The LIFE-IP 4 NATURA project is moving forward with another important action, the selection of Natura 2000 sites for  the pilot implementation of management plans. The selected sites are within the geographical boundaries of project partner administrative authorities, namely the Region of Attica, the Region of Crete, the Region of Eastern Macedonia & Thrace and the Decentralized Administration of Epirus – Western Macedonia.

Management Plans are prepared in the context of the ongoing project “Preparation of Special Environmental Studies, Presidential Decrees drafts and Management Plans’ Ministerial Decisions for Natura 2000 network in Greece”. This project is the main complementary action of the integrated LIFE-IP 4 NATURA project.

As part of the action, the three Regions and the Decentralized Administration organized online workshops in May and June (24, 25, 26/05/2021 and 11/06/2021), in order to present and prioritize the project’s forty Natura 2000 areas eligible for management plan pilot implementation.

The invitation was well received by stakeholders, and important actors for the management plan implementation participated in the dialogue (regional and decentralized administration’s representatives, municipalities’ representatives, scientific bodies, Management Bodies, NGOs etc.). All the participants were informed about the project action, the specific importance of each of the eligible Natura 2000 sites and the management plan outline by the coordinator of the “Preparation of Special Environmental Studies, Presidential Decrees drafts and Management Plans’ Ministerial Decisions for Natura 2000 network in Greece” project.

Various criteria were taken into account and discussed with the participating bodies in order to prioritize the eligible Natura 2000 areas and select three for each Region and Decentralized administration. Examples of the criteria applied are the areas’ ecological value (the presence of species and types of habitats of EU interest, endemic species, etc.), ecosystem variety, ecosystem services, protection needs (pressures and threats, degraded habitats and ecosystems), other protection regimes, any synergies with other management plans, local bodies cooperation potential, (e.g. product origin labelling),  other projects and management actions that have been implemented or are being implemented in the eligible areas etc.

The workshops’ outcome was three selected areas per region and decentralized administration. The outcomes and selected sites were presented at a dedicated meeting of the Project Management Committee. Further application of selection criteria like assessment of degree of priority and implementation potential combined with constructive discussion between Committee members led to the development of the final proposal. The final proposal consists of one Natura 2000 site per region and decentralized administration.

The four Natura 2000 sites selected for the pilot implementation of management plan in the framework of IP 4 NATURA project are briefly presented below.

Depending on the total number, type and cost of Management Plans proposed measures and actions, which will be completed within the LIFE-IP 4 NATURA project, the possibility of additional management plan pilot implementation in other eligible Natura 2000 areas will be examined.


Attica Region

Postal Code GR3000005

The Attica Region selected for the pilot implementation of the management plan the “Sounio – Nisida Patroklou kai paraktia thalassia zoni” Natura 2000 site (code GR3000005) which is designated as a Site of Community Importance (SCI).

The inland part of the area, a typical Mediterranean landscape, comprises of all three types of Mediterranean ecosystems of Greece: pine forests, maquis and phrygana.


The Aleppo pine forest that dominates the vegetation of the area is the most extended and well preserved pine forest in the area of eastern Attica. The Aleppo pine forest plays an important role in shaping the microclimate of the wider area, while a large number of plant and animal species find suitable habitats in it.

The flora of the area includes two species that are Greek endemic: Centaurea raphanina subsp. mixta and Onobrychis ebenoides.

Because of the variety of ecosystems, presence of successional stages and advantageous location not far from the city of Athens the site serves as an ideal place for environmental and educational purposes.

Within the selected Natura 2000 site (GR3000005), the Sounion National Forest is located. The Sounion National Forest was designated in 1974 due to the ecological, historical, geological and paleontological importance of the area. The Sounion National Forest is one of the nine Specially Protected Areas designated under the Barcelona Convention.   

A large number of minerals have been found in the Sounio National Forest area, some of them being completely new to science.

Formations of geological and paleontological interest such as caves and karst formations are located in the area. In these formations many plant fossils have been discovered. From the plant fossils found, the most interesting were those of Pinus maritima and Quercus suber, both species that are nowadays absent from the eastern part of the Mediterranean basin, and Pinus nigra, Buxus sempervirens that now are only to be found at higher altitudes.

As for the marine part of the area, there are extensive Posidonia meadows (priority marine habitat according to Directive 92/43/EEC) in excellent condition, which need immediate protection from the ever-increasing pollution of the Saronic Gulf.

