Wildlife & Nature

Our dictionary


In May 1992 European Union governments adopted legislation designed to protect the most seriously threatened habitats and species across Europe. This legislation is called the Habitats Directive and complements the Birds Directive adopted in 1979. At the heart of both these Directives is the creation of a network of sites called Natura 2000. The Birds Directive requires the establishment of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds. The Habitats Directive similarly requires Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to be designated for other species, and for habitats. Together, SPAs and SACs make up the Natura 2000 sites. All EU Member States contribute to the network of sites in a Europe-wide partnership from the Canaries to Crete and from Sicily to Finnish Lapland. 
Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are classified under the Birds Directive to help protect and manage areas which are important for rare and vulnerable birds because they use them for breeding, feeding, wintering or migration.

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are classified under the Habitats Directive and provide rare and vulnerable animals, plants and habitats with increased protection and management.

What makes these sites special?

These sites protect vulnerable habitats such as wetlands, which in turn helps to safeguard the animals and plants which need these places to survive. Across the EU a diverse range of habitats are protected, from flower-rich meadows to vast expanses of estuaries, even cave systems, and a huge variety of animals throughout the EU benefit from this, such as golden eagles, flamingos, otters and lynx. It is not only natural habitat types which are covered, but also semi-natural ones, which depend on management of humans (e.g. certain types of grasslands).

How are they designated?

Each Member State must compile a list of the best wildlife areas containing the habitats and species listed in the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. The lists are then submitted to the European Commission. In the case of sites according to the Habitats Directive, an evaluation and selection process is taking place at European level, under the Birds Directive no such process is foreseen. For both types of sites it is the task of the Member State to put the necessary protection provisions/designations in place. 

Where are they?

The network of Natura 2000 sites is spread throughout Europe, from Finland in the north to the Canary Islands in the south. Today, sites, cover about 20% of the European territory, so most European citizens will not live far from a Natura 2000 site!

In Greece

239 SACs have been proposed comprising approximately 21,7% of the total national territory. In addition, 151 proposed SPAs have still not been finalized. There is some spatial overlap between certain SAC and SPA areas, while 31 are included in both lists. 
(Sources: European Commission, Greek Ministry of Environment)



The national ecological network in Greece is based upon the Natura 2000 Network. This network also includes sites that were under national designation prior to the introduction of Natura 2000, such as national forests, or RAMSAR wetland sites.  The structure is organised and there is a legal framework for management and protection. 

In Greece, whilst the legal framework has been established for Natura 2000 the concept of connectivity, which is defined by the Pan-European Ecological Network (PEEN), even to comply with the requirements of Article 10 on connectivity in the Habitats Directive is still an aspect that needs to be worked upon.  There are connecting aspects such as rivers etc. in the network but they have not been formally established.   There are also buffer zones in core areas that offer a varying amount of protection but there are no connecting areas or formal corridors.  The concept of connectivity is seen as the next step to be dealt with in the implementation of the national Natura 2000 ecological network.


The national strategy for ecological networks in Greece is the main component of the National “Master Plan for the Protection of Nature”.  In 1999, the Greek "Ministry for Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works" (Y.PE.HO.D.E. or YPEHODE for short) started the procedure for the elaboration of the plan. The revised master Plan was, finally, presented at a press conference given on 4 October 2001, in Athens.
Briefly, the adopted by YPEHODE “Master Plan for the Protection of Nature” foresees the creation of an ecological network of all areas with a high ecological, biodiversity or aesthetic value including SPA’s (Special Protection Areas, according the Birds Directive 79/409/EC) and pSCI’s (proposed Sites of Community Interest, according the Habitats Directive 92/43), that is the future NATURA 2000 sites in Greece, as well as other areas either designated from Public Services (e.g. National Forests or the ex “game reserves”, renamed now as “wildlife refugees”, established and managed by the Ministry of Agriculture), or designated by national or International Projects (e.g. Important for Birds Areas, designated by the Birdlife International).
According to the “Master Plan”, protected areas in Greece are classified in two large categories: 
a)      Areas included in the “National Protected Areas Network”, and
b)      Areas of regional and local importance.
Using mainly geographic criteria, the protected areas were grouped in 162 unified Areas of Protection (AP’s), according to their spatial continuity, or their operational pertinence. 

