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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Greece

Nature protection and biodiversity (Greece)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Greece is in a biodiversity ’hot spot’ region, with more than 1 500 endemic species and more than 70 % habitat loss in historic times (EEA, 2007), hosting a notable biodiversity, while its flora and diversity in certain animal groups (e.g. birds, reptiles, terrestrial mollusks, isopods) is amongst the highest in Europe and the Mediterranean (e.g Legakis et al., 2006; Strid and Tan; 1997, Strid, 2006).

Nature protection needs in Greece arise from urban sprawl, infrastructure development, over-exploitation of species and natural resources, pollution, eutrophication, desertification, intensive agriculture in the lowland,s and land abandonment in more remote regions, often of high nature value. In coastal areas, the uncontrolled expansion of tourism and/or illegal fishing activities, the invasion of aquatic alien species due to rising sea temperature constitute additional factors threatening our ecosystem biological functions and processes.


The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Knowledge of the state of Greece’s biodiversity is still very poor (Tables 1 and 2). There are approximately 30 000 animal species (Legakis, 2004) with endemism reaching 17.1 % (Fauna Europaea, 2004), increasing to 64 % in specific animal groups (Legakis et al., 2006).

According to a 2009 assessment (Table 3), threatened species in Greece face α short-term or mid-term risk of extinction. The increased expected rate of avian species extinctions in Greece (Red List Index) over the last 17 years (Table 4, Figure 1) is related mainly to the loss of natural habitats and their structural or functional degradation, pollution and disturbance. Most threatened avian groups are wetland birds and raptors.

The reduction of cattle genetic diversity is alarming. Only 0.64 % of the total cattle population consists of native breeds. This reflects an almost complete homogenisation of the cattle genetic pool, restricting the alternatives for future genetic improvements and mitigation of  disease outbreaks or changing climatic conditions. Sheep genetic diversity is high, with 92.2 % of the population consisting of native breeds, but 61 % of breeds are endangered (Table 5).

In 2008, Greece hosted 538 terrestrial invasive alien species (Figure 2). In 2009, Greek marine and brackish waters and inland freshwater systems hosted 193 and 87 aquatic invasive alien species, respectively (Figures 3 and 4; Table 6).

The Marine Trophic Index of Hellenic Seas has not significantly changed since 1950 (Figure 5). The downward trend in the period 1980-2004 may be due to the end of the positive effects of technology and eutrophication on fisheries catches.

Greek legislation provides for protection of a large number of native flora and wildlife species (916 plants, 139 vertebrates and 82 invertebrates). However, the share of habitats and species of Community interest, whose conservation status is reported as ’inadequate’ or ’unknown’, is still high (Table 7).

In 2007, the total area of nationally designated sites was around 20 432 km2 - around 15.5 % of the total area of Greece and around 2 % of the total European nationally designated site area (e.g Northern Pindos, Mount Nympheon, National Marine Park of Zakynthos, National Park of Dadia. By 2009, the total area of nationally designated sites covered 23 999 044 km2 (Figure 6; Tables 8 and 9).


The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The main drivers of biodiversity decline in Greece are related to past and current policies on land use, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, transport and tourism, and to the prevailing consumption and production patterns of contemporary Greek society. The most important pressures on threatened avifauna in Greece are given in Table 10.

Land take

Urban sprawl and land taken up by development activities in Greece (1990-2000) has increased by 15 %. 63% of the land uptake has affected natural (23 %) and semi-natural (37 %) areas with consequent impacts on species and ecosystems (Figure 7).

Climate change

Species that are quite abundant in the Greek seas (e.g. anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) and sardine (Sardinella aurita and Sardina pilchardus)), are affected by regional temperature variations, riverine inputs and wind-induced mixing. Impacts of climate change on forest biodiversity are linked to temperature increase and precipitation decrease and to forest fires (MINENV, 2010).

Worst Invasive Alien Species

18 terrestrial species in Greece are among the 100 Worst Invasive Alien Species (WIAS), according to the DAISIE database (2008) (Table 11). The most important pressure of terrestrial WIAS in Greece is on natural ecosystems, through competition or predation on existing species and contamination through the spread of diseases.

