This IBA includes the marine area surrounding an islet chain located within the Ikarian Sea between Amorgos and Leros islands, joining up the Cyclades and the Dodecanese. The boundary contains a marine extension of 0.5 n.m. which engulfs the islands of Kinaros and Levitha, and their adjacent eight small islets. The coastal area of Kinaros island is characterized by impressive vertical cliffs reaching more than 100 m height, with numerous fjord-like coves, while Levitha has a lower-lying rocky coastline with a central lowland grassland still extensively cultivated. The uninhabited islets are mainly rocky and covered by phrygana, some exhibiting also diverse coastal habitats, such as the miniature calderas on Mavra islets. The marine environment of the IBA is characterized by a narrow continental shelf falling abruptly to depths up to 150 m. During the summer and winter months the coastal zone is greatly affected by strong northerly and north-westerly winds. The area has been recognized as one of the hotspots of marine productivity which in the Aegean Sea is primarily influenced by the Etesian (meltemi) winds. Thus the area is also important also for marine mammals, such as the Striped and Common Bottle-nosed Dolphin, as well as for the Mediterranean Monk Seal.
The Audouin’s Gull colony (40 pairs) was first recorded here in 1995. The breeding population regularly changes colony site between years and has nested on 4 out of the 8 islets present in the area. Additionally, the local breeding population appears to exchange individuals with a neighbouring population nesting on the islets of western Amorgos (GR156 and marine IBA GR253) more than 20 n.m. southwest of the site. During particular years e.g. 1997 and 1998, reduced colony size in this site was recorded simultaneously with increased numbers at the Amorgos colony. The population size remains till today small but stable, although the species does not seem to breed in the area every year. During the breeding season birds forage primarily in the coastal waters surrounding their colony sites, however their foraging range increases during the post-breeding period when Audouin’s Gulls are regularly observed foraging along the northern and northeastern coast of Amorgos to the west.
Nesting sites of a small resident population of Mediterranean Shags (4-8 pairs) are dispersed in the area along the rocky coast of uninhabited islets. Species foraging areas coincide with those of the Audouin’s Gull, including waters along the northeastern coast of Amorgos. Flocks of foraging Yelkouan and Cory’s Shearwaters (up to 200 and 250 inds) have been recorded in the area during their breeding season. Due to the remoteness of the site further surveys are needed to assess the importance of the wider marine area around Kinaros and Levitha for shearwaters.
A significant number of European Storm-petrels (12 individuals) was recently recorded 10 n.m. east from Levitha island, although breeding has not been confirmed. Foraging individuals are seldom seen in the greater marine area.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The islands of Kinaros and Levitha held small settlements in the past, although nowadays they are only inhabited by one family each, mainly occupied with livestock breeding and fishing. This relatively remote and inaccessible marine area constitutes an important fishing ground. Thus, coastal fishing vessels visit the area regularly and overnight or seek refuge in coves and islets during a surge of bad weather. Seabird colonies which happen to be located close to their mooring site, experience localized but intense disturbance. Abandonment or breeding failure of Audouin’s Gull colonies have been caused by prolonged human presence during particular years in the past. The predation of eggs and chicks by rats and Yellow-legged Gulls has also been recorded as a threat, especially relevant to Audouin’s Gulls nesting islets. In 1997, all eggs found in the colony were predated. Additionally, it has been suggested by locals that rat populations have increased and have also been responsible for the decline of the large Eleonora’s Falcon colony on Kinaros island. Plans occur for a large wind farm (132MW) to be constructed on the islands of Kinaros and Levitha, as well as on the islets of Glaros and Liadia. If these developments are carried out they will have devastating effects on the breeding populations of both trigger species of the IBA, the Audouin’s Gull and the Eleonora’s Falcon, since their nesting habitat will be destroyed beyond recovery. Significant commercial marine traffic between the Northern Aegean and southeast Mediterranean occurs in the wider marine area surrounding the sites, thus introducing t threat of marine pollution. Seabird bycatch poses a potential threat which requires assessment.