(Hellenic Court of Audit)
BIODIVERSITY IN GREECE AND THE ROLE OF THE NATURA 2000 NETWORK
Athens, October 2004
Second rank judgeINTRODUCTION
Following the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the Rio Summit in 1992, various efforts have been undertaken aiming to preserve the world biodiversity. In order to further promote the protection of natural resources, the Bern Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats and the Directive 92/43/EEC were the next steps.
In practice, four different levels of biodiversity can be distinguished, each having its own special value while at the same time being an inseparable part of the whole. The first level is that of genetic diversity. Genetic diversity refers to the range of genotypes in a particular species. The second level is that of species biodiversity. This biodiversity is expressed as the number of plant and animal species to be found in a particular area. The third level is that of habitat diversity, expressed as the number of links between plant and animal species (habitats) found in a particular area. The fourth level of biodiversity is that of landscape diversity, expressed as the number of landscape types in an area. Landscapes include not only natural habitats but also man-made ecosystems such as farmland and human habitations.
Regardless of the distinctions between the different levels, biodiversity must be conserved as a continuum, as one entity. The conservation of each level depends on the conservation of the levels above and below. Landscape protection and conservation depends on the conservation of the biodiversity of the component habitats. The stability of the habitats depends on protection and conservation of the species that contribute to their structure, that is the species biodiversity, and the protection and survival of the species depends on the conservation of their genetic biodiversity, the conservation of the full range of genotypes.
The Directive 92/43 of the EEC Council of 21 May 1992, commonly referred to as the Habitat Directive aims at contributing to the preservation of biodiversity through the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora within the territory of the Member States of the European Union. It provides for the development of a network of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), called NATURA 2000 which aims at ensuring a protection status for the natural habitats and species of Community interest. This network will consist of sites that host various types of natural habitats and flora and fauna species listed in Annexes I and II respectively. It is expected that the above network will ensure the conservation and hopefully the restoration of the various types of natural habitats and habitats of species within their natural boundaries.
I. STRUCTURE OF THE HELLENIC HABITAT PROJECTThe identification of sites eligible to be included in the Natura 2000 network has been carried out in all Member States of the European Union since 1992, and is considered as the backbone of all the activities on environmental protection.
Greece possesses a high degree of biodiversity at all levels-genetic, species, habitat and landscape.
The implementation of the Directive 92/43/EEC in Greece started in June 1994 with the execution of the project Inventory, Identification, Evaluation and Mapping of the Habitat types and Flora and Fauna species in Greece (Directive 92/43/EEC) which was approved by the competent Community committees (Habitat Committee 3-4/6/94 and Life Committee 5-6/10/94) and has been executed by the Goulandris Natural History Museum through the Hellenic Biotope/Wetland Centre (EKBY), in co-operation with the Schools of Biology at the Universities of Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras between 1/6/1994 and 31/3/1996, following a three-month extension. The project was funded 75% by the EU and 25% by the Hellenic National Authorities, i.e, the Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works and the Ministry of Agriculture (General Secretariat of Forests and Natural Environment). The total amount of funding came up to 1,301,333 ECUs.
The beneficiary (i.e. The Goulandris Natural History Museum) through the projects Management Team and with the full coordinative and scientific support from the Hellenic Biotope/Wetland Centre (EKBY), coordinated the project. A Management team comprising the Project Manager, the Deputy Project Manager, the Administration Officer, and the Accountant was responsible for putting at the disposal of those in charge of the scientific work, the available information, in order to best implement the project. The above team was also responsible for the general co-ordination, and for passing information and discussion issues to the Steering Committee. The latter, consisted of representatives of the two Ministries, the Project Manager, the Deputy Project Manager, the Administrative Officer and three scientific co-coordinators (leaders), representing the three University Schools that participated in the project.
The scientific structure of the project, integrated a multidisciplinary team of about one hundred scientists which together spanned the whole range of specializations required by the directive. The Hellenic Biotope/Wetland Centre along with the three Schools of Biology of the Universities of Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras and also relevant research organisations (such as the National Centre for Marine Research, the Institute of Forestry Research etc.), formed the working team.