In the Master Plan there is a proposal for the creation of 40 Management Bodies (or Management Authorities) that will cover 79 of the 162 aforementioned AP’s in total. These Management Bodies should manage the majority of the pSCI’s in Greece, while the management of the rest pSCI’s would be either subcontracted, or undertaken by one of the existing Management Bodies.
In 2002, with Law 3044/02, the Greek Government decided the creation of twenty five (25) new Management Bodies. The Protected Areas for which they have responsibility are the following:   
1)                Delta of Evros River
2)                Dadia Forest
3)                Kerkini Lake
4)                Mesologgi Lagoon
5)                Delta of Axios, Loudias & Aliakmon Rivers
6)                Koroneia & Volvi Lakes 
7)                National Marine Park of Alonissos – Northern Sporades
8)                Delta Nestou & Vistonida – Ismarida Lakes
9)                Parnon Mt. & Wetland of Moustos
10)              Pamvotis Lake
11)              Amvrakikos Wetlands
12)              Kotychi & Strofylia Wetlands 
13)              Northern Pindos National Park
14)              Prespes Lakes National Park
15)              Ainos Mt. National Park
16)              Olympos Mt. National Park
17)              Samaria Gorge National Park
18)              Parnassos Mt. National Park
19)              Parnitha Mt. National Park
20)              Oiti Mt. National Park 
21)              Kalamas River Gulch & Estuary
22)              Helmos Mt. & Vouraikos Gorge
23)              Rhodope Mt. Range
24)              Karpathos & Saria Islands
25)              Karla – Mavrovounio – Kefalovrysso Velestinou
The above areas, together with the Marine National Park of Zakynthos and the Shinias National Park in Attiki (which were designated as Protected Areas after Presidential Decrees) constitute the (27 totally) Management Bodies of the Protected Areas included in the “National Network of Protected Areas”. 
 The concept of the Management Authorities was that they would be private legal entities. The powers of the Management Authorities are such that they would not be able to intervene directly (e.g. policing) at a local level, but indirectly through other advising services such as the Forestry services who may manage these protected areas on a day-to-day basis.  Therefore the Management Authority could advise but they would have no executive power.  Other powers included the authority to employ technical people to monitor an area but there would be no policing e.g. if someone was harming the area.

The funding of these Management Authorities were on a basis that the government would give an initial amount of money to set up the Management Authority and the Natura 2000 Strategy in the protected area, after that it was considered that the Management Authorities could be self financing, for example via funding from projects. The start up money was allowed for certain activities which did not involve setting up management plans or monitoring plans for the protected area. However, the way of funding the MAs, as far as their operational costs is concerned, has not been yet secured by the Greek State.

The law also provided for a Committee to work at the national level that would coordinate all of the Management Authorities of protected areas.  According to the Article 5 of the Common Ministerial Decision 33918/1998, and the Common Ministerial Decision 1589/ /23-12-02, a National Committee (called FYSI 2000, that is NATURE 2000 in Greek) is responsible for the coordination and evaluation of the Management Authorities, as well as for consulting the Minister of Environment for financial and technical support that the Greek state should provide the Management Authorities with. Six (6) representatives of six different Ministries, six (6) academics and experts, two (2) representatives of Environmental NGOs, and the President of the Committee (appointed by the Minister of Environment) constitute the Committee. Each member of the committee has his/her deputy.

The Bern Convention

The Bern Convention is a binding international legal instrument in the field of nature conservation, which covers the whole of the natural heritage of the European continent and extends to some States of Africa.

Its aims are to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats and to promote European co-operation in that field. It was adopted and signed in Bern (Switzerland) in September 1979, and came into force on 1st June 1982. It counts among its Contracting Parties 40 member States of the Council of Europe, as well as Burkina Faso, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia and the European Community. The protection of migratory species lends the Convention a distinct dimension of North-South interdependence and co-operation.

The Bern Convention co-ordinates the action of European States in adopting common standards and policies for the sustainable use of biological diversity, thus contributing to the improvement of the quality of life of Europeans and the promotion of sustainable development.

The Convention is a fundamental treaty at European level for biological diversity. It is co-ordinated by a Standing Committee that meets every year, has adopted 90 recommendations and seven resolutions, and organises many seminars and technical groups. It has put in place a very effective monitoring system (file cases) and develops a very comprehensive work programme.

(Source: Council of Europe)