Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Areas

Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Areas.

With the integration in Natural Environment and Climate Change Agency (NECCA) of the Management Body of Amvrakikos Gulf – Lefkada island, the Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Areas operates under N.E.C.C.A.’s Protected Areas Management Directorate (Sector A), based in Salaora (Arta).

Its spatial area of jurisdiction includes the following Natura 2000 sites:


General description

Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park

Amvrakikos attracts strong interest in National and International level, as one of the most important wetlands of Greece with high ecological value. Important habitats, protected bird species, along with an abundance of plants, animals and fish compose an image of unique diversity and beauty. More than 295 bird species have been recorded in Amvrakikos, out of a total of about 450 species of the Hellenic avifauna. Moreover, the bottlenose dolphins well known as “dolphins of Amvrakikos” and the sea turtle, are examples of rare and endangered fauna.

In addition to the aforementioned, the priority habitats of 20 large and small lagoons, the highly developed outflow systems of the rivers Arachthos and Louros, the covered with shells barrier-island lagoons, the wealth of fish fauna of the bay, the endemic fish species, the existence of few of the remaining riparian forests  and the distinctive geomorphology of the largest semi-closed bay of the country, enable us to understand the wealth of biodiversity, which is hidden in the Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park.

The position and shape of the bay, which create a large (400 sq. Km) and protected sea with rich and diverse coastal zone have attracted human activities since ancient times.

Swamp of Rodia (Credit: Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Areas)
Swamp of Rodia (Credit: Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Areas)
Lagoon of Rodia (Credit: Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Areas)
Lagoon of Rodia (Credit: Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Areas)

Legal Framework


Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park

The Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park was founded on March 21, 2008 by Joint Ministerial Decree 11989/2008 (Government Gazette 123/D‘/21-03-2008). The declaration of the area as a National Park and the definition of uses, conditions and limitations, has been the result of a long effort, in connection with the environmental protection of the region on a national level. The establishment of the National Park aims at the conservation and management of nature and landscape, as a natural heritage and a valuable national natural resource of the land and water parts of the wider area of the Amvrakikos Gulf, that are distinguished for their great biological, ecological, aesthetic, scientific, geomorphological and pedagogical value.

More specifically, the aim is to preserve and manage rare habitats and species of flora and fauna, especially the avifauna, which is composed of several important species. With the designation of the area as a National Park, four (4) Protection Zones are demarcated in which the measures for the protection of the Natural Environment are escalated according to the following order:

Environmental Control Zone which occupies 177,990 ha, which concerns the wider protection area and in which the mildest management measures are taken

Zone B’ Areas of Special Arrangements of a total area of 10,522 ha, in which specific measures and management conditions are provided, while at the same time for each human activity, the consent of the relevant Management Unit is required

Zone A1′ Special Water Management of an area of 457 ha, which provides for specific conditions for the operation of existing land-based aquaculture units, after the agreement of the relevant Management Unit

Zone A’ Nature Protection Areas, of a total area of 18,246 ha, which include land, sea and lagoon sections, as well as any permanent or seasonally flooded area, within the above areas and which provide for stricter provisions and restrictions of the permitted activities and always after the consent of the relevant Management Unit

The importance of the area for the conservation of biodiversity has been internationally recognized with its inclusion in the Wetlands of International Importance of the Ramsar Treaty (2/2/1971), as well as by the Bern Conventions (19/9/1979) on the “Conservation of Wildlife and Natural Environment of Europe”, Bonn (23/6/1979) on the “Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Fauna” and Barcelona (16/2/1976) on the “Protected Areas of the Mediterranean”.

In addition, the Amvrakikos National Wetlands Park is included in the European Network of Protected Areas NATURA 2000 with the demarcation of four (4) areas, in which the terms and provisions of the European Directives 92/43 on the “Conservation of natural habitats, as well as of wild fauna and flora” and 2009/147 on the “Conservation of wild birds” apply. In detail, the 4 areas of the Natura 2000 Network are the following:

– GR2110001: “Amvrakikos Gulf, Louros and Arachthos delta (Petra, Mytikas, wider area, lower Arachthos, Kampi Filippiada), total area 60,103.56 ha

– GR2110004: “Amvrakikos Gulf, Kafourko lagoon and Korakonisia”, total area 23,010.75 ha

– GR2310006: “Lakes Voulkaria and Saltini”, total area 3.122,62 ha

– GR2310014: “Voulkaria Lake”, total area 3,272.70 ha.

