Publications 2

Electronic brochure/poster (pdf) summarizing how the climate targets for clean energy in Greece can be achieved from the operation of wind farms, without substantial damage to biodiversity, in the context of European environmental policy and the Sustainable Development Goals. What is the European Green Deal? What is the Greek energy and climate policy? What is the value of Greece in terms of its biodiversity? Are wind farms damaging biodiversity and when? What is the international experience on this issue? What does new research in Greece suggest for the proper sitting of wind farms with little damage to biodiversity? The answers in the form of a wall poster. (in English)
The biodiversity impacts of agricultural deforestation vary widely across regions. Previous efforts to explain this variation have focused exclusively on the landscape features and management regimes of agricultural systems, neglecting the potentially critical role of ecological filtering in shaping deforestation tolerance of extant species assemblages at large geographical scales via selection for functional traits. Here we provide a large-scale test of this role using a global database of species abundance ratios between matched agricultural and native forest sites that comprises 71 avian assemblages reported in 44 primary studies, and a companion database of 10 functional traits for all 2,647 species involved. Using meta-analytic, phylogenetic and multivariate methods, we show that beyond agricultural features, filtering by the extent of natural environmental variability and the severity of historical anthropogenic deforestation shapes the varying deforestation impacts across species assemblages. For assemblages under greater environmental variability—proxied by drier and more seasonal climates under a greater disturbance regime—and longer deforestation histories, filtering has attenuated the negative impacts of current deforestation by selecting for functional traits linked to stronger deforestation tolerance. Our study provides a previously largely missing piece of knowledge in understanding and managing the biodiversity consequences of deforestation by agricultural deforestation.
Wind harnessing is a fast-developing and cost-effective Renewable Energy Source, but the land impacts of wind power stations are often overlooked or underestimated. We digitized land take, i.e., the generation of artificial land, derived from 90 wind power stations in Greece constructed between 2002 and 2020 (1.2 GW). We found substantial land take impacts of 7729 m2/MW (3.5 m2/MWh) of new artificial land, 148 m/MW of new roads and 174 m/MW of widened roads on average. Models showed that the number and size of wind turbines, the absence of other existing infrastructures and the elevational difference across new access roads increased artificial land generation. The elevational difference across new and widened access roads also increased their length. New wind power stations in Greece are planned to be installed at higher elevations and in terrains facing higher risks for soil erosion and soil biodiversity. The general tendency in the European Union is to sit fewer wind power stations in mountainous and forested land. Still, this pattern is inversed in several countries, particularly in Southern Europe. After screening 28 policy and legal documents, we found that land take is indirectly inferred in the global policy but more directly in the European policy through five non-legally binding documents and three Directives. However, the current European energy policies seem to conflict with nature conservation policies, risking land take acceleration. The study provides insights for reducing land take when planning and constructing wind power stations. We underline the need for better quantification of land take and its integration in the complex process of sustainable spatial planning of investments.
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Invertebrate populations are amongst the most widespread species, inhabiting a variety of habitats, however there is limited conservation effort due to the scarce knowledge on their population genetics. Here, we assess levels of genetic diversity and population structure of the Epirus dancing grasshopper (Chorthippus lacustris), a steno-endemic species, located in Northwest Greece, exhibiting a fragmented distribution. By utilizing two mitochondrial genes and amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs), we detected moderate to high levels of genetic diversity of the focal populations. Haplotype network analysis revealed the existence of private haplotypes with low genetic differentiation suggesting a sudden expansion of the species in the study area with subsequent isolations on suitable habitats. Despite the low genetic differentiation between the studied populations, our data further suggest a subtle subdivision of the populations and the existence of three genetic clusters. Implications for insect conservation: Our study is the first to provide insights into the population genetics of the steno-endemic grasshopper C. lacustris, highlighting the importance of preserving focal populations. The species inhabits areas subject to high changes in land use and fragmentation. We argue that the preservation and management of suitable habitats is essential for the viability of the grasshopper populations.
Livestock depredation is the primary driver of wolf-human conflict worldwide, threatening wolf conservation and impacting human livelihoods. Most countries implement relevant compensation programs, which are however rarely accompanied by proactive husbandry practices vetted with scientific research. We investigated the influence of husbandry practices on wolf depredation losses for 70 sheep/goat and 68 cattle herds with quantitative modeling of data from semi-structured interviews of livestock farmers along a livestock damage gradient in NW Greece. Sheep/goat herds were better protected than cattle herds in seven preventive measures and annual losses of sheep/goat livestock units were three times lower than losses of cattle livestock units in our study area. Furthermore, according to national compensation data from Greece, costs paid for cattle have doubled in recent years, whereas they have been cut in half for sheep/goats. Our modeling identified three core preventive measures that significantly reduced wolf depredation risk for both herd types, namely increased shepherd surveillance, systematic night confinement, and an adequate number of livestock guardian dogs (optimal ratio was 3 Greek guardian dogs per 100 sheep/goats and 7 guardian dogs per 100 cattle). Keeping young livestock in enclosures and not abandoning livestock carcasses in pastures were additional effective preventive measures for cattle herds. Our study provides evidence to inform the subsidizing policy put forth in the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union. It can also serve to inform or revise wildlife-livestock conflict mitigation policy in countries challenged with the competing goals of conserving large carnivores while maintaining traditional grazing regimes. © 2023 Elsevier Ltd
Preserving ecosystems of high ecological integrity is a crucial target in Biodiversity Strategies, also serving the 10 % target of strict land protection in the European Union (EU). We recommend roadless mapping to delineate wilderness and monitor progress against loss in natural areas. We mapped Greece’s roadless land and assessed its ecological attributes. It accounted for 6.1 % of Greece and comprised 451 roadless sites of size over 1 km2: 389 roadless areas and 62 fully roadless islands. Roadless sites occurred in mountains and islands, were undeveloped (no artificial land), undisturbed (no major pressures, [removed]99 % of natural and seminatural vegetation cover, 68 % of their extent in the Natura 2000 network). They also lay in a wilderness continuum of low landscape fragmentation index. Most roadless sites (302) were larger than 10 km2. Larger roadless areas occurred more in higher mountains and steeper terrains, had a lower Human Influence Index and a better Natura 2000 coverage. Roadless sites demonstrated a buffering capacity against naturalness loss and fires (2.5 times lower percentage of burnt land than the national average) but were vulnerable to Renewable Energy Sources deployment, particularly wind farms (33 % of roadless areas might be affected). In support of a roadless policy we suggest using roadless sites to delimit the strictly protected zones in the EU (and Greece), to map primary-old-growth forests, and pinpoint new candidate protected areas. We strongly recommend revisiting the REPowerEU plan to define roadless sites as non-go-to areas for relevant infrastructure deployments. © 2023 Elsevier Ltd.
Motivation: Aquatic insects comprise 64% of freshwater animal diversity and are widely used as bioindicators to assess water quality impairment and freshwater ecosystem health, as well as to test ecological hypotheses. Despite their importance, a comprehensive, global database of aquatic insect occurrences for mapping freshwater biodiversity in macroecological studies and applied freshwater research is missing. We aim to fill this gap and present the Global EPTO Database, which includes worldwide geo-referenced aquatic insect occurrence records for four major taxa groups: Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera and Odonata (EPTO). Main type of variables contained: A total of 8,368,467 occurrence records globally, of which 8,319,689 (99%) are publicly available. The records are attributed to the corresponding drainage basin and sub-catchment based on the Hydrography90m dataset and are accompanied by the elevation value, the freshwater ecoregion and the protection status of their location. Spatial location and grain: The database covers the global extent, with 86% of the observation records having coordinates with at least four decimal digits (11.1 m precision at the equator) in the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84) coordinate reference system. Time period and grain: Sampling years span from 1951 to 2021. Ninety-nine percent of the records have information on the year of the observation, 95% on the year and month, while 94% have a complete date. In the case of seven sub-datasets, exact dates can be retrieved upon communication with the data contributors. Major taxa and level of measurement: Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera and Odonata, standardized at the genus taxonomic level. We provide species names for 7,727,980 (93%) records without further taxonomic verification. Software format: The entire tab-separated value (.csv) database can be downloaded and visualized at https://glowabio.org/project/epto_database/. Fifty individual datasets are also available at https://fred.igb-berlin.de, while six datasets have restricted access. For the latter, we share metadata and the contact details of the authors.