Shipping is the second-most important vector of the primary and secondary spread of alien species (23 %) in Greek marine waters, preceded by entry through the Suez Canal (44 %). Aquaculture is the most important mode of introduction of freshwater alien species in Greece (Zenetos et al., 2009). In 2009, Hellenic waters hosted 60 species of the aquatic WIAS threatening biodiversity in the Mediterranean, a 20 % increase since 2000 (Table 12).

Nutrient loads

In the Aegean Sea, coastal waters with high concentrations of inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus are linked to anthropogenic activities, sewage outfalls, and riverine outflows (Figure 8). A comparison of nutrient loads between 1995 and 2007 is given in Table 13 and Figures 9-12.

Technology and eutrophication

Α general expansion of the Hellenic fisheries took place during the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, due to the modernisation of the Hellenic fishing fleet and the effect of man-made eutrophication on the productivity of coastal waters. The positive effects appear to have subsided over the last 24 years.

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

During the last 17 years, population trends for 50 % of the threatened avian species are very negative to negative (Handrinos et al., 2009), implying the urgent need for targeted legislative measures and conservation actions. 

The alarming reduction of cattle genetic diversity and the classification of several cattle and sheep breeds as endangered reflect the urgent need for a drastic shift in relevant policies, before an irreversible homogenisation of the livestock genetic pool occurs.

Mediterranean climate ecosystems are considered among the most threatened by invasive alien species (Hulme et al., 2008b). The likelihood of future higher air temperatures and increasing drought periods, which are expected to change fire regimes (Piñol et al., 1998; Lavorel et al., 1998; Arianoutsou, 2007) could favor the establishment of more alien species (Vilà et al., 2001) or the further expansion of established ones, influencing ecosystems and the economy.

The speed of marine alien species spread and response to global warming is apparently much faster than temperature increase itself, presenting an important warning for the future of Mediterranean Sea biodiversity.

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Greek legislation (Table 14) provides for the protection of flora and fauna. Protected areas (Table 8) represent an instrument for species conservation. Greece continues to extend the protected areas network (Figure 6), holding a large variety of Mediterranean habitats included in the reference list of the Natura 2000 initiative. The Natura 2000 network covers 21 % of the Greek land surface and 5.5 % of the territorial waters. Other measures for species protection include regulation on the hunting period, a binding fishing code, access restrictions, limited user rights, and compensations for income loss.

However, a crucial step towards a targeted and planned protection of the natural environment and biodiversity is the National Biodiversity Strategy. This is currently being re-evaluated and includes the objectives of ‘Contribution to the response to climate change, adaptation to it and reduction of the impacts on biodiversity through adaptation actions.’

Greece has no stand-alone sustainable agriculture strategy. The integration of nature conservation objectives follows rules and instruments set under the EU Common Agricultural Policy.

Greek fisheries policy is based on sustainable management objectives and is heavily influenced by the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

                                         

Table 1. State of Flora in Greece

(Hatzilakou, 2009)

Τaxa

 

Endemic

Uncertain endemic

 

     Not Endemic

Not threatened and not protected

558

43

 

Protected

122

3

168

Threatened

181

6

120

Threatened and protected

425

8

205

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2. State of Fauna in Greece

 (Hatzilakou, 2009)

 

Number of species

Endemic

Threatened

Mammals

111

2

19

Birds

442

-

10*

Reptiles

62

6

8

Amphibians

21

2

5

Fish (freshwater)

108

35

41

Fish (seawater)

447

-

12

* According to BirdLife International (2008α)-Global FactSheets and the Hellenic Ornithological Society  (unpublished data)

 

Table 3. Threatened species in Greece

(The Red Data book of Threatened Vertebrates and Invertebrates, in press)

Threatened species

No of species

No of  threatened species

Percentage of 

species assessed

Vertebrate species

422

171

15%

Invertebrate species

591

297

50%

 

 

 

 

Most threatened animal groups

 

 

 

Freshwater fish

 

 

37%

Reptiles

 

 

27%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 4. Red List of the threatened birds in Greece

(Handrinos et al., 2009)

IUCN Red List category of threat

 

Number of species assessed

 in 1992

Number of species assessed

in 2009

Extinct (EX)

6

  1

Critically Endangered (CR)

