American University of Beirut

The Cyprus Buffer Zone

The report examines biodiversity and social interaction in Cyprus' Buffer Zone, as re-claimed by nature and human activity. The natural environment of the Buffer Zone remained largely untouched for forty years, following the division of the island across ethnic lines in 1974. Since then UNFICYP, which formally manages the Buffer Zone, has worked in collaboration with Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot authorities to support civilian uses and environmental protection. This case study shows how the limited human activity in the Buffer Zone by default preserved natural landscapes as well as endangered flora and fauna. Furthermore, the involvement of stakeholders in the administration of this area supported the development of co-management practices and institutions. As a result, ironically and paradoxically, new commons have been created in the very line of separation, such as common grazing grounds and mixed farming for both ethnic communities. The case study also looks at how the ecosystem of the Buffer Zone still conveys socio-ecological risks, such as the proliferation of pests or illegal human activities, such as the hunting of protected species. In short, the Cyprus Buffer Zone provides an interesting example of a socio-ecological production landscape that is both shared and contested​.

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