In an era of increasing human pressure on nature, understanding the spatiotemporal patterns of wildlife relative to human disturbance can inform conservation efforts, especially for large carnivores. We examined the temporal activity and spatial patterns of wolves and eight sympatric mammals at 71 camera trap stations in Greece. Grey wolves temporally overlapped the most with wild boars (Δ = 0.84) and medium-sized mammals (Δ > 0.75), moderately with brown bears (Δ = 0.70), and least with roe deer (Δ = 0.46). All wild mammals were mainly nocturnal and exhibited low temporal overlap with human disturbance (humans, vehicles, livestock, and dogs; Δ = 0.18–0.36), apart from roe deer, which were more diurnal (Δ = 0.80). Six out of nine species increased their nocturnality at sites of high human disturbance, particularly roe deer and wolves. The detection of wolves was negatively associated with paved roads, the detection of roe deer was negatively associated with human disturbance, and the detection of wild boars was negatively associated with dogs. The detection of bears, boars, and foxes increased closer to settlements. Our study has applied implications for wolf conservation and human–wildlife coexistence.
Η διατήρηση οικοσυστημάτων υψηλής οικολογικής ακεραιότητας αποτελεί στόχο της Παγκόσμιας Στρατηγικής για τη Βιοποικιλότητα, συνάδοντας με το στόχο της αυστηρής προστασίας του 10% του εδάφους στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση. Παρουσιάζουμε τον εθνικό χάρτη των Αδιατάρακτων Φυσικών Περιοχών χωρίς δρόμους (ΑΦΠ) της Ελλάδας (https://bc.lab.uoi.gr/el/research/projects/roadless/). Καλύπτουν το 6.1% της Ελλάδας (451 περιοχές) και βρίσκονται κυρίως στα βουνά και τα νησιά: 256 στην ηπειρωτική Ελλάδα, 133 στα νησιά, και 62 είναι νησιά εξολοκλήρου άνευ δρόμων (ΝΑΦΠ). Οι περισσότερες νησίδες έκτασης μικρότερης του ενός τ.χλμ δεν έχουν δρόμους (96%: 3456 νησίδες). Οι ΑΦΠ/ΝΑΦΠ δεν έχουν τεχνητές εκτάσεις, είναι αδιατάρακτες (γεωργική δραστηριότητα 99% της έκτασής τους καλύπτεται από δάση και ημιφυσικές εκτάσεις). Το 68% και 86% της έκτασης των ΑΦΠ και ΝΑΦΠ αντίστοιχα εμπίπτει στο δίκτυο Natura 2000. Aπαντώνται επίσης σε τοπία με χαμηλό δείκτη κατακερματισμού. Είναι ανθεκτικές στην απώλεια της φυσικότητας και στις πυρκαγιές. Οι πυρκαγιές έκαψαν το 1.6% της έκτασης των δασών και ημιφυσικών εκτάσεών τους την περίοδο 2008-2022, αλλά το ποσοστό ήταν 2.7 φορές μεγαλύτερο στα αντίστοιχα οικοσυστήματα με δρόμους της Ελλάδας (4.3%). Οι περισσότερες περιοχές (302) έχουν έκταση άνω των 10 τ.χλμ και ικανοποιούν τα κριτήρια θεώρησής τους ως άγριες φυσικές περιοχές (wilderness). Η διείσδυση των ΑΠΕ απειλεί τις μισές ΑΦΠ (48%) και το ένα τρίτο των ΝΑΦΠ (33%). Υποστηρίζουμε τη χρήση των ΑΦΠ/ΝΑΦΠ (α) στην οριοθέτηση των αυστηρά προστατευόμενων ζωνών του δικτύου Natura, (β) στον εντοπισμό, χαρτογράφηση και προστασία των πρωτογενών-παλαιών δασών, (γ) στην επέκταση του δικτύου προστατευόμενων περιοχών, (δ) στην προστασία των φυσικών τοπίων, και (ε) στην οριοθέτηση ζωνών αποκλεισμού νέων υποδομών και αναπτυξιακών έργων στα χωροταξικά σχέδια. Προτείνουμε μια οριζόντια εθνική νομοθεσία προστασίας του τοπίου, με επίκεντρο τις 302 άγριες φυσικές περιοχές της Ελλάδας.
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Motivation: Aquatic insects comprise 64% of freshwater animal diversity and are widely used as bioindicators to assess water quality impairment and freshwater ecosystem health, as well as to test ecological hypotheses. Despite their importance, a comprehensive, global database of aquatic insect occurrences for mapping freshwater biodiversity in macroecological studies and applied freshwater research is missing. We aim to fill this gap and present the Global EPTO Database, which includes worldwide geo-referenced aquatic insect occurrence records for four major taxa groups: Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera and Odonata (EPTO). Main type of variables contained: A total of 8,368,467 occurrence records globally, of which 8,319,689 (99%) are publicly available. The records are attributed to the corresponding drainage basin and sub-catchment based on the Hydrography90m dataset and are accompanied by the elevation value, the freshwater ecoregion and the protection status of their location. Spatial location and grain: The database covers the global extent, with 86% of the observation records having coordinates with at least four decimal digits (11.1 m precision at the equator) in the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84) coordinate reference system. Time period and grain: Sampling years span from 1951 to 2021. Ninety-nine percent of the records have information on the year of the observation, 95% on the year and month, while 94% have a complete date. In the case of seven sub-datasets, exact dates can be retrieved upon communication with the data contributors. Major taxa and level of measurement: Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera and Odonata, standardized at the genus taxonomic level. We provide species names for 7,727,980 (93%) records without further taxonomic verification. Software format: The entire tab-separated value (.csv) database can be downloaded and visualized at https://glowabio.org/project/epto_database/. Fifty individual datasets are also available at https://fred.igb-berlin.de, while six datasets have restricted access. For the latter, we share metadata and the contact details of the authors.
Invertebrate populations are amongst the most widespread species, inhabiting a variety of habitats, however there is limited conservation effort due to the scarce knowledge on their population genetics. Here, we assess levels of genetic diversity and population structure of the Epirus dancing grasshopper (Chorthippus lacustris), a steno-endemic species, located in Northwest Greece, exhibiting a fragmented distribution. By utilizing two mitochondrial genes and amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs), we detected moderate to high levels of genetic diversity of the focal populations. Haplotype network analysis revealed the existence of private haplotypes with low genetic differentiation suggesting a sudden expansion of the species in the study area with subsequent isolations on suitable habitats. Despite the low genetic differentiation between the studied populations, our data further suggest a subtle subdivision of the populations and the existence of three genetic clusters. Implications for insect conservation: Our study is the first to provide insights into the population genetics of the steno-endemic grasshopper C. lacustris, highlighting the importance of preserving focal populations. The species inhabits areas subject to high changes in land use and fragmentation. We argue that the preservation and management of suitable habitats is essential for the viability of the grasshopper populations.
On 18 January 2022, the Greek government banned road construction in six Natura 2000 roadless mountainous areas, triggering a broader national roadless policy. Road sprawl is a key catalyst of land use change, which is the greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide (2). For years, scientists have called for halting infrastructure expansion, including roads, to protect biodiversity with little success. Greece’s policy should serve as a model for the EU
Road sprawl is a key catalyst of land-use change, the greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide, and its negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function are well documented. Although Europe is the most fragmented continent of the world, the reduction of fragmentation from roads and artificial land does not appear in the key commitments of the European Biodiversity Strategy. In January 2022, Greece has endorsed the first national roadless legislation in the EU. The “Untrodden Mountains” governmental project has used scientific evidence to impede road and artificial land expansion in six large mountainous roadless areas (0.74% of Greek land) aiming at fragmentation mitigation and effective biodiversity conservation. Research is ongoing, involving extensive road mapping using satellite imagery. We have identified 55 roadless areas over 10 km2 (2.42% of Greek land), whilst over 60% of the 774 smaller candidate areas (1-10 km2) and 90% of the 3642 islands evaluated are expected to be added to the national roadless map when completed. We suggest roadless policy expansion in Greece and the EU, by integrating roadless areas in the criteria of (a) defining strictly protected zones, (b) expanding and interconnecting Natura 2000 sites, (c) defining rewilding restoration targets in the European Biodiversity Strategy.