 13

 14

Endangered (EN)

 12

 17

Vulnerable (VU)

 23

 31

Near Threatened (NT)

 20

 16

Least Concern (LC)

 -

 26

Data Deficient (DD)

 26

 17

TOTAL

100

122

 

Table 5. Population composition of cattle and sheep breeds in Greece, 2008

 Native breed population

Foreign breed

Population*

Total population

Number of native  breeds

Number of foreign breeds

Endangered breeds

Extinct breeds

CATTLE

4,057

629,599

633,656

2

9

2

3

SHEEP

8,363,484

700,000

9,063,484

18

3

11

7

* Crossbred animals are included in the foreign breed population.

 

Table 6. Alien species in Greece

 

Total

Invertebrates

Primary producers

Vertebrates

terrestrial

538

38%

59%

3%

Inland freshwater

87

48%

40%

12%

Marine and backish

water

193

53%

25%

22%

Table 7. Conservation status of habitats and species of Community interest a

(YPEHODE, 2008)

Conservation status

Habitats

Flora species

Fauna species

Total

Share (%)

(number)

Favourable

49

5

25

79

24.4

Inadequate

26

19

26

71

22.0

Bad

7

2

13

22

6.8

Unknown

3

32

117

152

47.0

Total

85

58

181

324

100.0

a) EU Habitat Directive

 

Table 8. Protected areas, 2007

 

(YPEHODE, 2008)

 

Yeara

Competent Authority

Sites

Surface area

 

 

(km 2 )

(%)b

National forest parks (inland)

1938

YAAT

10

689c

0.6

Aesthetic forests

1973

YAAT

19

325

0.2

Protected forests

2006

Regional Authorities

1

417.42

0.4

Natural monuments

1975

YAAT

51d

167

0.1

Landscapes of natural beauty

1950

YPEHODE & YP

507

..

..

Controlled hunting areas

1975

YAAT

7

1 028.12

0.8

Game reservese

1979

YAAT

-

-

-

Game breeding stations

1976

YAAT

21

36.03

..

Zones of urban controlf

1989

YPEHODE

12

63.82

..

Nature reservesg

2006

YPEHODE

1

1.63

-

National marine parksg

1992

YPEHODE

2

2 259.46h

0.1

National parksg

2004

YPEHODE

 

7 542.80

5.6

Eco-development areasg

2003

YPEHODE

1

418.29

0.3

Wildlife refuges

1998

Regional Authorities

606

1 0280.57

7.79

 

a)   Year of establishment of the first area in the category.

 

b)   % of total land area; some protected areas overlap.

 

c)   Including 343 km2 of peripheral zones.

 

d)   15 areas and 36 historic trees or coppices.

 

e)   The category “game reserves” has been replaced by the category “wildlife refuges”.

 

f)    Including areas designated as Strict Nature Reserves and Nature Reserves.

 

g)   Including peripheral zones.

 

h)   The boundaries of the marine parks were redefined in 2003.

    

Table 9. Protected areas under international agreementsa, 2007

 (YPEHODE, 2008)

 

Sites (number)

Area of sites (km2)

 

International agreement

SPAab

9

2 601.76

Barcelona Convention

Biogenetic reserves

16

222.60

Council of Europe

World heritage

2c

340.75

Paris Convention

Biosphere reserves

2

90

UNESCO

European diploma

1

51

Council of Europe

Wetlands

10

1 687

Ramsar Convention

a) Excludes SPAs and SCIs under EU Directives

b) Specially Protected Areas of the Barcelona Convention SPA and Biodiversity Protocol

c) Including Mount Athos

 

Table 10. Main threats affecting avian species assessed in 2009

(Handrinos et al., 2009)

Threats

Number of species

Habitat degradation/Loss

51

Pollution, pesticides, poisoning

38

Disturbance (e.g. hunting)

32

Hunting, persecution, trapping

28

Small population/Limited distribution

14

Lack/limited food resources

12

Natural disasters

4

Other (e.g. competition)

4

Hybridisation

2

Unknown/Undetermined

14























 
























 

 

 

Table 11. List of the 100 Worst Invasive Alien Species recorded in the terrestrial environment of Greece (DAISIE database, 2008)

