Protected areas abound but rules are not applied

According to estimates, between 22-25 percent of Greece has been given some kind of protected status as an area of particular natural value. There are a number of different types of protected status and they often overlap. One area can be covered by a number of decrees, whether for the protection of a forest, a species of fauna or a wetland. The most important of these regions are eventually awarded national park status and management agencies are appointed, that is a group of people whose job it is to administer and protect them. According to the Greek Center for Biotopes and Wetlands at the Goulandris Museum of Natural History, in Greece there are: * 10 national reserves (68,732 hectares) * 10 national parks * 19 forests (32,506 ha) * 51 listed natural monuments (16,840 ha) * 585 wildlife reserves * 7 controlled hunting areas (107,086 ha) * 21 state game reserves (3,603 ha) * two nature protection regions (Psalidi on the island of Kos and western Milos) * one eco-development zone (Lake Pamvotis) * 10 wetlands classified under the Ramsar Convention * 390 Natura 2000 regions including 239 Sites of Community Importance and 151 Special Protection Zones (3,151,000 ha) * 9 Special Protection Areas under the Barcelona Convention (260,000 ha) * 16 Biogenetic Reserves (22,261 ha) * 2 Biosphere Reserves (Samaria Gorge and Mt Olympus) * World Heritage Monuments (Metsovo and Mt Athos) * One region that has been awarded the European Diploma of Protected Areas (Samaria Gorge). In addition, a number of other regions have been awarded protected status in accordance with international or European treaties. Strofilia forest A typical example of what can happen to a protected area when it is left unmonitored is the case of the Strofilia forest and Kotychi lagoon in the western Peloponnese, a site with a large variety of biotopes and types of vegetation. The ecosystem of Strofilia is of great ecological interest as it has the most extensive Pinus pinea forest in Greece and one of the largest in Europe. The non-forest ecosystems such as sandy hills, fresh- and salt-water wetlands, wet meadows and sandy beaches are also of significance. The sandy beach, especially in the northern part of the site, has been reported as an egg-laying area of the endangered sea turtle Caretta caretta. The area has been spoiled by land-grabbing, fires and poaching, while local mayors and the Megali Spilia Monastery are opposing a decision by regional authorities to reforest some 55 hectares, as well as a ministerial decree that will declare the region a national park, which would place additional restrictions on its use. An illegal settlement sprang up some years ago at Samareika. In parts of a wetland protected by the Ramsar Convention, garbage has been unlawfully dumped, trees cut down, land ploughed for the cultivation of crops and pesticides and fertilizers used which are now threatening the forest’s sensitive ecosystem. The problems are typical of the situation in many parts of Greece which, although protected on paper and at international conferences, have in reality been left to their fate.