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The current technical report presents the results of a research project in two Natura 2000 sites, namely the National Park of Oeta Mountain (GR2440004) and Tymphristos mountain (GR2430001). OITI project concerned the Orthoptera community of the two mountains and specifically their endemic and/or threatened species. It presents the objectives of the study, the methods and protocols used during fieldwork, and the research findings as follows: overview of the threats and pressures recorded in the study area, inventory of the recorded orthoptera fauna in the two protected areas, a thorough ecological overview of target species, presenting their conservation status (distribution, population status, habitat preferences , pressures and threats). The study suggests the inclusion of 11 important orthoptera species in the Standard Data Forms (SDFs) of the Natura 2000 sites, evaluates the ecological importance of the study area in terms of Orthoptera fauna conservation, and provides an evaluation of the pressures/threats that need to be addressed. It concludes to a conservation guideline relevant to (a) providing permissions for projects that cause land use change on target species habitats, such as renewable or tourist infrastructure, (b) livestock grazing management, (c) biomonitoring of target species, (d) Natura 2000 area expansion.
You can find here the database of the roadless areas of Greece  produced under the project NATLAND  funded by the Green Fund.
Golden Eagles are resident in Greece and known to feed mainly on tortoises when breed-ing. However, information on alternative prey is scarce, especially during the tortoise brumation, that roughly coincides with the eagles’ non-breeding season. We analyzed 827 prey items collected from 12 territories over five territory years and 84 records of eagles hunting or feeding behavior. Tortoises dominated the breeding season diet (71% of prey categories on average) and over half of all hunting/feeding observations. While no spatial structure was evident, habitat variables such as forest canopy cover were important associates in golden eagle diet seasonally. A significant seasonal pattern emerged in diet diversity, using a subset of six territories with at least 10 samples per season. Eagles shifted from a narrow, reptile-based breeding season diet dominated by tortoises to a broader non-breeding season diet, that included more carrion, mammals and birds. Breeding season specialization on ectothermic prey is a trait usually associated with migratory raptors in the Western Palearctic. The observed dietary diversity expansion accompanied by residency in the absence of ectothermic prey, highlights the adaptability of the golden eagle, a generalist predator. Tortoise populations in Greece are of conservation concern and land use changes as well as climate change, such as development and land abandonment may increase the prevalence of catastrophic megafires, exacerbating the threats to the golden eagle’s main prey when breeding. We discuss this and other diet related conservation implications for the species in northern Greece.
Invited lecture presented in the Department of Civil Engineer, School of Engineering, the University of Thessaly at 22/12/2021. Speaker. V. Kati. Lecture title: “The nexus roads-windfarms-biodiversity under the light of sustainable spatial planning”. Abstract: Humanity depends directly on biodiversity and its services but we currently face both biodiversity and a climate crisis. The lecture will focus on two topical issues: (a) Road sprawl is a key driver behind biodiversity loss. We suggest a new national and European roadless policy towards the non-net-land take milestone. We present the roadless map of Greece, and we suggest the conservation in legal terms of large roadless areas as ecosystems of high natural, ecological and aesthetic value. The Greek prime minister announced the conservation of roadless areas in the world summit COP26 under the emblematic title “Untrodden Mountains”. (b) Aeolian energy is the leading renewable energy source. However, we often face the paradox of impacting biodiversity to combat climate change.  We present a novel method of spatial planning that enhances windfarm sustainability: investments are prioritized in the most fragmented zones that lie outside the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. The suggested investment zone supports wind harnessing 1.5 times higher than the 2030 national goal, having only marginally lower (4%) wind speed. The sustainable scenario provides significant benefits to biodiversity and society. It is not known if the sustainable scenario will be integrated into the forthcoming national spatial planning for renewables. More info here and here.  Pdf available in Greek.
Sacred groves in Greece are usually forest remnants with large trees around chapels, protected through centuries by Orthodox religion. We examined the comparative ecological value of 20 oak-dominated sacred groves vs managed oakwoods, in terms of their habitat characteristics and avian communities (passerines and woodpeckers). Sacred groves have maintained a more pronounced old-growth character than managed oakwoods in terms of average Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) and tree height. Besides holding significantly greater bird species richness and abundance, they supported greater functional richness, phylogenetic diversity, and phylogenetic bird species variability. Bird communities in sacred groves were more heterogeneous and showed greater avian specialization levels than in managed woods. Generalized Linear Models showed that the main factor positively affecting all aspects of bird diversity was DBH, while the abundance of dead trees increased bird abundance. Our results underline the importance of maintaining large-sized trees in forest management practices to support bird diversity and decrease biotic homogenization. Since the new European Biodiversity Strategy explicitly requires all remaining European primary and old-growth forests to be strictly protected by 2030, we argue that sacred groves, despite their small size, meet the criteria to be considered in the strict protection and restoration targets of the strategy, as primary old growth woods of high biodiversity value.
Wind energy is the leading renewable technology towards achieving climate goals, yet biodiversity trade-offs via land take are emerging. Thus, we are facing the paradox of impacting on biodiversity to combat climate change. We suggest a novel method of spatial planning that enhances windfarm sustainability: investments are prioritized in the most fragmented zones that lie outside the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. We showcase it in Greece, a biodiversity hotspot with a strong climate policy and land conflict between conservation and wind energy schemes. The analysis indicates that the suggested investment zone supports wind harnessing 1.5 times higher than the 2030 national goal, having only marginally lower (4%) wind speed. It performs well for the conservation of the annexed habitats and species of the two Nature Directives and it greatly overlaps with the Important Bird Areas (93%) and the roadless areas (80%) of Greece. It also greatly overlaps (82%–91%) with the exclusion zones suggested according to three sensitivity maps for bird conservation. Since land use change triggers biodiversity decline, we underline the necessity of such approaches for meeting both climate and biodiversity goals and call for a greater environmental policy convergence towards biodiversity conservation and no net land take.
Global environmental goals mandate the expansion of the protected area network to halt biodiversity loss. The European Union’s Natura 2000 network covers 27.3% of the terrestrial area of Greece, one of the highest percentages in Europe. However, the extent to which this network protects Europe’s biodiversity, especially in a biodiverse country like Greece, is unknown. Here, we overlap the country’s Natura 2000 network with the ranges of the 424 species assessed as threatened on the IUCN Red List and present in Greece. Natura 2000 overlaps on average 47.6% of the mapped range of threatened species; this overlap far exceeds that expected by random networks (21.4%). Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation (non-exclusive subsets of Natura 2000 sites) overlap 33.4% and 38.1% respectively. Crete and Peloponnese are the two regions with the highest percentage of threatened species, with Natura 2000 sites overlapping on average 62.3% with the threatened species’ ranges for the former, but only 30.6% for the latter. The Greek ranges of all 62 threatened species listed in Annexes 1 and II to the Birds and Habitats Directives are at least partially overlapped by the network (52.0%), and 18.0% of these are fully overlapped. However, the ranges of 27 threatened species, all of which are endemic to Greece, are not overlapped at all. These results can inform national policies for the protection of biodiversity beyond current Natura 2000 sites.
