ROADLESS

Title

ROADLESS
Roadless Αreas and sustainable development in Greece

Year

2019 - 2020

Funding

Measure: Innovative actions with citizens
39.831€

Coordinator

Partners

Project team

Assoc. Prof. Vassiliki Kati, scientific coordinator

Antonia Galani, project coordinator

Dr. Christina Kassara, biologist

Dr. Haritakis Papaioannou, biologist

Dr. Olga Tzortzakaki, biologist

Maria Psaralexi, biologist, PhD student (AUTH)

Maria Petridou, agronomist, PhD student (BCL/UOI)

Monika Hoffmann, forester, PhD student, Polish Academy of Sciences

Title

NATLAND
Undisturbed natural areas of Greece
(SEBI 13)

Year

2021-2022

Funding

Measure: Natural environment and innovative actions.
85.000€

Coordinator

Project team

Prof. Vassiliki Kati, scientific coordinator

Antonia Galani, biologist            

Dr. Christina Kassara, biologist

Dr. Haritakis Papaioannou, biologist

Dr. Olga Tzortzakaki, biologist

Maria Psaralexi, biologist, PhD student (AUTH)

Maria Petridou, agronomist, PhD student (BCL/UOI)

Dimitris Gotsis, Engineer

Stratos Papantoniou, MSc student (BCL)

 

Halt landscape fragmentation from road sprawl and the consequent biodiversity loss in natural ecosystems in Greece

It is not by coincidence that the biodiversity crisis era happens at the same time with the most explosive road sprawl in human history. With the length of paved roads projected to increase at a magnitude of 60% by 2050, road sprawl is a key driver triggering or accelerating land use change, which is recognized to be the top threat for biodiversity decline globally and in the EU. On one hand, road infrastructure is known to promote economic growth and human welfare, but on the other hand it causes land use change, fragmentation, increase of artificial land, chemical pollution, hydrological disruption, soil erosion, acceleration of biological invasions, animal mortality, overexploitation of natural resources and other often irreversible negative impacts to wildlife and ecosystem functioning. Humanity is dependent on biodiversity and ecosystem services and hence threatened by their collapse. The conservation of roadless areas (RAs) is recognized as a cost-effective and efficient tool to preserve biodiversity and its benefits for humans.

According to a recent report of the European Environmental Agency, Greece is less fragmented than the rest of Europe but presents higher rates of fragmentation increase. We evaluate the fragmentation intensity of Greece in terms of RAs number and extend. RAs are those land patches over 1 km2 that are at least 1 km away from the nearest road. We work in the science-policy interface suggesting the legal conservation of large RAs and roadless islands are wilderness areas of high ecological, natural and aesthetic value that they should be preserved from degradation and fragmentation.

BCL has undertook two projects (ROADLESS, NATLAND) to deliver the national roadless map of Greece, update the SEBI 13 European indicator, and provide scientific evidence and guidelines for incorporating roadless areas in national environmental policy and planning.

ROADLESS project activities:

  • Road mapping and delineation of extended RAs (over 50 km2) using GIS
  • Spatial data analysis of roadless areas polygons vs the Natura 2000 network
  • Ecological modeling to assess the contribution RAs to the conservation of wild fauna, taking as a case study the Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica) population in Tymfi mountain (species protected by the Habitats Directive 92/43/EC)
  • Synthesis of results in a final report on the use of extended RAs in the national environmental planning
  • Public awareness and result dissemination activities to the scientific community (databases, papers) and to policy makers and society (website, popular science, online questionnaire, policy brief, video spot)

 

NATLAND project activities:

  • Road mapping and delineation of all roadless areas in Greece above 1 km2
  • Identification of roadless islands of any size
  • Update of the European Indicator SEBI 13 for Greece “Fragmentation of natural and semi-natural ecosystems”, and of the relevant chapter in the national environmental state outlook
  • Synthesis of research outputs in a final report on the use of undisturbed natural areas (roadless areas and their buffer zone of 1km) in national environmental policy and planning
  • Public awareness and result dissemination activities to policy makers and society (website, popular science, policy brief, webinars)

 

Databases

Description: You can find here the database of the roadless areas of Greece over 10sqkm, produced under the project NATLAND from 7/2012 to 12/2021, funded by the Green Fund. The database comprises (a) the folder “NATLAND_shapefiles_10-50” making available six geospatial files with all the roadless areas of Greece 10-50 sqkm, out of which 40 areas overlap with the Natura 2000 network and 8 areas not, (b) the folder “NATLAND_shapefiles_over_50” making available six geospatial files with all the 7 roadless areas of Greece over 50 sqkm, (c) the folder “NATLAND_supplementary” making available all the candidate roadless areas 1-10 sqkm, currently under evaluation through mapping. Note that the above project deliverables will be submitted to the Green Fund later (March 2022), whilst some data are already officially delivered and accepted of the Green Fund. The file “NATLAND_results_2.xlsx” (in Greek) provides codes explanation and the project results, and the file “NATLAND_Μεθοδολογικός_οδηγός_2.pdf” presents the methodological guideline to produce the spatial databases (in Greek). The file NATLAND_README provides info on the content and terms of use of the shared datasets (in Greek).

