Parnitha is experiencing a renaissance

“The Parnitha mountain range is doing well,” according to the president of the Management Agency of the National Park of Parnitha, Constantinos Dimopoulos. “The number of fir trees is increasing every year. In 10 years, when they will have grown enough so that you can see them from a distance, the area will look like a forest. But we are always in a rush. For us, 100 years is a long time, but for nature it’s nothing.”

It’s been six years since the fires in 2007 destroyed 3,600 hectares of forestland, most of which comprised fir trees. But things are starting to look up on Parnitha thanks to the help of volunteers whose hard work has helped the region’s trees appear to be literally rising from the ashes, despite a recent blaze that was, however, quickly brought under control.

Some 118,800 fir trees and 194,300 black pine seedlings have been planted – the majority of which have survived – in an area of approximately 400 hectares.

“At first, we thought it would be a better idea to plant an initial forest composed of black pines, so that they could provide shade for the fir trees to grow. Then we planted the fir trees, and so far they prove to be acclimating well,” Dimopoulos said.

According to the local coordinator for WWF Greece, Ilias Tziritis, various forestation methods are being implemented on Parnitha, as the destruction is unprecedented by Greek standards. However, Tziritis adds that because the area is classified as a national park, particular attention and caution is devoted toward its reforestation.

“People can’t just go there with a tree and plant it,” he said.

It’s not possible for the entire burnt area to be planted, both because of cost and because practically it will not have any particular value. In several parts where the terrain is rocky reforestation is not possible.

“Perhaps at some point in the future, the forest will return to what it was like before on its own,” said Tziritis, adding that even clearings are necessary because they promote biodiversity.

“In some parts where fir trees once existed, Aleppo pines are flourishing. For the first time, we are seeing Aleppo pines at altitudes of above 700 meters – something that could be seen as a consequence of climate change. Even so, perhaps in some regions the fir tree, which in the long term is the most resilient variety, will grow again,” said Dimopoulos.

WWF, which runs an awareness campaign, asks visitors to the Parnitha National Park to exercise caution in areas that have undergone reforestation.

“For every fir tree that is planted, eight to nine years of groundwork is needed,” Tziritis explained.

“Every three to four years, pine cones are selected for their seeds, which are subsequently ginned. From 800 kilos of pine cones, we select 20 kilos of seeds that are then planted in a nursery. From there, another three to five years are needed for the plant to reach 20 centimeters, before it can be transferred and planted on the mountainside,” he added.

Several planting methods were tried for the first time on Parnitha. One of these was enlisting volunteers for the reforestation campaign, which was co-organized by Skai, the management agency and the forestry service. The volunteers received training before venturing into the mountains.

“The volunteers are now involved in a campaign to protect the forest from future fires. We have 12 fire trucks, some of which are operated by volunteer groups. However we don’t have the 36 people needed to take turns at using the fire trucks to patrol the area,” said Dimopoulos.