The Dadia–Lefkimi–Soufli Forest National Park is located in Thrace, an area of great phytogeographic interest comprising one of the floristic links between Europe and Anatolia. The floristically particularly interesting mafic and ultramafic rocks that occur sporadically in the area, contribute to the plant diversity of the Park. In this paper we provide a review of the known flora of the Park. Life-forms and chorological relationships of the recorded taxa reveal their Mediterranean affinities. Furthermore, we demonstrate the strong influence of oriental floristic elements, due to the geographical position of the region, and comment on the occurrence of endemic taxa. Plant taxa, significant from a conservation point of view, including Minuartia greuteriana, Onosma kittanae, Salix xanthicola, Eriolobus trilobatus, Cephalanthera epipactoides and Cistus laurifolius, are discussed. Several other taxa, which are rare in Greece or are floristically interesting for other reasons, are reported from the Park. In total, 32 of the Park’s taxa are included in databases because of their special conservation and/or legislative status.
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Presentation in the third International Rupicapra Symposium. Croatia, 16-18 June 2021. Pdf open access (English).
Invited lecture at a webinar organized on 10/2/2021 by the Open University of Cyprus in the framework of the Postgraduate Program “Environmental Management and Protection”. Speaker. V. Kati. Lecture title: The triptych biodiversity-roads-wind in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals: the Greek case “. Lecture focusing on four topics: A. Biodiversity & Climate Change: The Challenges of the 21st Century. B. Roads: the “epitome” of anthropogenic intervention in nature. C. Wind farms: an urgent need for proper spatial planning. D. Linking research with the international political scene. Pdf available in Greek.
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 topics (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108828 and https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144471). Pdf and vimeo video available in English. 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 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. 
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.
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.
Inferring species’ responses to climate change in the absence of long-term time series data is a challenge, but can be achieved by substituting space for time. For example, thermal elevational gradients represent suitable proxies to study phenological responses to warming. We used butterfly data from two Mediterranean mountain areas to test whether mean dates of appearance of communities and individual species show a delay with increasing altitude, and an accompanying shortening in the duration of flight periods. We found a 14-day delay in the mean date of appearance per kilometer increase in altitude for butterfly communities overall, and an average 23-day shift for 26 selected species, alongside average summer temperature lapse rates of 3°C per km. At higher elevations, there was a shortening of the flight period for the community of 3 days/km, with an 8.8-day average decline per km for individual species. Rates of phenological delay differed significantly between the two mountain ranges, although this did not seem to result from the respective temperature lapse rates. These results suggest that climate warming could lead to advanced and lengthened flight periods for Mediterranean mountain butterfly communities. However, although multivoltine species showed the expected response of delayed and shortened flight periods at higher elevations, univoltine species showed more pronounced delays in terms of species appearance. Hence, while projections of overall community responses to climate change may benefit from space-for-time substitutions, understanding species-specific responses to local features of habitat and climate may be needed to accurately predict the effects of climate change on phenology.
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The relationships between heterogeneous landscapes and biodiversity have been well investigated and in many cases hu¬man activities have played a significant role in the creation of landscape patterns. In the Dadia – Lefkimi – Soufli Forest National Park (DNP), anthropogenic and natural disturbances during the last century, such as forest fires, uncontrolled logging and extensive livestock grazing created a mosaic of different land-cover categories. However, nowadays natural succession and forest management have altered the mosaic of habitats towards a more homogeneous forest area. More than 70% of the land is now covered with oak and pine forests in either pure or in mixed stands affecting some fauna species depending on heterogeneity and semi-open habitats negatively. Despite this alteration, habitat diversity is one of the main gradients characterizing the landscape structure in Dadia. Although an optimal level of heterogeneity can hardly be determined as it depends on the taxa under consideration, diversity and spatial configuration of landscapes were found to be important drivers of local biodiversity in DNP and must be considered in the management and conservation of the park.
We present an ecological analysis of landbird (Passeriformes, Piciformes, Coraciiformes) distribution in Dadia–Lefkimi– Soufli Forest National Park and suggest measures for their conservation. We conducted two point-count studies, one inside the park (155 points) and the other in an adjoining agricultural zone (75 points) and recorded 120 species of landbirds, including 39 species with an unfavourable conservation status in Europe (SPEC 2 and 3). Vegetation cover and height were the two main environmental gradients affecting bird distribution (Principal Coordinate Analysis). We also identified eight distinct bird habitats (k-means clustering) and found 13 species characterizing them (IndVal procedure). Hence, we proposed a set of selected species to be monitored on a permanent basis (SPEC/typical species). We demonstrated the importance of the buffer zone for landbird conservation rather than the pine-dominated core zone, and more particularly the mosaic sites and forest clearings. Both studies confirmed the unique importance of rural mosaics, thus providing strong arguments against further land re-allotment and agricultural intensification in the broader area around the park.
Grill, A., Kati, V., Karris, G., Argyropoulou, M.D. 2010. Diversity patterns in insect communities of the Dadia–Lefkimi–Soufli Forest National Park: butterflies, grasshoppers, beetles. In: Catsadorakis, G., Källander, H. (Eds.). The Dadia – Lefkimi – Soufli Forest National Park, Greece: Biodiversity, Management and Conservation. WWF Greece, Athens. pp 115-122.
The main threats to DNP’s principal assets are habitat and landscape homogenization, large-scale fires, the over-development and unwise location of wind-farms around the park, poisoned baits and the aesthetic degradation of landscapes. Impediments to effective management are not only local, but most stem from problems relating to the general system of protected areas in Greece. They are of ecological, administrative, legislative and institutional nature, but there is also a lack of political will to find solutions for them. The principal management and conservation goals for DNP must be to preserve farmland of high ecological value, to arrest forest expansion and to increase the amount of clearings. Others are to preserve old trees and mature stands to ensure optimal nesting conditions for birds of prey and to ensure vulture food resources long-term. To reach these goals, a plan for sustainable local development needs to be developed and the existing legal framework must be amended to support it. Scientific monitoring results must inform all processes. The participation of local communities and authorities is crucial. Local forestry objectives must be revised to match biodiversity conservation needs and promotion of environment-friendly practices in agriculture must be ensured.
Remote sensing now routinely provides environmental information ranging from global to local scales, and geographical information systems provide, among other applications, necessary interfaces to store, analyse and visualise spatial data; increased computational capacities triggered even more such applications. In this chapter, we demonstrate how the combination of landscape approaches, remote sensing and GIS aids conservation and management of biodiversity. We therefore summarise six case studies from Dadia National Park (Dadia NP), in northeastern Greece. The studies aimed at (1) modelling of nesting habitat for a flagship species, (2) evaluation of land-use change, (3) detecting statistical dimensions and spatial patterns of landscape structure, (4) testing the performance of landscape metrics as indicators of biodiversity, (5) developing a GIS approach for a systematic raptor monitoring, and (6) developing a decision-support system to optimise conservation of biodiversity in managed forests.
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The database consists of three spatial layers: (a) The investment zone (41.4% of Greek land): it includes the three most fragmented zones (very high, high and medium) according to the Landscape Fragmentation Indicator (2015), of the territory outside the terrestrial part of the Natura 2000. (b) The windfarm-free zone (58.6% of Greek land): it includes the terrestrial part of the Natura 2000 network and the two least fragmented zones (very low and low) outside the network. (c) Windfarm sites (2020): 260 applications of operating windfarms (red polygons) and 1578 applications of windfarms in other permission stages (black polygons).
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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.
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 is linked to the publication Kati et al (2020: Biol Cons) and 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 indicated the RAs with an area 1-50 sq.km and are of medium confidence, because their roads are not fully digitized. This version is not used any more. It is replaced with the v2 (2022) where all data are of high confidence.