 

Description: The dataset presents the roadless areas (RAs) of Greece (2/2020) in kmz format (Google Earth).  RAs are defined as those land patches of a size greater than 1 sq.km that are at least 1 km away from the nearest road. The dataset pinpoints the 1.115 RAs, accounting for 4.99% of the Greek land. The map includes high and medium confidence data. Red polygons indicate the RAs with an area ≥50 sq.km (high confidence data). They cover 0.51% of the Greek land and are located in six remote mountains: Lefka Ori, Timfi, Olympos, Taygetos, Saos, and Smolikas. The present database is the output of ROADLESS project. It was used by the Greek government to set up the “untrodden mountain” legislation, offering protection to all large roadless areas (apart from Olympos that is protected under a recent Presidential Decree), plus a smaller roadless area (Hatzi mountain). Orange polygons indicate the RAs with an area 1-50 sq.km and are of medium confidence, because their roads are not fully digitized. They are currently updated under NATLAND project, and within 2022 a full database of high confidence data will be available. [Open access database].

International publications

Abstract: Land use change poses as the top threat for biodiversity decline, and road sprawl as a key driver behind it globally. According to the recent Landscape Fragmentation Indicator (LFI), Greece is less fragmented than the rest of Europe but presents higher rates of fragmentation increase. We developed the Roadless Fragmentation Indicator (RFI) to monitor fragmentation in more natural ecosystems. The RFI calculates the percentage of land that is covered by roadless areas (RAs), defined as land patches over 1 km2 that are over 1 km away from the nearest road. We produced the roadless map of Greece, concluding to 1115 RAs ranked by size (1–256 km2) and to a national RFI of less than 5%. The RFI reflected naturalness, was significantly higher in the Natura 2000 network, and was more sensitive in less fragmented zones. Six mountains (0.51% of Greek land) have remained largely roadless (RAs ≥ 50 km2) and should be protected as such. We call for a straightforward roadlessness policy under a “European Roadless Rule” that would legally protect at least 2% of European land as road-free area. We also call for no further unjustified road sprawl in more natural and least fragmented ecosystems, as a measure to be integrated in all sectors of EU policy and particularly in the spatial planning of development projects. We recommend a five-step roadlessness guideline to be implemented in the European Union, including Greece, as a measure to effectively address biodiversity decline.

Abstract: Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica) is a protected species with an Inadequate-Bad (U2) conservation status in Greece. Our study explores its seasonal range use pattern, demography and habitat selection in a site of the Natura 2000 network, Timfi Mountain. To this aim, we examined 1168 observations obtained from six seasonal surveys (2002: four seasons, 2014 and 2017: autumn) and performed an ecological-niche factor analysis (ENFA), using 16 environmental and human-disturbance variables. The species had an annual range of 6491 ha (25% of the study area), followed the typical range-use pattern, and presented the minimum core area during the rutting season (autumn). Timfi Mt hosted 469 individuals in 2017 (the largest population in Greece), increasing by 3.55 times since 2002. The species selected higher altitudes during summer and autumn, pinewoods over broad-leaved woods as winter grounds, and it avoided south-facing slopes. Our results supported the anthropogenic risk avoidance hypothesis; the species always selected remote areas away from roads, human settlements, and hunting grounds. In Greece, 40% of its distribution area falls within hunting ban areas (16.5% of the country). A national conservation policy is needed towards maintaining and increasing roadless areas and hunting-ban areas within Balkan chamois range nationwide. [Open access publication].

Webinars/Conferences

Description: Invited lecture organized in the frame of a webinar organized by the Policy Committee of the European Section of the Society for Conservation Biology in 26/1/2021. Two recent papers published for Greece were used to illustrate the webinar topic (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108828 and https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144471). 

The goal of the webinar was : (A) to present the road sprawl and subsequent fragmentation problem at global and European scale, as roadless areas conservation is a long-term initiative of PC SCB-Europe. (B) to present the topical nexus of biodiversity loss and land-use change stemming from Renewable Energy Sources, such as windfarm infrastructures, rapidly developing in the EU under the European Green Deal. (C) To present the relevant legislative and policy frame at global and EU scale and discuss the perspectives of integrating the webinar messages into the EU policy and legal frame. The webinar was not open to the public, but under invitation of key EU experts and policymakers. The two main messages of the webinar were: Message 1: Restrain road sprawl and land take in natural ecosystems in legally binding terms. Message 2: Better integrate biodiversity in climate policies: prioritize RES in the least ecologically valuable zones. The following points were presented as questions/ points to consider for discussion by scientists and policymakers. 