For the purposes of the project, Greece had been divided into three geographical regions: the region of Thrace, Eastern, Central and Western Macedonia and part of Thessaly, the region of Sterea Ellada, Attika, part of Thessaly, Northern and Southern Aegean and Crete and the region of Epirus, Western Greece, the Peloponnese and the Ionian islands. For each region a scientific co-ordinator, was put in charge.
The members of the working team provided the required information, filled in the Standard Data Forms (SDFs) and delivered them centrally at EKBY. Interchange of information between the different working teams was essential throughout the project. Additional literature research and field visits were conducted in order to cover the identified gaps while quality control was further enhanced with the formation of groups of experts on flora, fauna and habitat types, in order to further clarify nomenclature and distribution problems.
The output of the project serves as the baseline for the development of a national strategy towards environmental protection and wise use of habitat types and plant and animal species of special value.
II. DIRECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION - SITE SELECTION PROCEDUREIn the framework of the project, 296 sites were selected and studied mainly with regard to the habitat types of Annex I and the plant and animal species of Annex II. A significant number of other important species which occur in Greece, not included in Annex II, i.e., endangered, rare, endemics and/or protected species under several international conventions were also identified and recorded. Out of the 255 habitat types listed in Annex I to Directive 92/43/EEC, 110, that is about 43% are present in Greece. Furthermore, 76 animal and 39 plant species have been encountered in Greece between those mentioned in the directive giving a percentage of 38.2% and 9% respectively. It is obvious, that as far as it regards the richness of the Hellenic flora, the directive does not reflect the biodiversity and the need for conservation of the species present in Greece. Twenty six out of the 110 habitats are priority ones (Table A.1). Ten of the total 76 animal species are priority species and belong to the following groups: 2 mammals, 3 invertebrates, 3 fish, and 2 reptiles. Finally, 26 out of the 39 plant species encountered in Greece are priority species (Table 1).
TABLE .1. Summary table of habitat types and species in Greece, in comparison with those listed in Annexes I and II of the Directive, respectively.
Directive 92/43/EEC / G R E E C E
Total No / No of Priority (*) / Total No / No of Priority (*) / % Total / %
HABITAT TYPES / 255 / 91 / 110 / 26 / 43 / 28,6
Coastal and halophytic habitats / 22 / 5 / 14 / 5 / 63,6 / 100
Coastal sand dunes and continental dunes / 30 / 12 / 10 / 2 / 33 / 17
Freshwater habitats / 19 / 2 / 11 / 1 / 58 / 50
Temperate heath and scrub / 9 / 5 / 1 / - / 11 / -
Sclerophyllous scrub (matorral) / 21 / 3 / 13 / 1 / 62 / 33
Natural and semi-natural grassland formations / 26 / 8 / 17 / 8 / 65 / 100
Raised bogs, mires and fens / 10 / 6 / 4 / 4 / 40 / 67
Rocky habitats and caves / 23 / 2 / 12 / 1 / 52 / 50
Forests / 66 / 30 / 31 / 9 / 47 / 30
ANIMALS (total) / 199 / 27 / 76 / 10 / 38,2 / 37
Mammals / 38 / 11 / 22 / 2 / 58 / 18,2
Reptiles / 19 / 3 / 10 / 2 / 53 / 67
Amphibians / 19 / 3 / 4 / - / 21 / -
Fish / 62 / 5 / 28 / 3 / 45,2 / 60
Invertebrates / 61 / 5 / 12 / 3 / 19,7 / 60
PLANTS / 433 / 164 / 39 / 26 / 9 / 16
The studied sites cover the entire country: 19 are in Thrace, 25 in Eastern Macedonia, 33 in Central Macedonia, 13 in Western Macedonia, 16 in Thessaly, 19 in Epirus, 20 in Central Greece, 27 in Western Greece, 15 in the Ionian islands, 26 in the Peloponnese, 9 in Attica, 10 in the North Aegean, 30 in the South Aegean and 34 in Crete. Altogether they cover 18% of the land surface of Greece, or approximately 2,360,000 ha, excluding the entirely marine sites. The choice and delineation of the above sites was based on a combination of the following two approaches: biodiversity, according to which the boundaries followed the outline of the habitat types of Annex I, and landscape ecology, according to which the boundaries include a larger number of habitat types and mostly follow natural boundaries.