In this study we investigate the environmental factors influencing butterfly communities and evaluate the Natura 2000 network’s effectiveness in representing butterfly species richness and abundance, taking as a case study the island of Cyprus. We sampled butterflies and 11 environmental factors in 60 randomly selected sites across four 500-m elevation zones, representing seven habitat types. Rural mosaics and riverine vegetation were the habitats with the highest diversity of butterflies. Within habitats, the number of flower heads was the most important factor favouring butterfly species richness and abundance and endemic butterfly richness, while soil humidity had a positive effect on species richness and abundance. Although the Natura 2000 network succeeds in including the majority of butterfly species and all Cyprian endemics, the transects sampled within the network did not support more butterfly species than those outside it, and were significantly poorer in terms of butterfly abundance and endemic butterfly species richness and abundance. We found a similar pattern for the Habitats Directive priority habitats, which held poorer overall and endemic butterfly communities than the other habitats. The effectiveness of existing protected area networks may need to be reassessed in regions such as the South East Mediterranean, to ensure that regionally important components of biological diversity are adequately protected. To this aim, our results suggest that new European and national policies as well as further inclusion of rural mosaics and riverine habitats in protected area networks are needed for effective butterfly conservation in Cyprus.
Red Lists are very valuable tools in nature conservation at global, continental and (sub-) national scales. In an attempt to prioritise conservation actions for European butterflies, we compiled a database with species lists and Red Lists of all European countries, including the Macaronesian archipelagos (Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands). In total, we compiled national species lists for 42 countries and national Red Lists for 34 of these. The most species-rich countries in Europe are Italy, Russia and France with more than 250 species each. Endemic species are mainly found on the Macaronesian archipelagos and on the Mediterranean islands. By attributing numerical values proportionate to the threat statuses in the different national Red List categories, we calculated a mean Red List value for every country (cRLV) and a weighted Red List value for every species (wsRLV) using the square root of the country’s area as a weighting factor. Countries with the highest cRLV were industrialised (NW) European countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Denmark, whereas large Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy had the lowest cRLV. Species for which a Red List assessment was available in at least two European countries and with a relatively high wsRLV (≥ 50) are Colias myrmidone, Pseudochazara orestes, Tomares nogelii, Colias chrysotheme and Coenonympha oedippus. We compared these wsRLVs with the species statuses on the European Red List to identify possible mismatches. We discuss how this complementary method can help to prioritise butterfly conservation on the continental and/or the (sub-)national scale.
Urbanization induces rapid landscape and habitat modifications leading to alterations in species distribution patterns and biodiversity loss. As pollinating insects such as butterflies are particularly susceptible to urbanization, it is important to pinpoint the factors that could enhance their diversity in the urban areas in order to design adequate management and conservation actions. Our study aims to investigate the influence of land cover and local habitat characteristics on the butterfly diversity patterns and community structure in a densely built city in the eastern Mediterranean region. We carried out butterfly surveys (line transects) in 45 randomly selected sites, distributed along an urbanization gradient. In each site, we assessed the surrounding landscape by measuring the land cover in a 200-m buffer zone, and the local habitat by estimating the available plant resources along each transect. Overall, 1805 individuals belonging to 41 butterfly species were recorded. Land cover was found to have the strongest influence on butterfly species richness, abundance and community structure. Although plant resources were sufficiently available within the whole study area, the butterfly community was significantly poorer in the more urbanized areas, indicating the potential role of habitat fragmentation and patch isolation. In contrast, butterfly diversity was significantly higher in the peri-urban area, underlying its conservation value for butterflies in the urban landscape. We attribute these findings to the degradation of the more urbanized areas due to long-term inadequate planning and the disorganized expansion of the city.
Increasing urbanisation is reported to have significant effects on bat communities, due to habitat modifications, light and noise pollution and reduced prey availability. Recent studies have indicated that species show varying responses to urbanisation, with a few able to exploit man-made structures and adjust to the new environmental conditions. This study aimed to identify how landscape composition influences bat diversity and community structure along the urbanisation gradient in a coastal Mediterranean city (Patras, Greece) and whether particular species benefit from the novel conditions. We conducted acoustic surveys along 45 transects during the post-breeding season for two years. The effect of land cover, the number of streetlamps (a proxy of artificial illumination), the presence of water bodies and weather conditions on bat activity, and community structure were investigated using Generalized Linear Mixed Models, and multivariate statistics respectively. Eight bat species and five species groups were identified. Bat communities were affected by urbanisation in general and diversity was low in the entire study area. The community was dominated by the synurbic species Pipistrellus kuhlii, which comprised more than 70% of the total bat activity recorded. A positive relationship between built-up areas and bat activity was found, probably because P. kuhlii usually forages around streetlamps in urban areas. In contrast, vegetation cover did not affect bat activity, even in the less urbanised areas. The remainder of the bat species were not frequently recorded and were mostly detected close to water bodies, highlighting their value for foraging bats and the need for their conservation.
Understanding the feeding habits of wolves is essential for designing and implementing fundamental management processes across the range of the species. This is even more important within human-dominated areas, such as southern Europe, and more especially Greece. In this context, we analyzed 123 scat samples, collected between 2010 and 2012, from a mixed agricultural, forested and human-dominated area, centered on the municipality of Domokos in central continental Greece. We used standard laboratory procedures for scat analysis and calculated percentages of frequency of occurrence (FO%), average volume (AV%) and biomass index (BM%) to assess diet composition, and estimated prey selectivity. Domestic prey composed the bulk of wolf diet (FO%=73.5, AV%=84.8, BM%=97.2), wild ungulates were almost absent (FO%=0.5, AV%=0.8, BM%=1.2), whereas grass consumption was high in our area (FO%=19.5, AV%=11.0). The high dependence on livestock corroborates previous studies from Greece and other countries in southern Europe. Goat (FO%=46.0, AV%=61.2, BM%=64.9) was the main prey and was strongly selected, with sheep (FO%=11.5, AV%=9.0, BM%=11.2), pig carrion and cattle ranking behind (FO%=11.5, AV%=10.1, BM%=8.7 and FO%=4.5, AV%=4.5, BM%=12.4, respectively). No differences across seasons were detected, except from pig carrion, which increased during winter. The preference for goats is probably associated with its grazing behavior. High livestock consumption generally results in increased human-wolf conflict. Thus, substantial improvement of husbandry practices and restoration of wild ungulate populations are recommended to facilitate wolf-human coexistence in Greece.
The Vjosa/Aoos river still flows freely from the Pindus mountains in Greece, to the river mouth in Albania largely without artificial obstacles. The river stretches for 270km in total and 70km are flowing within the Greek area. Downstream of the Pigai dam in Greece (10km from the springs of Aoos), the river is near natural, representing all types of river ecosystems, including canyon sections, braided parts and meandering stretches. In Greece the protected area, that partly includes river Aoos, belongs to the Northern Pindos National Park. The existing National Park is already protecting 50kms of Aoos’ river stretch, leaving nearly 20km of the river unprotected, towards the GR-AL borders (see Map 1). At the same time one of the major tributaries, Voidomatis (15km long) is included in the existing National Park, leaving 6km of the tributary unprotected, towards the GR-AL borders. Another major tributary, river Sarantaporos (50km long), stretches under no protection zone, from its springs until its confluence with Aoos, right upon the GR-AL borders. Voidomatis and Sarandaporos rivers are the main tributaries of Aoos. Voidomatis meets up with Aoos in the plain of Konitsa, and Sarandaporos joins them right on the Greek-Albanian border. Through this year’s biodiversity research, we aim to increase the biodiversity knowledge for the unprotected area of the Aoos river basin, in order to further support the efforts of the campaign for the expansion of the Aoos’ protected area towards the GR-AL borders, in a way that will include the unprotected stretches of Aoos and its major tributaries (Voidomatis, Sarantaporos). The present study is focusing on insect species related to water (Odonata), as well as on large mammals, either directly related to the riverine ecosystems (otter) or indirectly (carnivores and ungulates). The present biodiversity research sets four distinct objectives: • To provide a georeferenced database of species distribution in the study area, with special focus on the part of the area that is under no protection status. • To assess different microhabitats of Aoos’ catchment in terms of their ecological value for the target species. • To assess potential pressures and threats for the species. • To crystalize research findings into concrete conservation objectives.
