Weather of Arabia - Lake Prespa is considered one of the oldest lakes in Europe, and has always been famous for its pure fresh water, but today it is shrinking in an alarming manner under the weight of climate change, pollution and overuse.
Lake Prespa is located in a mountainous area along the border between Albania, North Macedonia and Greece. It is one of the oldest lakes in Europe and is home to thousands of plant and animal species that depend on its waters and ecosystem.
Studies differ on the age of the lake, as some scientists say it was formed a million years ago, while others say it dates back to five million years. This lake and its surroundings are home to about 2,000 species of fish, birds, mammals and plants.
According to a recent study cited by the US space agency (NASA), Lake Prespa lost 7% of its area and half its volume between 1984 and 2020.
Where the rise in global temperatures led to a decrease in the rate of precipitation, which caused the drying up of the rivers and streams that flow into them.
Decreased rainfall and snowfall have shrunk the lake, whose banks have receded in places by up to 3 km, according to rangers responsible for monitoring a protected area created by North Macedonia.
One of these guards, Goran Stojanovski, 38, who has been working for ten years, said, "In the past, a lot of snow used to fall and reach a height of one or one and a half meters, but in recent years, it has become almost non-existent."
Specialists corroborate residents' observations from one generation to the next and detail the multiple ways climate change is shrinking the lake.
"The changes in lake levels are linked to climate change," Spasi Shumka, a professor at the Agricultural University of Tirana in Albania, told AFP.
Among other things, he mentions higher temperatures, which increase water evaporation, lower annual precipitation and water use in agriculture.
Pollution by agricultural runoff from neighboring orchards exacerbates the problem, through eutrophication that promotes algae growth and impoverishes the aquatic ecosystem.
"The lake has been suffering from heavy pollution for decades," Zlatko Levkov, a university biologist in Skopje, told AFP. "Simply put, the habitat of many species may change, their numbers may decrease and they may become extinct."
Experts warn that a further degradation of Prespa could be catastrophic for the local ecosystem, but also for the neighboring Lake Ohrid, 10 kilometers to the west, as due to its low-altitude location, this lake partly relies on the groundwater of Lake Prespa to maintain its levels. .
According to a report by the United Nations Development Programme, local farmers use around 65 tons of pesticides each year, and Prespa is directly affected by the chemicals runoff.
These pesticides and fertilizers are widely used in the apple orchards that are abundant in the region of North Macedonia, which account for about 70% of the local economic activity.
The UNDP report said the "disposal of biodegradable waste and overuse of fertilizers and pesticides" in the region is causing the rapid growth of algae and other invasive plants that endanger endemic species.
Several initiatives have been launched to improve management of the agricultural sector.
For example, eight weather stations were built collecting data that would provide farmers with better information about when to spray pesticides, reducing their use by 30 percent.
"As we reduce our (pesticide) use, we get more economic benefits and improve environmental protection," Frosina Georgievska, a 56-year-old farmer from the town of Recin in North Macedonia, told AFP.
But specialists believe that more needs to be done to protect the lake and to better start implementing agreements signed by North Macedonia, Greece and Albania in 2012.
Environmental activists are calling on farmers to start organic farming while calling on the authorities to invest in sustainable tourism, with the aim of preserving the beauty of Lake Prespa while continuing to benefit from it.
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