The first phase of the project was completed on 20 April 1995, when all the Standard Data Forms (SDF) were returned to EKBY. This was followed by evaluation and checking of the data in the SDFs.
The sites were grouped into three categories: Category A includes sites hosting Annex I habitat types or Annex II species not found elsewhere, sites with great biodiversity, priority habitats or species (Annexes I and II respectively), and sites with large numbers of other important Hellenic species. Category B covers sites with significant biodiversity but without unique habitat types or species. In addition, habitat types and priority species are less well represented than in category A sites. Category B sites meet at least some of the requirements of Annex III or contain important features, and for these reasons are proposed for inclusion in the NATURA 2000 network. Category C includes sites for which there are insufficient data to justify their urgent inclusion in the NATURA 2000 Network.
The majority of the 296 sites included in the project are protected at national/regional or international level. Of the 190 category A sites, half are protected at national/regional level (10 have been designated as National Parks, 11 as Natural Monuments, l0 as Aesthetic Forests, six as Game Breeding Stations, 68 as Game Reserves and six as Controlled Hunting Areas), while at international level at least 28 are protected (13 have been characterised as Ramsar sites, 12 as Biogenetic Reserves, one site has been awarded the Diploma of the Council of Europe, seven are protected under the Barcelona Convention and two have been characterised as Biosphere Reserves). Of the category B sites, 16 are protected at national/regional level (one Natural Monument, two Aesthetic Forests, 12 Game Reserves and one Controlled Hunting Area) and one is a Ramsar site, protected at international level. Of the category C sites, 14 are protected at national/regional level, as game reserves, and one at international level.
It should also be mentioned that, the proposed inventory of sites includes the habitat types and species in Annexes I and II of Directive 92/43/EEC at least once, so as to ensure the conservation of the natural habitats and wild flora and fauna of Greece.
A preliminary list of sites to be studied was communicated to the associated services in September 1994 in order to take under consideration their comments and suggestions. In June 1995 an evaluated list of sites under investigation was sent to the associated services (the ministries of Environment and Agriculture) and the European Commission (DG-XI), attached to the annual technical report of the project. The preliminary delineation of the studied sites (maps in scale 1:100,000) were also included in the package. In December 1995 the final version of the database (diskettes) and the completed Standard Data Forms (paper) were promptly sent to the associated services and the EU. Following the three month extension of the project (until 31/3/1996) an updated version of the Database and maps with the final boundaries of the sites were developed.
III. GENERAL INFORMATION ON THE PROPOSED SITESSeveral interesting conclusions can be drawn from the statistics of the results raised during the course of this research. The distribution of proposed “Natura 2000” sites in the different administrative regions of Greece is shown in Fig. 1.
Fig.1 Distribution of proposed Natura 2000 sites in the administrative regions of Greece.
Kentriki Makedonia hosts the highest number of sites (40), accounting for 13.5% of all sites, with Anatoliki Makedonia-Thraki and Kriti island being second and third in rank (36 and 34 sites respectively). Insular sites (Ionia nisia, Voreio and Notio Aigaio and Kriti) account for 30% of the sites selected, reflecting the high number of Hellenic islands. The sites studied in this project cover a surface of 3,000,000 ha. The terrestrial part of their surface (2,350,000 ha) corresponds approximately to 18% of the total land area of Greece. The area covered by the proposed sites in relation to the total area of thirteen different administrative regions of Greece, is shown in Fig.2.
Fig. 2 Area of the proposed sites in the different administrative regions of Greece.
The percentage cover of the sites situated in the region of Attiki is comparatively one of the smallest (12%), due to the presence of industrialized and highly urbanised areas in the region. Furthermore, the development of intensive tourist activities has resulted in the degradation of the natural environment and therefore to the reduction of the sites cover. The smallest value (7.6%) is attributed to the area of Ionia nisia mainly due to the presence of sites that incorporate marine areas within their boundaries, which are not taken into account (e.g. Laganas bay, inner archipelagos of Ionian islands). In Kriti, the highest cover of investigated sites (31%) is encountered. This is not surprising since large areas of undisturbed natural environment, coupled with a substantial degree of endemism and intensified by the geographical position of the island are favourable factors. It is noteworthy, that although Kentriki Makedonia and Anatoliki Makedonia-Thraki, include the highest number of sites, their total area reaches 21.6% and 15.7% respectively, whereas Kriti comes first in the area of sites, although third in rank in sites number.