Livestock depredation is one of the main wolf-human conflict issues both in Europe and worldwide. The aim of the project is to study and evaluate wolf-livestock conflicts in Tzoumerka NP and to compare our findings with other protected areas in Greece. We have in particular set the following six research objectives: 1. To assess and describe traditional free-ranging livestock raisers’ profile in Tzoumerka NP. 2. To record wolf depredation levels on cattle, sheep and goat herds as the main baseline metric of wolf-human conflicts in Tzoumerka NP. 3. To identify and evaluate the principal damage prevention methods adopted by local livestock farmers in Tzoumerka NP. 4. To assess levels of livestock guarding dog mortality due to the illegal use of poisoned baits as a major conservation problem in the area in Tzoumerka NP. 5. To evaluate satisfaction levels of livestock farmers regarding the national compensation system in Tzoumerka NP. 6. To compare the main results stemming from Tzoumerka NP with other similar studies previously completed in other protected areas and draw relevant conclusions. © 2019 University of Ioannina and WWF Greece
The sacred groves in the mountains of Epirus in NW Greece have been established during the Ottoman period and consist of locally adapted systems set apart from the surrounding intensively managed, anthropogenic landscape. We inventoried eight sacred groves and compared them with nearby control (managed) forests. In total, 166 taxa of lichens and five of lichenicolous fungi were recorded. The most common lichen species were Anaptychia ciliaris, Phlyctis argena and Lecidella elaeochroma. Seven species are new for Greece: Calicium quercinum, Chaenotheca ferruginea, Chaenotheca trichialis, Chaenothecopsis nana, Leptogium hibernicum, Parvoplaca nigroblastidiata and Rinodina orculata. The sacred groves appeared not very different from the control forests; more pronounced differences were observed between deciduous oak evergreen oak and pine forests. Localities characterized by deciduous oak forest hosted the highest number of taxa belonging to the order Peltigerales, the most frequent were: Nephroma laevigatum, Collema subflaccidum, Leptogium lichenoides and Lobaria pulmonaria, but also rare species such as Polychidium muscicola, Koerberia biformis and Degelia atlantica were recorded.
Many have asserted that Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) play an important role in nature protection but few have assessed their conservation effectiveness for different taxa. We studied sacred groves in Epirus, NW Greece, where a large number of such SNS have been identified. Based on historical, ethnographic and ecological criteria, we selected eight of these groves and matching control sites and in them we studied fungi, lichens, herbaceous plants, woody plants, nematodes, insects, bats and passerine birds. Our results reveal that the contribution of SNS to species conservation is nuanced by taxon, vegetation type and management history. We found that the sacred groves have a small conservation advantage over the corresponding control sites. More specifically, there are more distinct sets of organisms amongst sacred groves than amongst control sites, and overall biodiversity, diversity per taxonomic group, and numbers of species from the European SCI list (Species of Community Interest) are all marginally higher in them. Conservationists regard the often small size of SNS as a factor limiting their conservation value. The sizes of SNS around the globe vary greatly, from a few square meters to millions of hectares. Given that those surveyed by us (ranging from 5 to 116 ha) are at the lower end of this spectrum, the small conservation advantage that we testified becomes important. Our results provide clear evidence that even small-size SNS have considerable conservation relevance; they would contribute most to species conservation if incorporated in networks.
Question: What are the woody vegetation encroachment patterns after agricultural land abandonment? Focusing on two parameters, woody plant species richness and vertical vegetation heterogeneity (number of different vegetation strata and their relative cover) we investigated: (a) the effect of forest encroachment following land abandonment; (b) the comparative importance of forest encroachment vis-a-vis topographic and climatic parameters, and finally; (c) the ecological importance of eight land-cover types encountered in abandoned agricultural landscapes. Location: The Balkan Peninsula (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece). Methods: We set up a standard methodology for 1 × 1 km site selection (70 sites) and data collection within 497 plots, along a well-defined forest encroachment gradient that reflects land abandonment in terms of woody vegetation cover. Results: The pattern that emerged was neither clear nor common for the Balkan region, regarding the effect of forest encroachment on the woody plant species richness in young forests, formed from 20 to 50 years after land abandonment. However, at national level, species diversity was significantly affected by elevation (Bulgaria and Croatia) and temperature (Croatia), with lower and cooler areas being richer. Elevation was of great importance in determining vertical vegetation heterogeneity. Woodlots, broad-leaved forests, hedges and shrublands held the highest woody species richness in comparison to the more open land-cover types, and vertical vegetation heterogeneity was higher in open forests and woodlots. Conclusions: We expect the expansion of broad-leaved forests following land abandonment to enhance woody species richness. However, other land-cover types that were found to be important for woody plants should be maintained. As woody plants play a key role in supporting overall biodiversity, by providing suitable habitat for many species, we consider the preservation of a mosaic of patches of different land-cover types essential for the conservation of both plant and animal species diversity. Young forests should be preserved at intermediate stages of succession, through intermediate disturbance activities, including medium intensity grazing and the enhancement of wild ungulates.
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This study examined the effects of pastoralism, including cattle grazing, on populations of three species of locally endemic and rare Peripodisma grasshoppers in calcareous grassland mountain habitats of northwestern Greece and southern Albania. The three Peripodisma species are on the IUCN Red List as near threatened, endangered, and critically endangered species, and cattle grazing had been identified as a key threat to the species. The study sites represented 70% of the known locations of Peripodisma genus. The region was historically grazed by local breeds of nomadic sheep and goats, but grazing practices had recently shifted to cattle grazing from non-local cattle breeds. We found a clear relationship between local abundance of Peripodisma and overall richness of Orthoptera communities. Orthoptera richness decreased at sites with medium to high impacts of livestock grazing. Cattle grazing had significant adverse effects on overall Orthoptera species richness and on Peripodisma abundance. Further studies are urgently needed to gather more data and information to guide grazing management and conservation planning that will provide a more balanced coexistence between livestock and Orthoptera, especially for the rare Peripodisma species that are in dire need of conservation management.
Urbanization causes rapid changes in the landscape and land use, exerting a significant pressure on bird communities. The effect of urbanization on bird diversity has been widely investigated in many cities worldwide; however, our knowledge on urban bird communities from the eastern Mediterranean region is very scarce. In this context, we aimed to investigate the effect of the different land-cover types on bird species richness and abundance in a densely built coastal Mediterranean city (Patras, Greece) during the breeding and wintering seasons. We sampled the bird community in 90 randomly selected sites along an urbanization gradient. Open green spaces proved to be the most significant factor favouring bird diversity in both seasons. In winter, woody vegetation and impervious surfaces had a positive effect on species richness as well. The local bird community consisted of a large number of species associated with open and semi-open unmanaged green areas, 12 of which are Species of European Conservation Concern (SPECs) showing a declining trend in Europe. On the other hand, in winter the number of forest-dwellers increased significantly. Species richness was significantly higher in winter indicating that the urban environment provides important wintering grounds. Thus, management actions in cities with similar characteristics in the Mediterranean region should focus on the maintenance of open green spaces and woody vegetation patches to enhance bird diversity.
Mountains are complex ecosystems supporting a great variety of taxa. Here, we explored the diversity patterns of arthropods in two mountains, pinpointing the spatial scale that accounts most for overall diversity variation, using an additive partitioning framework. Butterflies and Orthoptera were sampled in Rodopi (2012) and Grammos (2013) mountains. Diversity was partitioned into five hierarchical levels (mountain, elevational zone, habitat, transect and plot). We compared the estimated diversity values for each level to the respective permuted values expected by chance, for all species, as well as for species identified as “rare” or “common”. At broader spatial levels, the variation in total diversity was attributed to the beta diversity component: mountains accounted for 20.94 and 26.25% of butterfly and Orthoptera diversity, and elevational zones accounted for 28.94 and 35.87% respectively. At finer spatial scales, beta diversity was higher than expected by chance in terms of the Shannon index. The type of habitat was found to play a significant role only for rare orthopterans. Finally, common species were recognized for shaping overall species diversity. We highlight the importance of the spatial levels of elevation zone and then mountain position in conservation planning, due to the greater beta diversity recorded at this scale as compared to habitat or more finite scales. Monitoring programs might need to adapt different strategies with respect to the focal organisms, and consider patterns of common rather than rare species that found to drive the patterns of the entire community.