Primary Producers

Invertebrates

Vertebrates

Ailanthus altissima

Aphis gossypii

Lithobates catesbeianus

Carpobrotus edulis

Bemisia tabaci

Myocastor coypus

Opuntia ficus-indica

Cameraria ohridella

Psittacula krameri

Oxalis pescaprae

Frankliniella occidentalis

Rattus norvegicus

Paspalum paspaloides

Harmonia axyridis

Trachemys scripta

Robinia pseudoacacia

Leptinotarsa decemlineata

 

 

Liriomyza huidobrensis

 

 

Table 12. List of the 60 worst aquatic invasive alien species recorded in Greece, 2009

Aquatic Marine

Aquatic Inland

Primary Producers

Invertebrates

Vertebrates

Primary Producers

Invertebrates

Vertebrates

Alexandrium taylori

Amphistegina lobifera

Fistularia commersonii

Azolla filiculoides

Anguillicola crassus

Carassius gibbelio

Asparagopsis armata

Brachidontes pharaonis

Lagocephalus sceleratus

Ludwigia peploides montevidensis

Anodonta woodiana

Cyprinus carpio carpio

Asparagopsis taxiformis

Branchiomma luctuosum

Liza hematoheila*

 

Aphanomyces astaci

Gambusia holbrooki

Caulerpa racemosa

Bursatella leachii

Micropterus salmoides*

 

Dreissena polymorpha

Lepomis gibbosus

Codium fragile

Callinectes sapidus

Saurida undosquamis

 

Pacifastacus leniusculus

Lithobates catesbeianus

Colpomenia peregrina

Crassostrea gigas

Scomberomorus commerson

 

Potamopyrgus antipodarum

Liza haematocheila*

Halophila stipulacea

Crepidula fornicata

Seriola fasciata

 

 

Micropterus salmoides*

Ostreopsis ovata

Ficopomatus enigmaticus

Siganus luridus

 

 

Myocastor coypus

Phaeocystis pouchettii

Hydroides dianthus

Siganus rivulatus

 

 

Oncorhynchus mykiss

Stypopodium schimperi

Hydroides elegans

Sphoeroides pachygaster

 

 

Ondatra zibethicus

Womersleyella setacea

Marsupenaeus japonicus

 

 

 

Pseudorasbora parva

 

Mnemiopsis leidyi

 

 

 

Salmo salar

 

Percnon gibbesi

 

 

 

Salvelinus fontinalis

 

Petricola pholadiformis

 

 

 

Trachemys scripta

 

Pinctada radiata

 

 

 

 

 

Portunus pelagicus

 

 

 

 

 

Rapana venosa

 

 

 

 

 

Rhopilema nomadica

 

 

 

 

 

Spirorbis marioni

 

 

 

 

 

* Liza haematocheila and Micropterus salmoides can be found both in aquatic marine and aquatic inland environment.

 

Table 13. Change (%) in nutrient loads between 1995 and 2007, in selected Hellenic coastal waters

AREA/

PARAMETER

Psittalia

Inner Saronikos

Elefsis Bay

Thessaloniki Bay

Thermaikos Gulf

Nitrate

25.9 % decrease

41.4 % increase

52.0 % increase

24.8 % decrease

7.53 % increase

Phosphate

13.5 % decrease

23.4 % decrease

56.3 % decrease

53.1 % decrease

31.1 % decrease

Ammonium

2.17 % decrease

50.7 % decrease

5.12 % decrease

75.3 % decrease

56.3 % decrease

DIN:P

18.7 % increase

14.2 % increase

149 % increase

20.2 % decrease

46.6 % decrease

 

Table 14.  Legislative framework for nature conservation, 1998-2007

Act number and year

Act title/subject

Law 2637/1998

Establishment of the Certification Account Organisation and of wildlife refuges

JMD 33318/3028/1998

EU Habitat Directive (92/43/EC)

Law 2719/1999

International convention of the conservation of migratory species of wild fauna and other regulations

Law 2742/1999

Spatial planning and sustainable development and other regulations (including management bodies)

Law 2902/2001

Memorandum of understanding between the Hellenic Republic and the Republic of Turkey concerning the cooperation for the protection of the environment