Regarding site magnitude, small sites (0-1000 ha) make up around 15% of all sites, whereas almost one third of the sites are medium-sized (1001-5000 ha) (Fig. 3).
It must be noted that site boundaries do not coincide with isolated habitat types and this is mainly the reason for the enlargement of site surfaces. Isolated habitat types were therefore grouped together and formed larger sites. In addition, although the inclusion of isolated (and often uninhabited) villages within site boundaries, mainly in remote mountainous areas, was questioned several times, it was decided that they consist an inseparable part of the landscape and that they should be part of the sites.
Regarding the altitudinal range of sites, not many conclusions can be drawn due to the fact that within one site there may be a significant difference between its maximum and minimum altitude. It can be said though, that generally the majority of sites are mountainous (Fig. A.4) which reflects the mountainous character of the country. On the other hand, almost one third of the sites have a maximum altitude of 300 m, mainly consisting of valleys, coasts, marine areas, etc.
IV. THE FORMER LAKE KARLA REHABILITATION.
During the last century, Greece has lost more than two thirds of its original wetland area, due to extensive drainage projects, started in 1889 with lake Kopais and terminated in 1973 with Agoulinitsa Lagoon. Furthermore, the remaining wetlands have suffered from extensive degradation affecting most of their functions and values.
In the last two decades, after the worldwide recognition of the need to preserve wetland functions and values, the trend of wetland degradation in Greece, is decelerating or even being reversed in some cases, with the funding of pilot or medium scale projects aiming in the restoration of certain wetlands. The most promising examples are considered to be the cases of the wetlands of Karla in Thessaly and Mavrouda in Macedonia where the restoration planning phases have already been approved and construction works are being in progress. The important common feature of these two projects is the fact that they are both strongly supported by the local communities which have recognized the importance of certain wetland functions and values for their quality of life.
Site: KARLA-MAVROVOUNI-KEFALOVRYSO VELESTINOU
Site Code: GR1420004 / Type: I
Longtitude:22o 49 33 / Latitude: 40o 31 31
Administrative Region: Thessalia Altitude (m): 600 / Prefecture: Larisa Area (ha): 42605
The site includes Mavrovouni mountain, two water reservoirs at the area of the former Lake Karla (see photo 1) and the spring Kefalovryso in Velestino. Mavrovouni (39.000 ha, max elevation 1.054m) extends between Ossa and Pilio mountains and is included in Larissa and Magnisia Prefectures. It mainly consists of schist and, in less extent, of limestone. The marine area covers 2% of the site, the terrestrial area 96% and the reservoirs 2%. Its NE side ends in steep cliffs in the Aegean Sea. At the higher zone it is mainly covered with oak forests (especially Quercus conferta) and at lower parts with beech and chestnut forests. Maquis cover the lower zone. On the eastern part of the mountain, vegetation is very dense dominated by holm oak (Quercus ilex). The rest of the maquis are dominated by kermes oak and wild olive and have been degraded as a result of intense grazing. This area is used as a pasture by high numbers of farm animals. Mavrovouni also includes ravines, rock formations, grasslands, phrygana and agricultural land. A significant number of streams run the mountain, most of which dry in summer. On the banks of the streams there are plane trees, alders, poplars and willows. The two water reservoirs, one near Stefanovikio (400 ha) and the other near Kalamaki (200 ha), were constructed in 1988 for irrigation purposes at the area of the former Lake Karla. Their water flows into the Pinios river through the Asmaki stream. However, industrial and agricultural wastes flow into the reservoirs. They are possibly eutrophic and a rapid increase of reedbeds inside them can be observed. Kefalovryso spring has suffered the effects of human activities. Its area has been reduced, it has lost its natural vegetation and possibly its native fishes, as well. Now it is used as a pond for the production of commercial (trout etc.) and exotic fishes.