Our understanding of arthropod responses to environmental pressures is limited, especially for the poorly studied Mediterranean region. In the light of likely further environmental change and the need for protocols for rapid biodiversity assessment, we measured how the abundance and species richness of two taxa, ground spiders and Orthoptera, belonging to different functional groups, fluctuates intra- seasonally (early-mid-late summer) and across habitat types (grasslands, maquis, forests). We also tested their surrogate value. Spiders were found to have higher species richness and abundance almost throughout the investigation. Orthoptera had lower species richness and abundance in forests compared to grasslands and maquis, while no significant difference between habitats was revealed for spiders. Early-summer was the richest period for spiders while mid-summer was the richest for Orthoptera. Canopy cover was found to significantly influence community composition of both groups, while herb height and cover of stones was a determinant factor for Orthoptera only. There was a significant congruence between the two groups and Orthoptera provided the best complementary network. Our results show that diversity patterns of both spiders and Orthoptera are sensitive to environmental changes even over short time-scales (e.g. within the summer period) and space (e.g. across different habitat types), suggesting that small inexpensive experimental designs may still reveal community dynamics. For conservation purposes, we advise a focus on variables regulating habitat heterogeneity and microhabitat characteristics. We provide a list of the most influential species and propose the most effective network for obtaining information on the local fauna.
Wind farm development can combat climate change but may also threaten bird populations’ persistence through collision with wind turbine blades if such development is improperly planned strategically and cumulatively. Such improper planning may often occur. Numerous wind farms are planned in a region hosting the only cinereous vulture population in south-eastern Europe. We combined range use modelling and a Collision Risk Model (CRM) to predict the cumulative collision mortality for cinereous vulture under all operating and proposed wind farms. Four different vulture avoidance rates were considered in the CRM. Cumulative collision mortality was expected to be eight to ten times greater in the future (proposed and operating wind farms) than currently (operating wind farms), equivalent to 44% of the current population (103 individuals) if all proposals are authorized (2744 MW). Even under the most optimistic scenario whereby authorized proposals will not collectively exceed the national target for wind harnessing in the study area (960 MW), cumulative collision mortality would still be high (17% of current population) and likely lead to population extinction. Under any wind farm proposal scenario, over 92% of expected deaths would occur in the core area of the population, further implying inadequate spatial planning and implementation of relevant European legislation with scant regard for governmental obligations to protect key species. On the basis of a sensitivity map we derive a spatially explicit solution that could meet the national target of wind harnessing with a minimum conservation cost of less than 1% population loss providing that the population mortality (5.2%) caused by the operating wind farms in the core area would be totally mitigated. Under other scenarios, the vulture population would probably be at serious risk of extinction. Our ‘win-win’ approach is appropriate to other potential conflicts where wind farms may cumulatively threaten wildlife populations.
The PREDICTS project—Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems (www.predicts.org.uk)—has collated from published studies a large, reasonably representative database of comparable samples of biodiversity from multiple sites that differ in the nature or intensity of human impacts relating to land use. We have used this evidence base to develop global and regional statistical models of how local biodiversity responds to these measures. We describe and make freely available this 2016 release of the database, containing more than 3.2 million records sampled at over 26,000 locations and representing over 47,000 species. We outline how the database can help in answering a range of questions in ecology and conservation biology. To our knowledge, this is the largest and most geographically and taxonomically representative database of spatial comparisons of biodiversity that has been collated to date; it will be useful to researchers and international efforts wishing to model and understand the global status of biodiversity.
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Roads fragment landscapes and trigger human colonization and degradation of ecosystems, to the detriment of biodiversity and ecosystem functions. The planet’s remaining large and ecologically important tracts of roadless areas sustain key refugia for biodiversity and provide globally relevant ecosystem services. Applying a 1-kilometer buffer to all roads, we present a global map of roadless areas and an assessment of their status, quality, and extent of coverage by protected areas. About 80% of Earth’s terrestrial surface remains roadless, but this area is fragmented into ~600,000 patches, more than half of which are <1 square kilometer and only 7% of which are larger than 100 square kilometers. Global protection of ecologically valuable roadless areas is inadequate. International recognition and protection of roadless areas is urgently needed to halt their continued loss.
Harnessing wind energy is seen as an environmentally friendly strategy to combat climate change. However, adverse environmental impacts have come to light for species that are prone to collision with wind turbine blades, such as vultures, leading to a conflict between wind energy industry and conservation. Our study area epitomized such a conflict, containing the only population of cinereous vultures in south-eastern Europe while also being the location for substantial existing and planned wind farms. We used long-term remote telemetry data to produce a species-specific sensitivity map for guiding wind energy development and to estimate vulture collision mortality due to currently operating wind farms. Most operational wind farms were in the population core area and in the highest priority areas for vulture conservation. Collision mortality due to the thirteen operating wind farms was estimated by combining global position system (GPS) telemetry data on vulture space use with a collision risk model (CRM). Estimated mortality varied greatly according to the CRM’s ‘avoidance rate’. Under the most likely avoidance rates annual predicted collision mortality was 5–11% of the population, creating risk of population decline. Collision mortality was expected almost exclusively in the population core area, rendering further future development plans there severely problematic for vulture population persistence. Our sensitivity map, as a conservation prioritization system, offered a spatially explicit solution to the conflict between wind energy development and vulture conservation. Combining spatial use models derived from telemetry data with collision mortality models offers a novel conservation tool for evaluating large scale wind energy development proposals.
The biodiversity of the Southern Balkans, part of the Mediterranean global biodiversity hot-spot, is threatened by land use intensification and abandonment, the latter causing forest encroachment of formerly open habitats. We investigated the impact of forest encroachment on butterfly species richness, community species composition and the representation of life history traits by repeated seasonal visits of 150 one-hectare sites in five separate regions in three countries—Greece, Bulgaria, and the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM—the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)— 10 replicates for each habitat type of grasslands, open formations and scrub forest within each region. Grasslands and open formations sites hosted in average more species and more red-listed species than scrub forest, while no pattern was found for numbers of Mediterranean species. As shown by ordination analyses, each of the three habitat types hosted distinct butterfly communities, with Mediterranean species inclining either towards grasslands or open formations. Analysing the representation of life history traits revealed that successional development from grasslands and open formations towards scrub forest shifts the community composition towards species overwintering in earlier stages, having fewer generations per year, and inhabiting large European or Eurosiberian (e.g. northern) ranges; it decreases the representation of Mediterranean endemics. The loss of grasslands and semi-open formations due to forest encroachment thus threatens exactly the species that should be the focus of conservation attention in the Mediterranean region, and innovative conservation actions to prevent ongoing forest encroachment are badly needed.
Agricultural land abandonment is recognized as a major environmental threat in Europe, being particularly pronounced in south-eastern Europe, where knowledge on its effects is limited. Taking the Balkan Peninsula as a case study, we investigated agricultural abandonment impact on passerine communities at regional level. We set up a standard methodology for site selection (70 sites) and data collection, along a well-defined forest-encroachment gradient that reflects land abandonment in four countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Greece. Regardless the different socio-economic and political histories in the Balkans that led to diverse land abandonment patterns in space and time, rural abandonment had a consistent negative effect on bird communities, while regional-level analysis revealed patterns that were hidden at local level. The general trends were an increase of forest-dwelling bird species at the expense of farmland birds, the decline of overall bird species richness, as well as the decline of Species of European Conservation Concern (SPECs) richness and abundance. Many farmland bird species declined with land abandonment, whereas few forest species benefited from the process. In conclusion, our results support CAP towards hampering rural land abandonment and preserving semi-open rural mosaics in remote upland areas, using a suite of management measures carefully tailored to local needs. The maintenance of traditional rural landscapes should be prioritized in the Balkans, through the timely identification of HNV farmland that is most prone to abandonment. We also suggest that coordinated transnational research is needed, for a better assessment of conservation options in remote rural landscapes at European scale, including the enhancement of wild grazers’ populations as an alternative in areas where traditional land management is rather unlikely to be re-established.
