The ferocity and speed of spread of the fire that is still burning in Evros are the characteristics that determine the extent of the destruction not only in the image that the Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli National Park now presents but also in the wild fauna that lives in the area.

With two of the fronts of the fire still active and firefighting efforts continuing, it may be too early to assess the extent of the total damage. However the destruction is visible, existing with undeniable witnesses, what the fiery blaze leaves behind and its imprint is already felt in the wider forest area of ​​the Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli National Park (E.P. D.L.S.).

Dimitris Bakaloudis, professor of Ecology and Wildlife Management of the Department of Forestry and Natural Environment of the AUTH and former chairman of the Board of Directors. of the Management Body of the National Park, who visited the affected area, talks to APE-MPE about the particularity of this particular fire, about whether and how it affects the wild fauna as well as about the appropriate actions to deal with the effects in relation to the wild fauna and the vegetation.

The characteristics of fire

“The recent fire, apart from the high concentration of biomass, which last year also had, has two important characteristics: the severity of the first two days and the size of the area it affected. It was rapidly transmitted from the starting point at “Gibrena” westwards to “Three Faucets” covering a distance of about 16 km in the first 24 hoursdue to the high speed of the wind (5-7 Beaufort) that prevailed in the first two days since its start” points out Mr. Bakaloudis.

He estimates that “this the first wave must have been the most destructive, as the fire was at the top, spread rapidly and did not leave much room for escape for the animals that were in front of it.

Several species of wildlife burned (e.g. reptiles and mammals) because they could not escape the fire front on the first and second day, which was running at great speed. On the first visit I have spotted dead animals (eg deer and turtles) near the forest roads, but there are definitely more inside the forest.

In the following days, with the intensity having decreased, the fire burned with less intensity, spread at a lower speed, and therefore the animals had enough time to react and escape the danger of the fire.”

The second characteristic of the recent fire, according to him, is the size of the area that has been affected in the National Park (NP)

Read about: Satellite images: The fiery advance on the Evros day by day – How 812,000 acres burned

In conjunction with the fire that had occurred in the southern part of the E.P. in 2011, the one in the southern core in 2022 (about 40,000 sq.), the recent one that burned all the rest of the southern core (approximately 28,000 square meters), but also the rest of the southern part of the OP DLS towards Lefkimi (in total, more than half of its area has burned), as well as the area west of the OP. which is also a Special Protection Zone for the avifauna (Dadia-Dereiou-Aisymis Forest, GR1110010), rightly considered a “megafire”.

The large size of the burnt area may have a more negative effect on the wild fauna, because several species require extensive areas with mature forests, many species are forest-dwelling, i.e. they require dense forest to find shelter, and several species strongly depend on the combination of forested- open areas. This means that the loss of a large part of the forest will have significant effects on a large number of wildlife species, both birds and large mammals.

The wild animal

In particular, for the species that live in this area, Mr. Bakaloudis states: “In the section of Zone A, which was completely destroyed this year, there was the colony with the most Black Vulture nests. In this part of Zone A, as well as in the burned area outside Zone A, there were also several nests of other birds of prey, such as Serpent eagle, A screeching eagle, Cross eagle, Double chin, Gerakina, et al., but also from other birds of particular interest, such as the black stork. Several species of ostriches were nesting in the burned area (e.g. Sparrowhawk, Red-throated Sparrowhawk, Red-throated Sparrowhawk, Red-throated Grebe, Woodpecker, Plover, Flycatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Etomachus, etc.), corvids (e.g. Crow), nocturnal predators (e.g. Nanoboufos), pigeons (Trygoni, Fasa), and many other species of birds with special protection interest.

Also, there were populations of several mammals, such as Deer, Wolf, Fox, Petrocunavo, Badger, Squirrel, Woodchuck, rodents, etc. as well as from reptiles such as turtles, lizards and snakes.

He also notes that there are no exact numerical data and some estimates require a lot of time to be made, so that we know how many nests of predators have been burned. It is possible, however, that Black Vulture nests have burned and the continuity of the remaining ones (including nests) depends on the survival of the trees.

The changes that natural disaster brings

Regarding how the fire affects the presence of wildlife in the area, he explains: “The species that escaped the fire will probably return to their places. Most species of wildlife (birds and mammals) show patriotism to their natal sites and return to where they bred. The crucial thing is whether they will stay and try next year to reproduce.

This requires available and sufficient food and suitable nesting conditions for the birds. If these two conditions are not satisfied, they usually shift to neighboring regions. This can happen even after 2-3 years. But it’s something we don’t know and it’s of particular interest to study it with the radio transmitters placed on black vultures and other raptors in the affected area.”

“Positively,” says Mr. Bakaloudis, “certain species, such as woodpeckers, will be affected after the fire if standing trees remain in small groups. Other species that will be favored in the long term are those of open areas, such as the Gydobyzi. A positive role will be played by the unburnt islets, where some animals have found shelter, they will be the source of new populations that will gradually recolonize the burned areas. Because the area is considered sparsely populated, no approach to residential areas is expected. However, the possibility of movements is expected since the animals do not find sufficient food to sustain themselves, reproduce and raise their offspring, do not find suitable conditions for birds to nest (or mammals to reproduce), do not find suitable shelter and protection from natural habitats the enemies”.

Fire day-after management – Measures for animals

“The immediate appropriate actions to address the effects on wildlife from the fire are ban on hunting in the burned area, but possibly also in areas adjacent to it. Its continuation food reinforcement in the feeder for the scavengers and possibly with larger amounts of food, due to the lack in the wider area. The provision of additional food (eg alfalfa or clover) for herbivores (deer, hare) until the first rains, when natural vegetation will appear. The provision of food in special feeders for spore-eating bird species, especially in areas where the intensity of the fire was high.

The provision of food in the last two cases must be done away from residential areas and roads, in remote places and frequent placement of food should be avoided in order to avoid familiarization of the animals with humans and also to attract predators” points out the professor of Ecology and Wildlife Management of Department of Forestry and Natural Environment of AUTH.

Finally, regarding the management of burnt vegetation in relation to wild fauna, he states that “the vegetation affected by the fire should remain at least one year as it is, so that it is easy to diagnose the necrosis of the trees. All stands with dead trees should be assessed and dead stands should be specifically managed. Our Laboratory has developed a special protocol for assessing the status of wildlife trees. In the Special Manager of Emergency Fruiting, the retention of dead standing trees should be provided either individually or in small groups or even lots.

Video – photos from the Facebook of the Society for the Protection of Biodiversity of Thrace