In tough times, Greece takes bold steps to protect its biodiversity!



Posted on 10 March 2011  | 
Dalmatian Pelicans, Prespa Lake, Greece.
© WWF-Greece/Andrea BonettiEnlarge
Athens, Greece – In a debate that lasted several weeks, the Greek Parliament today voted Greece’s first national Biodiversity Law! This important development comes at a time when Greece finds itself in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis and mounting pressures on the natural environment and biodiversity.
 
Discussions in the Parliament were dominated by objections regarding the potential impact that specific provisions of the law would have on building rights within protected areas. The most noteworthy parts of this new law are:
 
•    the organization of an integrated and science-based system of protected areas, with simple designation procedures and improved administrative support,
•    the provision for the adoption of urgent conservation measures, in cases of rapid decline of species populations or critical habitat degradation,
•    a strengthened framework for the imposition of sanctions on crimes against biodiversity
•    a new legal framework for the protection of small island wetlands, and the inclusion of conservation measures for marine species and habitats,
•    regulations for building within the boundaries of Natura 2000 protected areas.
 
WWF, the global conservation organisation, congratulates the Greek Government and particularly the Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Tina Birbili, and the supportive Members of Parliament on this important step towards conserving the integrity of the most outstanding natural places and species in Greece and contributing to a more secure and sustainable future for all.  
 
“WWF Greece has actively campaigned for this law which we consider an important step for nature conservation in Greece. Despite the views expressed by certain MPs, asking for more building rights within protected areas, the voted law is a sign of hope that Greece’s natural heritage will not be ignored or sacrificed in the quest for rapid financial gain”, states Demetres Karavellas, CEO of WWF Greece.

“The greatest challenge however lies in implementing the provisions of this law. WWF stands ready to assist in making this happen.”
 
“This new law is an important tool in implementing critical European legislation such as the Wild Birds and Habitats Directives. With the right vision of promoting and celebrating its wonderful natural heritage, investing in nature conservation should also assist Greece in finding a way out of the challenging financial crisis,” states Tony Long, Director of the WWF European Policy Office.
 
For further information:
Iason Kantas, Press officer, WWF Greece
Tel: +30 210 33 14 893
Mobile: +30 698 247 1724
E-mail: i.kantas@wwf.gr
 
Notes to editors
1. Globally important ecoregions registered in Greece by WWF
The mountain ranges of Northern Pindos and the Rhodope, as well as the forests of Crete are registered by WWF International as three of the 825 distinct global terrestrial ecoregions[1]. These areas, are part of the global natural heritage. For more information on these ecoregions, please visit the following links:
Crete Mediterranean forests (PA1205)
Pindus Mountains mixed forests (PA1217)
Rodope montane mixed forests (PA0435)
Also, Greek seas and islands are part of the Mediterranean ecoregion, many forest ecosystems are part of the European-Mediterranean Montane Mixed Forests or the Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands and Scrub ecoregions and certain freshwater ecosystems are included under the Balkan Rivers and Streams ecoregion, which have been identified by WWF International as four of the globe’s 200 priority ecoregions.

2. Greek nature in numbers
• Fauna: 116 species of mammals (4 endemic), 442 species of birds, 59 species of reptiles (6 endemic), 20 species of amphibians (2 endemic), 110 species of freshwater fish (35 endemic), 447 species of marine fish, 649 endemic species of coleoptera, 174 species of terrestrial molluscs
• Flora: Over 5,500 species of flowering plants, 936 of which are endemic
• More than 250 mountains of altitudes higher than 1,000 metres
• 3,612,992 hectares of forest cover, 10 wetlands of international importance (protected under the Ramsar Convention), 241 Sites of Community Importance (protected under the EU’s Habitats Directive), 202 Special Protection Areas (protected under the EU’s Wild Birds Directive) and 14 National Parks
• Over 800 small wetlands on Greek islands, covering an area of more than 45 km2
• Over 3,000 islands, only 227 of which are inhabited
• The Prespa Lakes host the largest population of the Dalmatian Pelican on earth!
• Sekania beach in Zakynthos hosts the largest number of sea turtle nests in the Mediterranean!
• The forest of Dadia in Evros offers vital habitat to 36 out of the 38 species of diurnal raptors that inhabit the European Union!
Dalmatian Pelicans, Prespa Lake, Greece.
© WWF-Greece/Andrea Bonetti Enlarge

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