Natural Environment


Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park


Amvrakikos is one of the most complex wetlands mosaic in Greece. The  Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park includes sixteen natural habitats types, according to the evaluation criteria of Directive 92/43/EEC. Most lagoons are cited in the northern part of the Amvrakikos gulf, formed by the action of the alluvial rivers Arachthos and Louros.

Other impressive natural formations of the area are the barrier-islets, that have been created among the lagoons of the Amvrakikos gulf. The lagoon Saltini and Voulkaria Lake have a significant role, as they are spread boundaries of the protected species Carexacuta (Carexpanormitana Guss).

The largest pure reed bed of the Balkans, Rodia, along with the salt water marshes of Arachthos and the fresh water marshes of Louros, are some of the major and most important habitat types.



A great variety of vegetation can be found, across the hills of the extended region (Mavrovouni, Salaora, Prophet Elias, Saint Ekaterini), that consists of thermophilic deciduous species of oak, such as downy oak (Quercus pubescens), broadleaved oak (Quercus frainetto), holm oak (Quercus coccifera), wild olive (Olea oleaster), ostrya (Ostrya caprinifolia), Asfaka (Flomis fruticosa) and Paliouri (Paliurus spina cristi).

Finally, one of the last remaining riparian forests of our country, called Saint Varnavas, is preserved near the village Louros. It is composed of clusters of Nerofraxon (Fraxinus angustifolia) and other hydrophilic broadleaf species.




The wide area of Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park is well-known for its outstanding importance for birdlife. It is the main hub in a migratory path of many species. About 300 species can be observed in the area of the National Park. Six of them are significant for the region. These are:

Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus) one of the heaviest birds they can fly. It creates its nests inside the lagoons, on isolated and well-protected natural islands.

The (Eurasian) bittern (Botaurus stellaris) is acryptic species, which lives among the reeds with perfect cover-up. It nourishes legends and fairytales, and it’s called the “beast of the Swamp”. His call is a low frequency sound, which can be heard over long distances and sounds like a ship horn. Two eagles, alternate visitors of the region; the Spotted eagle (Aquila clanga) and the Lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina). A rare species of duck, the Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca) live within the area of Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park. It is a species with hig hecological requirements in specific habitat and sensitive to disturbance. Few species are hosted and breed mainly in the reeds of Rodia. The reed bed Rodia is the largest purereed bed in Greece and it’s an important habitat for several species, especially birds. Finally, the Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus) which is a small piscivorous bird. Many people still confuse it with cormorants, but it is smaller in size and has a finer silhouette. Furthermore, a great variety of birds can be found such as Grey Herons, egrets, squacco herons, night herons, spoonbills, glossy ibis, black-winged stilts, grebes, coots and many other species depending on the type of wetland.


About 85 fish species have been recorded in Amvrakikos waters as well as in the coastal lagoons, most of which are considerable fisheries resource. A lot of young fish feed and grow in the eutrophic waters of the lagoons, where they find ideal conditions for their growth. Because of the gulf’s great productivity in fish, a lot of locals are fishermen. Sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), sea bream (Sparus auratus), common sole (Solea vulgaris), ells (Anguilla Anguilla), mullet (Mugil cephalus) etc. are fished in the Amvrakikos and the nearby lagoons. Bortargo, best known as caviar, comes from the female mullet, which the local fishermen call bafa. Amvrakikos gulf is also known for its sardine (Sardina pilchardus), but also for its shrimp, the famous «gabari» (Melikertus kerathurus) which is a traditional product with high market value. An endangered species that visits the area is the sea turtle (Caretta caretta), which is under protection. The wider area of Amvrakikos gulf is an important nutritional place for the turtles. All year round one can find hundreds of young and adult turtles, which feed and breed here, but build their nests in other Mediterranean areas.

The most typical sea mammal of the gulf is the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). There are about 150 such dolphins in groups of 20-30 individuals. What is special about them is that they live in Amvrakikos all year long, without coming in contact with the population of the Ionian Sea and that is why they have a unique behavior and ecology.

