Country Profiles

Greece - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Land cover in Greece has been relatively stable since the last notable expansion of irrigated agricultural land and the establishment of animal farms in lowlands, which took place mostly during the 1980s. An increasing rate of urbanization in several coastal areas, and an extension of transport networks in the whole of the territory, peaked during the 1990s and continued up to 2000. Embankments and other changes in river beds, construction of irrigation and hydroelectric dams, a major river diversion and numerous small-scale irrigation projects continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Within 40 years (1925-1965), approximately 67% of the surface area of Greek wetlands was drained, due to demand for housing and agricultural land, resulting mainly in the loss of marshes and a few lakes and rivers.

While changes in the extent of ecosystems have been assessed by calculating land cover change, there is little information available on past and ongoing changes in species composition and the structure of ecosystems during the last decades. The effects of reduction in crop diversity, abandonment of traditional cultivations in slopes of higher elevations, abandonment of livestock grazing patterns in mountainous areas and forests, intensification of fisheries and aquaculture and biological invasions, have not been documented in a systematic way so as to support relevant biodiversity-related policies.

The most comprehensive information on the country’s species and habitats is available for those that are protected by European legislation. Greece is home to 85 habitat types of European importance and hosts a large number of species of European importance. The conservation status of these species and habitat types was assessed in 2007 for the period 2000-2006, however a mixed picture was revealed, including several knowledge gaps, which prevented assessment of a number of habitat types and species. A new assessment of their conservation status is expected to be finalized soon.

The 2009 edition of Greece’s red data book for plants includes 258 species of plants as threatened and two as considered extinct, while the 2009 edition of the red data book for animals includes 468 species (171 vertebrates and 297 invertebrates) of animals as threatened. Important protected species, such as the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) and the Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), have been the focus of action plans and LIFE-Nature projects which have achieved good outcomes.

Studies on genetic erosion during the last part of the 20th century have shown intense and rapid trends in cultivated cereals, vegetable crops, tree crops and grapevines. Domesticated animal breeds have also been lost at an alarming speed, with very few remaining in recent years.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The direct causes of loss to biodiversity are: loss, modification, degradation and fragmentation of natural and semi-natural habitats; unsustainable practices used in several types of production activities; climate change; soil, water and air pollution; biological invasions; and forest fires.

The main underlying causes of biodiversity loss that need to be tackled are: lack of knowledge for the state and trends of various biodiversity components; lack of vision and poor application of sustainability measures in the different economic sectors; administrative delays in the implementation of physical planning; poorly enforced existing legal and institutional provisions; underfinancing of actions related to conservation of genetic resources; and lack of stable management of protected areas.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

Adopted in 2014 as a Ministerial Decision, Greece’s first NBSAP aims to halt biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystem services by 2026. The Strategy’s implementation period is 15 years (2014-2029). It consists of 13 general national targets, under which 39 specific targets have been respectively formulated, to address the following themes: (i) increasing scientific knowledge; (ii) preservation of national natural capital; (iii) national system of protected areas; (iv) conservation of genetic resources; (v) synergistic policies to conserve biodiversity; (vi) conservation of landscape diversity; (vii) biodiversity and climate change; (viii) biodiversity and invasive alien species; (ix) international and transnational conservation; (x) public administration and the protection of biodiversity; (xi) integrating biodiversity conservation in the value system of society; (xii) participation of society in biodiversity conservation; and (xiii) valuation of ecosystem services and promotion of the value of Greek biodiversity.

Greece’s 13 general national targets have been mapped to both the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and EU Biodiversity Targets. The Strategy will be reviewed and amended every five years and action plans prepared for five-year periods. Actions for the achievement of all 39 specific targets have been established for the first five-year period (2014-2019), as have some indicative implementation indicators. The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change is the main institution responsible for implementation.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Greece is carrying out activities to integrate biodiversity conservation in its value system, including in formal and non-formal education, and conducting ecosystem functions and services valuation (in socioeconomic terms). Activities to promote these values are also being carried out.