The site is partially overlapping with the Special Protection Area (SPA) GR3000014 “PeriochI Legrenon – Nisida Patroklou” while it is adjacent to other protected areas (SPA GR3000018 “Kanali Makronisou”, pSCI “Paraktia kai thalassia zoni Makronisou” that may benefit from the pilot implementation of management actions in the framework of the LIFE-IP 4 NATURA project.


It is worth mentioning that the SPA GR3000014 “Periochi Legrenon – Nisida Patroklou” is home to 33 important bird species (species listed in Article 4 of Directive 2009/147/EC) among which the Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata) and the yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan).

The islet of Patroklos provides a resort to all migrating birds passing above the Sounion peninsula. Also, the numerous marine caves along the coast of both the Sounion peninsula and Patroclos islet, provide excellent refugee for the monk seal (Monachus monachus).

In conclusion, the “Sounio – Nisida Patroklou kai paraktia thalassia zoni” Natura 2000 site (code GR3000005) selected for management plan pilot implementation, combines different ecosystems, as well as a variety of important ecological and cultural features, providing critical ecosystem services, while the management measures that will applied are expected to benefit the wider area of Athens urban center.

Region of Crete

Postal Code GR4320002

The protected area SPA – pSCI “Dikti: Oropedio Lasithiou, Katharo, Selena, Selakano, Chalasmeni Koryfi” (code: GR4320002) is a mountainous area with different forest types and characteristic habitat types with high biodiversity, providing important ecosystem services.

Dikti’s mountain range, with Spathi as the highest summit, is one of the three Crete’s main mountains. Plateaus, dolines, steep peaks, gorges, torrents and a large number of cavities develop in the strongly karstified limestone background of the mountain range.

The ecological importance of the area is due to the wide variety of habitats (most of them well preserved), the dense forest and maquis vegetation, in combination with characteristic endemic species of flora and fauna of Crete and Greece.

Some of the flora species located in Dikti are stenoendemics, exclusively found in the site or in the mountains of Crete.

The habitats of the area are very important for a number of protected raptor bird species, which either breed in the area or appear sporadically

Examples are the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), the lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus), the red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), the booted eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) and the Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata).

The GR4320002 SPA – pSCI site spatially overlaps with the SPA site GR4320010 ““Lazaros Koryfi – Madara, Diktis”. The “Lazaros Koryfi – Madara, Diktis” will benefit significantly by the pilot implementation of management actions in the broader area.

In addition, the GR4320002 site has an important role for the Aposelemis water reservoir water supply, providing important ecosystem services for local communities of the wider area.

Primary sector (agriculture and livestock), tourism and fires are the main pressures and threats of the site.

The Lasithi plateau, located at 800 m altitude, is Crete’s largest plateau, with 18 villages and significant cultivated areas. The Diktaio Andro cave is an archaeological monument of the area with high visitor numbers.

Region of Eastern Macedonia & Thrace

Postal Code GR1140004

Mount Falakro, a mountain with unique beauty and biodiversity, features large alpine areas, steep cliffs and dense forests. Soil composition inhibits the growth of tall vegetation, and it is the prevailing low vegetation that gives the mountain its name (Falakro means bold in Greek). Today, the vegetation cover is meadows (45% coverage), forests (35% coverage) and shrubland, phrygana, rocks and bare land (20% coverage).

Mount Falakro is Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Region highest mountain and forms the southwest part of Rhodope’s mountain range and the northern wall of Drama’s Neogene basin. Marble bed rocks -more than 1000m thick- constitute mountain’s southwest area, covering approximately 700 sq km.

The karstified marble bedrock drains almost exclusively into the Drama basin, playing an important role in the basin’s water supply. The soil texture is sand-clay with adequate depth and fertility. In contrast, in the shrublands derived from degraded forests, the soil quality is poor. On the rocky limestone areas, the forest cover is sparse and topsoil occurs only in crevices.

The alpine meadows, the lowland plateaus, the shrublands, the large rock formations and the dense forests are home to a diversity of flora species including rare endemic species. Because of that, Falakro mountain is considered one of the most important Greek botanical sites. Additionally it is an important site for bird species.

The habitat type Sub-Mediterranean pine forests with endemic black pines (code 9530*), a priority habitat according to Directive 92/43/EEC, has been mapped in Falakro mountain.

The presence of a large number of protected fauna species highlight the importance of the site’s habitats and ecological value.

Some examples of the fauna species are the lepidoptera species Euphydryas aurinia,  Lycaena dispar, Polyommatus eroides, Parnassius Apollo, the orthoptera species Paracaloptenus caloptenoides, the brown bear Ursus arctos, the wolf Canis lupus, the Balkan chamois Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica, the chiroptera  Eptesicus serotinus, Hypsugo savii, Pipistrellus pipistrellus, Plecotus auritus, the hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius,  and the forest dormouse Dryomys nitedula.

