«Biological diversity» or «Biodiversity» refers to the diversity of all life forms. It is usually defined as: “the variability among living organisms from all sources, including, ‘inter alia’, terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems” (1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro).
Biodiversity is traditionally examined at three levels:
The protection of each level depends on the protection of the previous or next level. Thus, protection and conservation of landscapes depends on the protection and conservation of the diversity of ecosystems that compose them. Similarly, the stability of ecosystems depends on the protection and conservation of the species that comprise them. In its turn, the protection and conservation of species diversity and species survival depends on the conservation of their genetic diversity.
The sheer number and diversity of modern life forms on Earth is the result of hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary history. Owing to evolutionary processes, biodiversity fluctuates. The emergence of new genes in a population, new species in a biological community and / or new types of ecosystems in the biosphere increases the biodiversity of the population, the community and ultimately, the planet. Similarly, a decrease in the genetic diversity of a population, the extinction of a species and/or the alteration, simplification in the composition of an ecosystem respectively reduces the overall biodiversity.
Greece is a Mediterranean country with exceptional biological wealth. Though a predominantly mountainous country (66%), it simultaneously has a strong island character (9,800 islands, 18,400 km of coastline). The country’s geographical location, complex geography, geological and soil diversity, the heterogeneity of its landscape and the impressive coexistence of various microclimatic conditions explain Greece’s high degree of endemism and high biodiversity value. The flora of Greece consists of approximately 5,752 species (6,600 classes), 22% of which are endemic (1,278 species), while an additional 503 classes of multicellular algae and 750 classes of mosses have been recorded. The fauna of Greece is estimated at around 50,000 species, numbering over 24,731 species of invertebrates and 1,273 species of vertebrates (630 fish, 22 amphibians, 64 reptiles, 442 birds and 115 mammals), with a degree of endemism of more than 16%.
At the national level, the most important legislation for the conservation of biodiversity includes Law No. 3937/2011 “On the Conservation of Biodiversity” and the “National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan ” (Ministerial Decision No. 40332/2014).
The country’s progress in the field of nature conservation and biodiversity is measured using indicators. These include 4 of the 17 United Nations Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 8 of the 20 Aichi Goals, 4 of the 6 goals of the European Biodiversity Strategy and 6 of the 13 goals of the National Biodiversity Strategy.
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State of the environment – Nature & Biodiversity
The state of nature and biodiversity in Greece is rather satisfactory compared to the rest of the EU, and the country has made significant progress. In recent years, there has been a considerable reduction (35%) of the ecological footprint (Greece has been placed in one of the best positions in Europe) and a respective downward trend in the carbon footprint of agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing. Terrestrial eco-systems appear to be in better condition than marine ecosystems, mainly due to overfishing and illegal fishing practices. To this extent, the recent significant increase of marine protected areas that have been included in the NATURA 2000 network is a positive advancement. The elimination of threats to forest ecosystems, which receive the most pressures from various activities (mining, industry, agriculture and tourism), should be among Greece’s priorities. Progress in establishing forest maps has been particularly positive, which upon completion will have contributed decisively to the ability to monitor and protect the Greek forests.
In the transport sector, the expansion of the country’s road network ought to be limited in order to curb the fragmentation of the landscape and its natural ecosystems. It should be noted that there is scope for further improvements with the adoption of Presidential Decrees for the protection of NATURA 2000 sites, which will regulate land uses and implement specific management measures; that currently exist in very few areas.