Greece implements the European Council Regulation No. 1782/2003 that provides for the establishment of common rules for direct support schemes under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, including certain support schemes for farmers and amendment of previous regulations.

Sustainable management practices for forests in Greece have been introduced gradually since 1920, especially in terms of logging and grazing, and there is strong legal protection for forests and woodlands. Management plans are implemented for 10 years for forest complexes by the pertinent Forest Services. Moreover, the implementation of the EU Action Plan on Forests and the optimal use of available measures under the reformed Common Agricultural Policy, among other actions, support the implementation of the above. Notably, forest loss has been reduced, with cases of re-forestation taking place where grazing pastures have been abandoned. Wetland protection remains crucial.

Greek legislation imposes certain restrictions to fisheries and measures for the sustainable management of fisheries resources in the Mediterranean are applied as required by relevant EU regulations. The National Operational Program (2007-2013) for Fisheries and Aquaculture includes measures for the reduction of fishing capacity of the fleet and promotion of environmentally-friendly methods in aquaculture.

Around 12% of the terrestrial area is protected, as reported to the European Common Database of Designated Areas. Moreover, 163 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) according to the Birds Directive and 239 Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) according to the Habitats Directive have been included in the pan-European Natura 2000 network, covering more than 21% of the terrestrial part of the country and 6% of the national territory of sea. Twenty-seven management bodies have been established in a number of protected sites and/or SPAs and SCIs around the country.

The Greek Gene Bank was established in 1981. The recording of genetic resources is ongoing with respect to endemic plant varieties, herbal and medicinal plant species, and a considerable number of domestic and farm animal species. Additionally, the need to implement the Nagoya Protocol on ABS has revitalized the effort to establish a comprehensive national framework that will regulate access to and the sharing of benefits of genetic resources.

Greece is a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol on ABS and expects to have national legislation in place to implement the Protocol in 2016.

Local communities are represented in the management bodies for protected areas. Additionally, the issuing of all national legislation is required to undergo a process of public deliberation through an electronic platform.

The National Research Policy (2007-2013) is reflected in the Strategic Development Plan for Research, Technology and Innovation under the National Strategic Reference Framework (2007-2013). Biodiversity research is allocated in two of the eleven thematic priorities of the Strategic Development Plan, dealing with: agriculture, fishery, foodstuffs and biotechnology; and environment. Specific research themes include the utilization of biotechnology for the study, assessment and conservation of biodiversity; the protection of biodiversity for the sustainable use of the natural environment and the protection and considerable use of ecosystems (especially forestry and marine).

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

An Operational Program for the Environment and Sustainable Development (2007-2015) was adopted in 2007 as a component of the overall National Strategic Reference Framework (2007-2013). The second National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) was prepared in 2007 and had been partially implemented by 2009 when the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change was established. Within the context of sustainable development, the Ministry at this time adopted the overarching objective of “Green Growth” for the entire government structure. The country’s difficult financial situation required the promotion of a new model for development to serve citizens’ needs while in parallel respecting the environment as a reserve for development. Implementation of the new “Green Growth” Strategy requires close cooperation among all relevant ministry and government agencies as well the engagement of the private sector and social stakeholders.

Several programmes and projects have been implemented within the framework of the Bilateral Programme of Development Assistance and Cooperation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its bilateral aid programme is focused on 21 priority countries, with a high concentration in the Balkan and Black Sea region. The country is already considering possibilities for increasing its development aid activity in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Greece’s bilateral programme is focused on a limited number of sector priorities, which are in line with its overall objective of poverty reduction. Annual spending on biodiversity-related bilateral aid in 2006 was EUR 380 000, which amounted to 0.33 % of the total bilateral aid budget.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The monitoring system will be completed with the preparation of a report to be included in the Action Plan for the first five-year period (2014–2019) under Greece’s General Target 1 “Increase knowledge about the assessment of biodiversity status”, and Specific Target 1.1 “Facilitate access to scientific knowledge (regarding Greek flora and fauna) and fill the gaps in scientific data”.