STYMPHALIA, Greece, May 17 (Xinhua) -- In the northeastern Peloponnese peninsula in Greece at an altitude of 600 meters, the Stymphalia lake, one of the most important wetlands in the Mediterranean, according to experts, comprises a unique landscape of natural and cultural heritage.
Home to various forms of life, including rare species of animals and plants, the lake belongs to the European Network of Protected Areas Natura 2000 and has been declared as a wildlife refuge. It is an ideal paradise for the protected species, threatened and endangered birds and a haven for many migratory birds.
"According to latest surveys, 150 species of migratory birds have been recorded at Stymfalia lake, which visit the area to rest or to give birth during their trip from or to North Europe. There are also very interesting mammals, one of which is otters. Their presence signifies that the water of the lake is potable and fresh, otherwise that mammal would disappear," Laia Kirktsoglou, administrator of the Environment Museum of Stymphalia, told Xinhua.
"Despite the climate fluctuations and the shortage in water supply, there is always a specific species of fish," she added. Daska, as it is known by locals, or Stymphalia minnow is a small endemic fish which has a very interesting biology.
"During the dry periods of the lake, it survives by forming a slippery envelope around the body and sinking down into the mud and can live without water," Kirktsoglou explained.
To safeguard and raise ecological awareness in the area there is the Environment Museum Stymphalia, a member of the Thematic Museum Network of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation.
"The museum aims to promote the productive history of the area, to demonstrate the interaction of human and nature and their harmonious coexistence over the centuries in the Stymphalian basin," she stressed.
The Environment Museum of Stymphalia is located on the slope of mountain Oligyrtos where, according to Greek mythology, Hercules confronted the Stymphalian birds.
From ancient times, Stymphalia lake and its surrounding springs played an important role to the water supply of the region. With mountain Ziria they communicate through underground, as well as visible water routes.
During the 2nd century A.C., the Roman Emperor Hadrian wanted to transport water from the lake through an aqueduct to ancient Corinth, which was considered among the most magnificent imperial public works in Greece.
Today locals use the water to irrigate the surrounding cultivated areas. But, also due to climate fluctuations, the water supply can change significantly, challenging the water management of the people and the nature of the lake.
How fast the level of the lake goes up or down, depends on how much rain will fall into the lake and if there is enough snow to melt.
"The lake receives water from the rains in the winter and the snow. The water level can reach up to 3 meters in the center. But when we do not have that during the winter, the lake is at danger of drying out. Then, there is an issue of survival for the species. It is a battle we give every winter if there is going to be enough water during the summer," Kirtskoglou noted.
Apart from the water supply, according to experts, in recent years, the wetland of Stymphalia has been significantly degraded as it is covered by dense reeds.
The lake is shortlisted by the European Commission in the running for the 2018 European Natura 2000 Award, which recognizes initiatives working to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats.