Transforming the Greek Island of Samothraki into a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: An Experience in Transdisciplinarity
This research explored the feasibility of transforming the island of Samothraki, Greece, into a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The goal was to assess whether this would help to foster a sustainable socio-economic development and to preserve the unique natural and cultural heritage of the island. In recent years the number of seasonal residents and tourists on the island has been growing substantially, and so, too, have the demands upon facili ties and infrastructures. The number of livestock, primarily goats and sheep, has increased exponentially, enhanced by the agricultu ral policies of the EU. Overgrazing, in combination with the steepness of terrain, has led to severe soil erosion, even within the existing Natura 2000 conserva tion area. Such conditions made it apparent that a new develop ment model was needed, and an initiative was started to create a biosphere reserve. In a transdisciplinary process, the scientists gradually transferred ownership of this vision to local stakeholders. A biophysical and socio-economic assess ment showed that a biosphere reserve would be appropriate and be welcomed by the majority of stakeholders. The community council recently endorsed an application to UNESCO.