About the territory
The British Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) of Akrotiri and Dhekelia comprise those parts of Cyprus which stayed under British jurisdiction and remained British sovereign territory when the 1960 Treaty of Establishment created the independent Republic of Cyprus. The SBAs cover 98 square miles, 47.5 around Akrotiri, the Western Sovereign Base Area (WSBA) and 50.5 around Dhekelia, the Eastern Sovereign Base Area (ESBA). The climate is Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and cool winters.
On 30 December 2015, the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) announced the designation of five Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in the SBA official gazette. Because they are run as military bases, the Sovereign Base Area Administration (SBAA) reports to the British Ministry of Defence in London, rather than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Nevertheless they are a British Overseas Territory with a civilian administration working under an Administrator who is Commander of the British Forces, Cyprus.
The SBAs comprise several habitats of key importance to biodiversity, including coastal lagoons that are rare in Cyprus: salt marshes; sand-dune systems; reed beds; and lowland maquis shrubland, as well as extensive sections of coastline. Many of these habitats are restricted to the WSBA around Akrotiri. This area of the Salt Lake, the largest wetland on the island, is a Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance.
The only remaining colony of griffon vultures on Cyprus is on the cliffs at Episkopi in the WSBA, and there is a large colony of Eleanora’s falcons both here and on the cliffs bordering the Royal Air Force station at Akrotiri. Akrotiri Salt Lake provides a wintering area for up to 30,000 greater flamingos and is an important staging area for cranes, migrant waders (e.g. black-tailed godwit), migrant songbirds (e.g. blackcap) and birds of prey.
Rare endemic orchids and various reptiles, e.g. Schreiber’s fringe-fingered lizard, and amphibians, e.g. green tree frog, are also found within the Bases. Over 18 species of bats are found in the SBAs. The caves at Akrotiri and Episkopi contain colonies of the Egyptian fruit bat, the largest bat species found in Europe. The beaches within both the ESBA and the WSBA are significant breeding sites for both loggerhead and green turtles.
Policy and legislation
The CSBAs have an Environment Charter signed jointly with the UK Government. Guiding Principle 7 is to safeguard and restore native species, habitats and landscape features, and control or eradicate invasive species. Under the associated commitment 2 the administration will ensure the protection and restoration of key habitats, species and landscape features through legislation and appropriate management structures and mechanisms, including a protected area policy, and attempt the control and eradication of invasive species. Implementation progress was reviewed in 2007, 2010 and 2016.
There is no specific biosecurity or invasive species policy or strategy in place, although invasive species issues are broadly covered in principle in the Akrotiri Peninsula Environmental Management Plan 2012. A management plan for one of the designated conservation sites is being developed.
There is no specific legislation regarding invasive species in the CBAs. The SBA Administration (SBAA) seeks to replicate as far as possible the legislation of the Republic of Cyprus and this also applies to environmental legislation. British Forces Cyprus (BFC) are bound by the SBAA environmental legislation and by UK environmental legislation where the standards set are higher. In addition, BFC has an obligation to implement MOD sustainable development policies.
The Protection and Management of Nature and Wildlife (Amendment) Ordinance, 2008, includes prohibition on introduction of non-local species of wild flora and fauna.
Problems with invasive non-native species
Acacia saligna, is native to Australia and was introduced in Cyprus in the last Century. It is the most invasive exotic species in Cyprus and constitutes a main threat to natural habitats at Akrotiri, Episkopi and Dhekelia. It has been spreading rapidly, especially in areas affected by fire or mechanical disturbance.
Priority invasive non-native species and actions
SBAA has been making considerable efforts to manage Acacia saligna, including mapping, prioritisation and clearance. From December 2014 to January 2016, a total of 54 acres of Acacia have been cleared in Cape Pyla. A main issue is now managing the seed bank. Biological control is being considered.
In 2017 a biosecurity gap analysis (PDF) was completed. There are no border controls to the SBAs themselves, only between the north and south parts of the Republic of Cyprus. These do not include biosecurity controls, except in the event of public health outbreaks such as bird flu. MOD biosecurity policies and procedures are in place across the military activities, and the customs team makes checks.