The site has important habitats for other common mammal species such as the roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), the beech marten (Martes foina), the European badger (Meles meles), the least weasel (Mustela nivalis) etc.

The SCI GR1140004 “Koryfes Orous Falakro” overlaps with GR1140009 “Oros Falakro”, which has been designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA).


The site is home to 42 important bird species (species listed in article 4 of Directive 2009/147/EC), including significant populations of rock partridge (Alectoris graeca) and large raptors such as the long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus), the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and the booted eagle (Aquila pennata).

Important species habitats, like the European roller (Coracias garrulus) and the Eurasian stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), are located at the southern part of the site. The implementation of management measures in SCI GR1140004 is expected to positively affect the SPA GR1140009 bird species

It is necessary to implement management measures in the area, as there is limited previous implementation of any management measures. Quarrying activities and overgrazing are considered the main pressures for the ecosystems of the area and the pilot implementation of management measures will benefit the overall area’s conservation. This pilot implementation will add to the country’s know-how and experience in protected areas management, particularly in areas with similar challenges.

Decentralized Administration of Epirus and Western Macedonia

Postal Code GR1340004

The “Limnes Vegoritida – Petron” SPA site (code GR1340004) hosts a variety of ecosystems which provide important ecosystem services. However, there are recorded pressures, threats and activities with varying intensity that may affect the site’s conservation and management.

The SPA GR1340004 site is closely related to the lake system of Amyntaio region (Zazari – Cheimaditida – Petron – Vegoritida). All four lakes are designated as protected areas (SPA GR1340004″Limnes Vegoritida – Petron”, SCI GR1340005 “Limnes Cheimaditida – Zazari”, GR1340007 SPA “Limni Petron” SPA GR1340008 “Limnes Cheimaditida – Zazari”).

Any implementation of management measures in SPA GR1340004 should take into account the pressures in the overall lake system. The SPA GR1340004 management plan pilot implementation is expected to benefit neighboring protected areas’ species and ecosystems.

The SPA GR1340007 “Limni Petron” is an important site for breeding and wintering waterbirds and raptors, while it is home to about 86 bird species.

Ten habitat types listed in Annex I of Directive 92/43/EEC have been mapped in SCI GR1340004. These are areas with Thermo-Mediterranean riparian galleries and thickets with Tamarix spp. and Nerium spp.,  riparian forests with Salix alba and Populus alba, semi-deciduous oak forests (Quercus trojana), calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation, arborescent matorral with Juniperus spp., Eastern sub-mediteranean dry grasslands, Mediterranean tall humid grasslands of the Molinio-Holoschoenion, hard oligo-mesotrophic waters with benthic vegetation of Chara spp., free-floating vegetation of eutrophic water bodies with communities of Hydrocharition spp., or deep, open waters, with associations of large pondweeds (Magnopotamion spp.).

The fauna of the area includes many Appendix II species such as the invertebrates Cerambyx cerdo, Lucanus cervus, Paracaloptenus caloptenoides, fish species Barbus balcanicus, Rhodeus meridionalis, chiroptera Myotis blythii, Myotis capaccinii, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, Rhinolophus hipposideros, the European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) as well as the brown bear (Ursus arctos).

Today, the “Limnes Vegoritida – Petron” SPA site (code GR1340004) is a degraded area without any substantial management. In the past, energy production activities have put intense pressure to the area’s ecosystems, while today the region is dependent on the on-going process of de-lignitization & transition to the post-lignite era. In addition, high-intensity agricultural activities put pressure on the area’s water resources and there is a need for integrated water management.

These same pressures provide a common ground for synergies between the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) and the Habitat Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC), i.e. two important EU Directives. These synergies will add to the country’s know-how and experience in protected areas management.

The West Macedonia Region River Basin Management Plan captures the hydraulic interconnection of the lakes and highlight the need for integrated management of Lake Vegoritida and Amyntaio’s sub-basin that includes all three lakes mentioned above. A dedicated Vegoritida lake measure (No. M09Σ0803) is included in the River Basin Management Plan (Official Government Gazette B 4676/29-12-2017).

Lake Vegoritida, is an inter-municipal – inter-regional lake that is administered by two Decentralized Administrations. Both Administrations need to implement the selected management actions. The challenge consists in the cooperation between the competent authorities and a successful paradigm can act as a model of administrative cooperation in Greece.