Vjosa Delta Science Week 2024: Science Delegation Explores Intact Vjosa Delta


The Vjosa and the neighbouring deltas of the Shkumini and Semani rivers in Albania constitute the last large intact deltas in the Mediterranean Basin. © Joshua D. Lim


++ 40 Scientists collaborate to assess biodiversity and advocate for inclusion in the Vjosa Wild River National Park amidst threats of mass tourism ++

Poro/Albania, Vienna, Radolfzell, April 26, 2024 — From 22 to 28 April 2024, a science delegation from Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, and Italy collected multidisciplinary data in the partially undiscovered and intact Vjosa Delta. From studying fish, mammals, birds, vegetation, insects, and beyond to meticulously monitoring water quality and microplastics, every observation of this expedition aims to unveil the ecological importance of this area and advocate for its inclusion in the Vjosa Wild River National Park (WRNP) in accordance with IUCN standards.

Two scientists at work in the Vjosa Delta. In total, around 40 hydrologists, zoologists and researchers from other disciplines have collected data over the past few days - proving just how valuable the Vjosa Delta is. © Dalip Guri


A new study shows that the Vjosa Delta is one of the very few intact deltas in the Mediterranean Basin. Out of 258 assessed deltas and river mouths in the region, a mere 4% remain in good condition. The Vjosa and the neighbouring deltas of the Shkumini and Semani rivers in Albania constitute the last large dynamic deltas, holding unparalleled significance for the entire Mediterranean Sea and Europe.

The Science Week convened as the Vjosa Delta faces multiple threats, foremost the Albanian government's vision for mass tourism. Recently, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama arranged a luxury resort deal with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, within the Vjosa Delta. According to the government’s masterplan for the area, this is just the tip of the iceberg of the destructive plans for this delicate ecosystem. The Vlore International Airport, also within the delta, is already under construction.

Zvernez Beach. Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, among others, is planning to build luxury flats here. © Anika Konsek


The science delegation speaks out against the government’s destructive plans for mass tourism and advocates for an ecologically compatible eco-tourism alternative. "Our first findings reveal the enormous ecological value of the Delta.  It is obvious to all scientists who participated in the Science Week that the Vjosa Delta deserves a strong conservation status and should be included in the Vjosa WRNP. Amidst the allure of luxury tourism, we must remember the unparalleled ecological importance of the Vjosa Delta, a treasure unique in all of Europe. Let us prioritise preservation over development. Albanians – and Europeans – deserve to keep this natural gem.” stated Prof. Fritz Schiemer, Austrian lead scientist from the University of Vienna.

“Our findings in just five days of research are truly remarkable and stand as a testament to the rich biodiversity of the delta. We are drafting a comprehensive report of our data and urge the Albanian government to recognise the ecological significance of this delicate area and include it in the Vjosa Wild River National Park, aligning with IUCN standards," affirmed Prof. Aleko Miho (University of Tirana), Albanian lead scientist of the expedition.

The scientists' unwavering commitment marks another significant milestone in their ongoing dedication to preserving the Vjosa system. The Delta Science Week builds on the successes of comparable expeditions in the Vjosa Basin in 2017 and 2021, which played a pivotal role in highlighting the ecological value of the Vjosa, fending off the hydropower projects and ultimately paving the way for the establishment of the Vjosa Wild River National Park."

Drypta distincta. A threatened ground beetle species, which occurs mainly in the tropics and has only recently been detected in Albania. It is a demanding wetland species and is endangered due to habitat loss. It was discovered this week in the Vjosa Delta © Wolfgang Paill


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