion,” said Tsibidis.

An important part of the study involved the study of dolphins and whales in the northeastern Aegean. The study was conducted using a method never before employed in Greece.

“The conclusions derived from the study of these mammals are very important. Especially for the whales, which are difficult to photograph. But because their offspring do not have the ability to dive until they reach a certain age, we realized that whenever we came across a young whale, it would lead us to a bigger pod.”

The information gathered will be used by Archipelagos and Wings for Science, and will return to Greece in the fall, but this time for three months.

“The issue is not to restrict ourselves to the problems discovered by the analysis of the information gathered, but rather to understand the reasons for these problems and offer solutions,” said Tsibidis.

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