Protected Areas


Protected Areas In Greece

Recognizing the value of Greek nature and the need for effective protection, the Greek state has gradually developed a strong institutional framework for environmental protection and nature conservation, adopting several international conventions (since 1974) and all relevant EU Directives (since 1983) while enriching it with numerous national protection provisions (since 1950).

The current legislative framework covers a wide range of environmental issues, spanning from the conservation of genetic resources to climate change, with an emphasis on the establishment and legal protection of the country’s protected areas.

Protected Areas In Greece

The National System of Protected Areas is comprised of all areas that are subject to a protection regime with the aim of effectively protecting biodiversity and other ecological values.

The different categories of protected areas were initially defined in art. 19 of Law No. 1650/1986 “On the Protection of the Environment”. Following successive amendments, PA categories now include:

Φωτογράφος: Νίκος Καρανικόλας
Φωτογράφος : Απόστολος Γκρίνιας
Φωτογράφος: Ντίνος Μιχαήλ

Biodiversity Conservation Areas

Terrestrial, aquatic, marine or mixed type, natural or semi-natural areas with a recorded presence of natural habitat types and species of international, EU importance and/or Greek interest that require protection and conservation. All national sites belonging to the Natura 2000 Network are included in this category.


National Parks

Large natural or semi-natural areas, either terrestrial, marine or mixed in nature, wherein large-scale ecological functions take place. They encompass typical species and natural habitats of EU and Greek interest which demand protection and conservation. National parks may be named based on their geographical characteristics and/or according to their historical or administrative identity. They may include two or more Natura 2000 sites and/or biodiversity conservation areas, particularly if they incorporate a wide range of ecosystem functions with common spatial, natural and/or abiotic characteristics.


Wildlife Refuges

Natural areas (terrestrial, marine or wetlands) having a particular significance in preserving wildlife populations and which provide habitats for breeding, feeding, resting and overwintering wildlife species. Ecological corridors connecting protected areas can also be designated as Wildlife Refuges.


Protected Landscapes and Natural Formations

Functional elements of nature or individual formations (eg. points or areas of interest), which have special ecological, geological or geomorphological value or which contribute to the preservation of natural processes and the protection of natural resources. They may include trees, tree and shrub stands, protective marine vegetation, riparian and coastal vegetation, hedges, waterfalls, springs, gorges, dunes, reefs, caves, rocks, fossils, paleontological finds, coral formations and geotopes. Protected natural formations with a monumental nature are specifically designated as Protected Natural Monuments. Individual areas within National Parks, Biodiversity Conservation Areas and/or Wildlife Refuges can be characterized Protected Natural Formations and can be included in the scalable protection zoning of these areas.


Finally, certain protected areas were designated as National Forests, Aesthetic Forests, Preserved Monuments of Nature, Controlled Hunting Areas and Game Farms, according to older legislation stemming from the Forest Code and the wider forestry framework.

Φωτογράφος : Μανόλης Τσαντάκης

Natura 2000 Network

The Natura 2000 network is a network of key sites, both on land and at sea, that spans across all 27 EU countries and is the largest organized network of protected areas in the world. It aims to protect areas considered essential for selected species of flora and fauna or habitat types among those listed in both the European Birds Directive (79/409/EEC, as amended by Directive 2009/147/EC) and the European Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). These include species and habitats that are considered to be of European importance because they are threatened with extinction, are vulnerable, rare or endemic, or are excellent examples of typical features of one or more of Europe’s nine biogeographical regions. The whole of Greece is included in the Mediterranean biogeographical region.

Natura 2000 network sites include different types of ecosystems such as terrestrial, lagoon and marine ecosystems. An ecosystem can include one or more habitats and usually hosts a diverse community of plants and animals.


While the network includes strictly protected areas, to a large extent it is not a system of strict nature reserves from which all human activities are excluded. The approach to the conservation and sustainable use of Natura 2000 sites is much broader and focuses heavily on people who work with nature rather than at its expense. However, Member States must ensure that sites are managed in a sustainable way, both ecologically and economically.


The Natura 2000 network numbers more than 27.000 sites covering a total area of ​​approximately 1.150.000 square kilometers of land and sea in all EU Member States. The total area covered by the Natura 2000 network represents about 18% of the total EU land area and 8% of its marine territory

In Greece, the Natura 2000 network includes a total of 446 sites occupying 27% of the country’s land area and over 19% of its marine territory. The revision of the national list was carried out with Joint Ministerial Decision 50743/2017 “Revision of the national list of areas of the European Ecological Network Natura 2000” (Government Gazette B ‘4432/17).

The Natura 2000 network includes:


  1. Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for Birds, as defined in the EU Wild Birds Directive. SPAs are designated by Member States and are automatically included in Natura 2000 sites.
  2. Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) as defined in the EU Habitats Directive. A national list of “Sites of Community Importance (SCI)” is initially drawn up by each Member State. A scientific evaluation and negotiation is then carried out between the Member State and the European Commission in order to finalize the list of SCIs. With the finalization of the list by the European Commission, the Member State declares these areas as SACs within six years.
Φωτογράφος : Ζαχαρίας Ορφανουδάκης
Φωτογράφος: Στέλιος Παπαλαμπρόπουλος
Φωτογράφος: Παύλος Αθηνάκης

Protected Area Management

With law 1650/1986 (Government Gazette A ‘160) “For the Protection of the Environment” the terms and categories for the designation of protected areas were defined.


This was followed by the establishment of Management Bodies for the management of the respective Protected Areas. Specifically, the concept and scope of protected area management bodies was first introduced with law 2742/1999 and subsequently 25 Management Bodies were founded with law 3044/2002.


Law 4519/2018 expanded the legal framework of Protected Area Management Bodies, and established a further eight (8) new Management Bodies resulting in a total of thirty-six (36) Management Bodies which encompass the entire Natura 2000 Network.

N.E.C.C.A.’s founding law 4685/2020 established twenty-four (24) Protected Areas Management Units (PAMUs) which operate at the department level. The PAMUs cover all protected areas identified as biodiversity conservation areas, National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and protected landscapes – protected natural formations.


N.E.C.C.A. assumes the role of a central coordinating body for the governance and management of the natural environment. Within the framework of its responsibilities, it prepares an implementation program of the protected area management plans which is approved by the Minister of Environment and Energy.


The tools of the National System of Governance of Protected Areas, as defined in article 33 of Law 4685/2020, are the following:


  1. a) the National Biodiversity Strategy and its Five-Year Action Plan;
  2. b) the Priority Action Framework for the Natura 2000 network,
  3. c) the Presidential Decrees on the designation, terms of protection and land use of protected areas
  4. d) the approved Protected Area Management Plans,
  5. e) approved Habitat Species Action Plans,
  6. f) the Agreements and the Memoranda of Cooperation concluded between N.E.C.C.A and other public bodies,
  7. g) the Information Management System of the policy for PAs which is implemented and operated by N.E.C.C.A

(h) monitoring the conservation status of habitat and species types according to Article 11 of the Habitat’s Directive and the national reports described in Article 17 of the Habitat’s Directive and Article 12 of the Bird’s Directive.

Φωτογράφος : Γιάννης Λάριος
Φωτογράφος: Μπάμπης Γκιριτζιώτης
Photographer: Anestis Georgiadis