  • Roadless areas should be integrated in the forthcoming European guideline as a criterion to set up ecological corridors expanding the network of protected areas (30% target), so as to increase the coherence of Natura 2000 and as a criterion to define and designating the strictly protected zones (10% target). [Biodiversity Strategy: EU Nature protection: key commitments by 2030]
  • Roadless areas should be included in the legally binding targets of ecosystem restoration in the forthcoming regulation, as It is equally important to actively restore degraded and carbon-rich ecosystems (active restoration) and to proactively maintain intact ecosystems (proactive restoration) for no need to restore in the future (cost –effective). Proactive restoration could be more beneficial for countries with large tracks of nature remained, mostly in Scandinavia, eastern Europe and parts of the Mediterranean. Member States should have the liberty to take restoration actions according to their specific needs, including road removal. [Biodiversity Strategy: EU Nature restoration plan: key commitments by 2030]
  • The  “no net land take by 2050” milestone should be legally binding in the frame of Art. 10 92/43/EEC and the Landscape Convention should be reinforced for actual landscape protection, management and planning.
  • Minimum land take should be integrated in the forthcoming regulation review of land use, land use change and forestry and road sprawl monitoring and roadless areas conservation should be considered in the 8th Environment Action Programme
  • SEAs, EIAs, AAs, or subsidizing regulations could be better implemented to reduce the impact of land-consuming projects
  • Landscape Fragmentation Indicator (LFI) and Roadless Fragmentation Indicator (RFI) could serve as new tools for monitoring and policy-making in the above frame. 
  • The EU could undertake an initiative of suggesting roadless areas as a distinct target in post-Aichi biodiversity strategy targets.

Science for society

Policy brief (in Greek) 

Kati et al. 2020. The Roadless Areas (RAs) as a tool of environmental planning in Greece. Pindos Perivallontiki & University of Ioannina. Greece. 10 p. (in Greek).

Video spot for Roadless Areas of Greece

Video spot for the conservation of the last roadless areas of Greece, as the last wilderness landscapes of high naturalness and high ecological value. CC BY-NC-ND: Biodiversity Conservation Lab (University of Ioannina) & Pindos Perivallontiki (English  & Greek subtitles).

Popular science roadless article (in Greek)

Kati V. 2021: Towards a new European and national policy of hampering road sprawl. Popular science text for road policy (in Greek). Oikotopia. Date: 27/12/2020.

Roadless news

NATLAND Project

NATLAND project entitled “Undisturbed natural areas of Greece (SEBI 13)” was part of the funding of the axis “Natural Environment & Innovative actions” of the

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Video for roadless Areas of Greece

Βίντεο με Ελληνικούς υπότιτλους για τις σοβαρές επιπτώσεις των δρόμων στη φύση και τη σημασία της διατήρησης των τελευταίων περιοχών χωρίς δρόμους της Ελλάδας, ως

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Media

This section lists articles of the international or national/ local press referring to the scientific findings of our research. The articles are indicative and are quoted without necessarily reflecting the opinion of BCL. 

19/12/2021. B. ΑΓΓΕΛΗ. typos-i. Στα «Απάτητα Βουνά» της Τύμφης και του Σμόλικα (κι όχι μόνο)

16/12/2021. Energia.gr. Γιώργος Αμυράς στην Βουλή για “Απάτητα Βουνά” και Προστατευόμενες Περιοχές Νatura

24/11/2021: Γ.  ΛΙΑΛΙΟΣ. Καθημερινή. “Απάτητα βουνά μακριά από δρόμους και τσιμέντο. Ο Γ. Αμυράς μιλάει στην Κ

1/11/2021. Ομιλία του Πρωθυπουργού Κυριάκου Μητσοτάκη στη διάσκεψη των Ηνωμένων Εθνών για την κλιματική αλλαγή COP26 (Ανακοίνωση των Απάτητων Βουνών). Primeminister.gr

22/12/2020: Γ. ΛΙΑΛΙΟΣ. Καθημερινή. «Οι πολλοί δρόμοι βλάπτουν τη φύση».

24/1/2021. Β. ΑΓΓΕΛΗ. Typos-i.«Τα αιολικά πάρκα, ο «διχασμός» και μια πρόταση». 

25/12/2020: Ρέθεμνος. «Απειλή για το περιβάλλον η διάνοιξη δρόμων στα Λευκά Όρη». 

24/12/2020: Ηπειρωτικός Αγών. «Αντιστέκονται Τύμφη και Σμόλικας στην κατάτμηση από δρόμους». 

23/12/2020. Epirustvnews. «Κ.Αρσένης: Υπό Εξέταση Η Προστασία 6 Βουνών Της Ελλάδας Από Άναρχα Αιολικά Λόγω Της Σημασίας Τους Για Την Βιοποικιλότητα». 

23/12/2020. Β. ΑΓΓΕΛΗ. Typos-i. «Σμόλικας και Τύμφη: Δύο Περιοχές Άνευ Δρόμων». 

21/12/2020.  Messinia live. «Ο Ταΰγετος στα 6 βουνά που έχουν μείνει ανέπαφα από τη χάραξη δρόμων-Ερώτηση στη Βουλή για την προστασία του» 

21/12/2020. Kalamata Journal. «Να ανακηρυχθούν ο Ταΰγετος και άλλα πέντε βουνά ως περιοχές που δεν θα επιτρέπεται η διάνοιξη νέων δρόμων