Law 2971/2001

Sea shore legislation and other regulations

Law 3010/2002

Harmonisation of the Law No 1650/86 according to EU directives 97/11/EC and 96/61/EC, and other regulations (including Environmental Impact Assessment for natural areas)

Law 3022/2002

Amendments to the 1970 Barcelona Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea against pollution and to its 1980 protocol on pollution from of land-based sources

Law 3026/2002

Modification of the Article XXI of the Convention for the International Trade of species of flora and fauna that are threatened by extinction (CITES)

Law 3044/2002

Establishment of 25 management bodies of protected areas

Law 3071/2002

Implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provisions concerning the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migrating fish stocks

JMD 11642/1943/2002

EU Directive 2001/18/EC on the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment

Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC)

Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC)

The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) requires achieving the effective protection of aquatic ecosystems and high quality standards for surface waters, including coastal and transitional waters, by 2015. The main requirement of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EK) is the achievement of Good Environmental Status in the marine area by 2020.

Law 3165/2003

International Convention on phytogenetic resources for food and agriculture

Law 3208/2003

Protection of the forests ecosystems and compilation of forest cadastre, regulation of holding rights on forests and forest areas

Law 3233/2004

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in the Convention on Biological Diversity

JMD 38639/2017/2005

EU Directive 1998/81/EC on the use of genetically modified micro-organisms

Law 3495/2006

International plant protection convention – new revised text

Law 3568/2007

International Convention on the regulation of whaling and its protocol

Law 3585/2007

Environmental protection, agricultural security and other regulations

Law 3598/2007

Agreement on the privileges and immunities of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

Law 3497/2007

Protocol concerning cooperation in preventing pollution from ships and, in cases of emergency, combating pollution of the Mediterranean Sea

JMD Η.Π. 14849/853 /Ε 103/2008

Update of the transposition of the Habitats Directive.

 

JMD: Joint Ministerial Decision.

 

Figure 1.

 

Figure 1.          Red list index (RLI) for avian species survival in Greece in 1992 and 2009.
(
RLI1992=0.64, RLI2009=0.68. The smaller the RLI, the greater the number of Greek avian species with an increased extinction risk (Handrinos et al., 2009))

 

Figure 2.
 

Figure 2.          Cumulative number of alien species established in the terrestrial environment,

                         Greece, 2008

 
Figure 3.
 

Figure 3.          Cumulative number of alien species established in the marine environment,

                         Greece, 2008

Figure 4.
 

Figure 4.          Cumulative number of alien species established in inland freshwaters,

                         Greece, 2008

Figure 5.
 
Figure 5.          Marine Trophic Index of Hellenic Seas, 1950 - 2004 Figure 6.
 

Figure 6.          Growth of nationally designated protected areas in Greece (cumulative area)

Figure 7.
 
 

Figure 7.          Relative contribution of land-cover categories in Greece taken by urban and other artificial land development, 1990 – 2000

 Figure 8.

 

 
 

Figure 8.          Ecological quality of coastal waters based on seasonal (winter and summer) concentrations of PO4, NO3 and NH4 (Pavlidou et al., 2005)

 

            Unpolluted:        <0.07 μΜ phosphate; <0.62 μM for nitrate and <0.55 μM for ammonium;

 

            Low Polluted:     0.07-0.14 μM for phosphate; 0.62-0.65 μM for nitrate and 0.55-1.05 μM for ammonium;

 

            Moderately Polluted: 0.14-0.68 μM for phosphate; 0.65-1.09 μM for nitrate and 1.05-2.2 μM for ammonium;

 

            Highly Polluted: >0.68 μM for phosphate; >1.19 for nitrate and > 2.20 for ammonium.


Figure 9.
 

Figure 9.          Mean Integrated values of phoshate in Hellenic coastal waters, 1995 and 2007

  
Figure 10.
 

 

Figure 10.         Mean Integrated values of nitrate in Hellenic coastal waters, 1995 and 2007


Figure 11.

 Figure 11.         Mean Integrated values of ammonium in coastal areas of Greece, 1995 and 2007

Figure 12.
 

Figure 12.         Mean Integrated values of DIN:P ratios in Hellenic coastal waters, 1995 and 2007

 


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