Departments in the Republic of Cyprus carry out surveillance for animal disease outbreaks, and those of public health concern. The Joint Services Health Unit (JSHU) has a mosquito surveillance system in place to not only catch native species but additional trapping designed for Invasive Alien Species. They work closely with the Republic of Cyprus Ministry of Health department to monitor for invasive species; traps are located around Limassol Port. The JSHU has also been working with the University of Cyprus in Nicosia who are screening birds for West Nile Virus by providing Culex mosquitoes for sampling. The concern is the amount of migratory birds in the area.
Horizon scanning was carried out in 2017 and 2019 under Darwin Plus projects, identifying a total of 47 new invasive species of concern which have the potential to arrive within the next 5 – 10 years.
CSBAs have received three Darwin Initiative funded projects, view project reports (external link) and details below:
- Akrotiri marsh restoration and a flagship wetland in the Cyprus SBAs (DPLUS034)
- Assessment of current and future Invasive Alien Species in Cyprus (DPLUS056)
- Addressing drivers of ecological change in Lake Akrotiri SBA, Cyprus (DPLUS088)
The project ‘Tackling invasive non-native species in the UK Overseas Territories’ was implemented between 2016 and 2020 to strengthen biosecurity in the OTs, funded by the UK government Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). The SBAs benefitted from a number of activities to strengthen its biosecurity, including: pathway action planning, access to online learning, and technical support. Read further details.
Information for visitors
Before travelling please ensure all items are clean, free from organic materials such as mud, faeces, seeds and invertebrates:
- Check your footwear, outdoor clothing and day packs to make sure they are clean and free from weed seeds, mud, invertebrates and plant material. If possible we recommend that you travel with new outdoor clothing and equipment. Shake out or vacuum all the compartments and pockets before you pack.
- If you have been camping, check that your tent and other equipment is clean, dry and free of dirt and invertebrates such as ants and spiders. Shake it out before you pack it up for travel and ensure no soil remains on tent pegs.
- If you have been hiking, visiting a wilderness area, farm or zoo, make sure your footwear and clothes are clean and free from seeds, mud and faeces. Check boot soles for mud between the treads, Velcro fastenings for seeds and plant material, and shake out or vacuum pockets to remove any dirt and plant material.
- If you are carrying golf, fishing or other sports and outdoor equipment with you, make sure they are clean, dry and free from dirt and any live creatures.
Akrotiri Environmental Education Centre
Queen Elizabeth Street,
4640 Akrotiri village,
Tel: +357 25826562
Fax: +357 25826563
- Barnsley, S., Cary, E., Pienkowski, M. and Wensink, C. (Eds) (2016). Review of performance by 2016 of UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters or their equivalents and moving towards the Aichi Targets and Sustainable Development Targets. UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum, April 2016.
- Churchyard, T., Eaton, M., Hall, J., Millett, J., Farr, A., Cuthbert, R. and Stringer, C. (2014). The UK’s wildlife overseas: a stocktake of nature in our Overseas Territories. Sandy, UK: RSPB.
- Edgar, P. (2010). The Amphibians and reptiles of the UK Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies and Sovereign Base Areas: Species Inventory and Overview of Conservation and Research Priorities. Bournemouth, UK: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.
- Proctor, D. and Fleming, L. V., eds. (1999). Biodiversity: the UK Overseas Territories. Peterborough, UK: JNCC.
- Sanders, S. M., ed. (2006). Important Bird Areas in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories. Sandy, UK: RSPB.
- Varnham, K. (2006). Non-native species in UK Overseas Territories: a review. Peterborough, UK: JNCC Report No. 372.
- Akrotiri Environmental Education Centre
- JNCC – Invasive species in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies
- Kew RBG – UKOTS Online Herbarium
- RSPB – South Atlantic Invasive Species Strategy
- RSPB – UKOTs Wildlife Stocktake 2014
- Sovereign Base Areas Environmental Department
- Virtual tours of the UKOTs, by the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum