One of the most picturesque islands in the Mediterranean sea, Cyprus has carved out a niche role for itself over the centuries, serving as a vibrant trade hub, and a haven of peace, nestled between the turbulent Middle East and mainland Europe.
The 3,572 miles square island of Cyprus is in the north eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, and south of Turkey. It’s the largest island in eastern Mediterranean, and the third smallest European Union country after Malta and Luxembourg. Nicosia the capital is at the center of the island of Cyprus in the Mesaoria Plain towards the northern side. The capital is surrounded by the five-fingered mountain of Kyrenia, and is situated along the banks of the River Pedieos. According to 2014 data from the World Bank, the island of Cyprus has an estimated population of 1.154 million. Majority of the population comprises of Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities. According to the Cyprus University of Technology 78 percent of Greek Cypriots belong to the self governing Orthodox Church of Cyprus, while 18 percent of Turkish Cypriots are Muslims, the rest like the Maronites and Armenian Apostolic make up 4 percent.
Several faraway autocratic rules, including the Venetians, Franks, and Byzantines, ruled the Island of Cyprus through the ages, as did the mainland Greeks. After the Ottoman Turks conquered the island in 1571, they ruled it until 1878, according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Turkey, in a peaceful period regardless of the ethnicity, religion, language and culture disparities there. The Turks allowed all religions to self govern and thrive, on condition they adhered to the Sultan’s orders. As a result, the leader of the Church of Cypriot had authority to collect taxes from his followers according to Country Studies. When the Mycenaean-Achaean Greeks settled in the Island of Cyprus between 13th to 11th Centuries BC, the Island got its first Greek alphabetic character. Historically due to its neutrality and peace during international conflicts, the island of Cyprus has led it to become a wealthy, and vibrant Mediterranean trade hub.
Tourism, contributes one of the largest fiscal shares to the Island of Cyprus economy. According to a report by the auditing firm KPMG, for five years until 2015, there were on average 2,315 million tourists to the island. They flock to tourism districts such as Famagusta, Paphos, Limassol, Larnaca, and the capital Nicosia. The island of Cyprus’ beaches also have the most concentration of Blue Flag certified beaches per capital in the world. Within Europe, the country is also a major maritime hub. It has the tenth largest merchant fleet in the world, and third largest fleet in the European Union. According to Cyprus Profile, there are 1,100 ocean going vessels, and 767 nontraditional size vessels that carry about 22 million metric tons. Other sectors like agriculture and manufacturing, contribute 1.9 percent and 5 percent respectively to the country’s GDP, according to Country Profile.
Habitat and Biodiversity
The Island of Cyprus has Mediterranean climate. It’s characterized by hot summers from mid-May to mid-September, and rainy and changeable winters, from November to mid-March, separated by short autumns, and spring seasons of rapidly changing, weather patterns. The islands have more sun than most European countries, and during winter there are on average 4 hours of bright sunshine according to Cyprus Meteorological department. This climate sustains the Mediterranean flora and diverse animal species there. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) there are about 2000 plant species of which 143 are endemic. Some of the trees at the island are the endangered Cyprus cedar and oak, black pine and oak forests, juniper and cypress woodlands and wild olive, carob, and jujube lotus shrubs, according to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). There are 36 mammal species, 380 bird species, 22 reptile species, 3 amphibian species, 200 fish species and over 5,000 insect species. The rare wild Cyprus Moufflon sheep, bats, seal, and dolphin are mammals found at the Island of Cyprus.
Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes
Habitat degradation at the island of Cyprus has left only 18 percent of it, covered by original habitat according to WWF. Urbanization, infrastructure development like roads, forest to pasture conversion, and forest fires have contributed to habitat loss, and ecological imbalance in the island. As such, it’s a biodiversity hotspot according to IUCN, due to the endemic flora, and fauna there. Practices like land clearing and crop terracing, have destroyed most of the deciduous oak forest. Demand for timber has also left cedar and black pine forests and juniper tree populations, decimated. Over the years much of the initially forested areas are now degraded shrub land, due to overgrazing, and fires set to trigger fresh grassland growth. During the 19th Century, the goat population in the Island of Cyprus was higher than any other in the Mediterranean, which is no longer the case in modern day according to WWF.