Dalmatian pelican (Credit: Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Areas)
Dalmatian pelican (Credit: Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Areas)
Little egret (Credit: Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Areas)
Little egret (Credit: Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Areas)


Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park


Projects implemented are the following:

-ProAct Natura2000, INTERREG Greece-Italy 2007-13

-Identification, consequences and management of the anoxic zone of Amvrakikos gulf (NW Greece), Financial mechanism 2009-14 of European Economic Area (EEA)

-Tune Up, Interreg Med 2014-20

-Subsidy of the Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Area for management actions of protected areas, species and habitats, Operational Program Transport Infrastructure, Environment and Sustainable Development 2014-20

-Smart digital applications and tools for promoting effectively the biodiversity of the Ionian Islands, Operational Program of Ionian Islands 2014-20

-Management of human activities, compatible with the protection and promotion of species and habitats in the wider sea area of Lefkada, Operational Program of Ionian Islands 2014-20

-Operation of an Environmental Interpretation and Interactive Digital Information Center, Operational Program of Epirus 2014-20

-Life Transfer, “Seagrass transplantation for transitional Ecosystem Recovery”, 2020-2025

-Investments for the Protection of Nationally Protected Areas covered by the ADP of the Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf, Operational Program “Western Greece 2014-2020”



The aim of the environmental monitoring carried out by the staff of the Management Unit is the assessment of the state of the natural environment in the area of its responsibility and the optimal planning of the management measures of the area. The Management Unit is actively involved in actions for the monitoring of the Dalmatian Pelicans, the Herons, the Cormorants and the White Stork. It also systematically monitors priority habitats. Monitoring is based on random sampling. Time (season) and sampling/monitoring conditions differ in each habitat type. Therefore, the critical period for the monitoring of the habitat types that exist in the Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park is the flowering season, important for the identification and registration, for most species, which we should monitor. The summer months are also important, due to the fact that coastal and halophytic habitat types are monitored when the aquifer is at its lowest level and we can have access to sampling areas covered with water. In the saline soils of the region there are halophytes (plants with special adaptations to saline soils) such as Salicornia europaea, Arthrocnemum fruticosum, Jungus acutus. We also find nitrophilic vegetation, such as Cakile maritime and sand-loving vegetation such as Euphorbia paralias.



The responsibilities of the Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Area include the provision of opinions on projects and activities carried out within its area of responsibility.



Within the protected are of the Park, residents develop numerous productive activities (livestock, agriculture, fishery, arboriculture, industrial production, tourism services), which should be consistent with the protection of nature and landscape.

Consequently, the action of information-awareness is necessary for the residents and visitors of the protected area, in order to become familiar with the regulations and conditions which govern them and to establish moral values and concepts that are harmonized with the natural environment.

In this context, awareness programs are implemented in the protected area, as well as themed events and workshops, which are targeted to specific audiences. The aim is for the new generation to be environmentally educated through audio visual material, volunteer cleanups, tree planting, bicycle races, bird watching, which are aimed for the students to experience the rich flora and fauna of the National Park and pass on values that will lead to new perceptions and attitudes.



The Management Unit of Acheloos Valley and Amvrakikos Gulf Protected Area assists the competent services in the control and observance of the current legislation for the protection of the Natural Environment. The large human presence and the diversity of activities carried out in the protected area, makes it imperative to have a mechanism for monitoring and recording any activity that degrades the ecosystem. Nevertheless, the human presence and the diversity of activities which are carried out in the protected area require the establishment of a mechanism for monitoring and recording every activity that degrades the ecosystem.

Using this approach, there are 8 supervisors – guards, who are responsible to monitor illegal activities, that may harm the local ecosystem (poaching, illegal construction projects – road construction, waste deposition and disposal of debris, illegal logging, overgrazing, etc.). This effort focuses on prevention and dissuasion of any event, that could lead to the degradation of the natural environment. In some cases the presence of guards is sufficient to prevent any illegal action but in other cases, the information of the local authorities (Police, Coast Guard, Forest Service, and other relevant departments) is necessary.

Human activities

Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park

The main pressures concern the existence of agricultural activities, the construction of hydroelectric dams on the rivers Louros and Arachthos, the land and sea fish farms, the wastewater treatment units, the land reclamation works of the plain of the prefectures of Arta and Preveza and in addition the technical works in the wider area of the port of Preveza.The livestock and agriculture sector is highly developed in the prefectures of Arta and Preveza, since it has been an integral part of the local economy for many years. In particular, the livestock sector is a driving force of the economy throughout the region of Epirus. Most of the pig, poultry and cattle farms are located in the lowland part of the prefectures of Arta and Preveza.Moreover, within the National Park of Wetlands of Amvrakikos, there are tourist enterprises and accommodation that host the visitors of the area.


Websites of Programs/Actions of the Management Body:

Management Body’s website :