1.Insects undergo phenological change at different rates, showing no consistent trend between habitats, time periods, species or groups. Understanding how and why this variability occurs is crucial. 2. Phenological patterns of butterflies and O rthoptera were analysed using a novel approach of s tandardised major axis (SMA ) analysis. It was investigated whether: (i) phenology (the mean date and duration of flight) of butterflies and O rthoptera changed from one survey (1998 and 1999 respectively) to another (2011), (ii) the rate at which phenology changed differed between taxa and (iii) phenological change was significantly different across habitat types (agriculture fields, grasslands, and forests). Using the 2011 dataset, we investigated relationships between habitat‐specific variables and species phenology. 3. For both groups, late‐emerging species had an advanced onset on the second survey while the duration showed no consistent trend for butterflies and did not change for O rthoptera. Although the rate at which phenology changed was consistent between the two groups, at the habitat level, a longer duration of flight period emerged for butterflies in agriculture fields while O rthoptera showed no differentiation in flight duration between habitats. We found an earlier emergence of butterflies in grasslands compared to forests, attributed to habitat‐specific temperature, whereas spatial variation in humidity had a significantly lower effect on butterflies’ phenology in grasslands compared to forests. A gradual delay of butterfly appearances as the canopy cover increased was also found. 4. The utility of SMA analysis was demonstrated in phenological studies and evidence was detected that both habitat type and habitat‐specific variables refine species’ phenological responses.
Agricultural land abandonment is recognized as one of the main environmental drivers in Southern Europe, affecting ecological communities. Lizards, as ectothermic species with low dispersal capacity, are particularly prone to the threats associated with land use changes. We investigated the effect of land abandonment on lizards in a remote mountainous area in Greece, using line transect sampling, in 20 randomly selected sites [1 km × 1 km], along a four grade abandonment gradient in terms of forest encroachment. We recorded four species: Algyroides nigropunctatus, Lacerta viridis/trilineata, Podarcis tauricus and Podarcis muralis, the latter being the most abundant. Our results did not provide evidence for a significant effect of forest encroachment or grazing on lizard diversity, given the dominance of P. muralis, the availability of all microhabitat types along the gradient and the low grazing intensity in the study area. Environmental parameters at the macrohabitat scale did not prove determinant for habitat variance, but microhabitat analysis showed a clear preference of P. muralis to bare ground. Despite the non-significant effects of land abandonment on lizard diversity, the dominance of P. muralis tends to indicate a lizard community shift towards species inhabiting forested habitats. The preservation of open microhabitats, such as bare land, is considered of great importance for promoting high levels of lizard diversity, as their loss would affect even species currently widespread in forested ecosystems. Low intensity grazing, as well as the enhancement of wild ungulate populations in abandoned areas, can contribute to halting forest encroachment and maintaining the required habitat heterogeneity.
Capsule. Spatial environmental modelling well predicted nesting distribution of the White stork in Southeast Europe and can be used in conservation planning with respect to climate change. Aims. To create spatial models for predicting White Stork presence and densities in the Southeast Europe to identify areas of suitable habitat for White Storks. Methods. We quantified the habitat used by nesting White storks in Southeast Europe. Using spatial modelling, we defined a set of free and available online environmental variables that predict the breeding localities of the species. We employed pseudo-absences and the kriging of the residuals in order to create predictive models of nest presence and density. Results. The presence–absence model was found to be precise in predicting the presence of nests. Both density and presence of breeding pairs were best explained negatively by elevation, slope, minimum temperature during May, and distance to the nearest human settlement and positively by topographic wetness index, total area of human settlement and spring precipitation. Conclusion. Our robust and easily repeatable models offer a conservation tool to reveal suitable but unoccupied localities for breeding White Storks pairs which may inform our understanding of how climate change might affect the species’ distribution in the future. For example, protecting White Storks on the Dalmatian coast may become even more significant in the future, because the Dalmatian coast is predicted as the only suitable breeding area in Croatia later this century.
Landscape metrics are commonly used indicators of ecological pattern and processes in ecological modelling. Numerous landscape metrics are available, making the selection of appropriate metrics a common challenge in model development. In this paper, we tested the performance of methods for preselecting sets of three landscape metrics for use in modelling species richness of six groups of organisms (woody plants, orchids, orthopterans, amphibians, reptiles, and small terrestrial birds) and overall species richness in a Mediterranean forest landscape. The tested methods included expert knowledge, decision tree analysis, principal component analysis, and principal component regression. They were compared with random choice and optimal sets, which were evaluated by testing all possible combinations of metrics. All pre-selection methods performed significantly worse than the optimal sets. The statistical approaches performed slightly better than random choice that in turn performed slightly better than sets derived by expert knowledge. We concluded that the process of selecting the most appropriate landscape metrics for modelling biodiversity is not trivial and that shortcuts to systematic evaluation of metrics should not be expected to identify appropriate indicators.
Established under the European Union (EU) Birds and Habitats Directives, Natura 2000 is one of the largest international networks of protected areas. With the spatial designation of sites by the EU member states almost finalized, the biggest challenge still lying ahead is the appropriate management of the sites. To evaluate the cross‐scale functioning of Natura 2000 implementation, we analyzed 242 questionnaires completed by conservation scientists involved in the implementation of Natura 2000 in 24 EU member states. Respondents identified 7 key drivers of the quality of Natura 2000 implementation. Ordered in decreasing evaluation score, these drivers included: network design, use of external resources, legal frame, scientific input, procedural frame, social input, and national or local policy. Overall, conservation scientists were moderately satisfied with the implementation of Natura 2000. Tree modeling revealed that poor application of results of environmental impact assessments (EIA) was considered a major constraint. The main strengths of the network included the substantial increase of scientific knowledge of the sites, the contribution of nongovernmental organizations, the adequate network design in terms of area and representativeness, and the adequacy of the EU legal frame. The main weaknesses of Natura 2000 were the lack of political will from local and national governments toward effective implementation; the negative attitude of local stakeholders; the lack of background knowledge of local stakeholders, which prevented well‐informed policy decisions; and the understaffing of Natura 2000 management authorities. Top suggestions to improve Natura 2000 implementation were increase public awareness, provide environmental education to local communities, involve high‐quality conservation experts, strengthen quality control of EIA studies, and establish a specific Natura 2000 fund.
The annual range of Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica) in Giona mountain was found to be 5502 ha, with a low population density (2 individuals/100 ha). Seasonal range patterns varied significantly, with a minimum extent in summer and a maximum in winter (30% and 79% of the annual range, respectively). Summer stress and the rutting period might be associated with the observed aggregated distributions during the summer and autumn (core areas of 28% and 22% of seasonal ranges, respectively, defined after the Fixed Kernel Density Estimator). Chamois were found to use significantly lower altitude habitats in winter (1212 m) than in summer (2223 m), and significantly steeper slopes in winter (35°); aspect was not found to have a significant effect on habitat use. Population structure consisted of kids (21%), yearlings (8%), females (35%) and males (36%). Conservation management for the species should consider poaching, livestock competition and global warming.
Farmland birds are reported to decrease strongly in numbers throughout Europe over the last 30 years. Agricultural land abandonment is considered amongst the main drivers for the negative population trends. This process has been studied widely in Western Europe but the evidence for Central and Eastern Europe is limited. We examined the differences in the bird community structure among several secondary succession stages after land abandonment (since the 1940s) in central Bulgaria. Our results demonstrated that avian species richness and diversity decreased with the secondary succession, while no significant difference in the overall bird abundance was observed. The shifts in bird community pattern were mainly related to grassland specialists, which decreased in species richness, diversity and abundance along the succession gradient. Birds of European Conservation Concern were also negatively affected by the woody vegetation overgrowth. We think that in order to stop and reverse the loss of farmland bird diversity in the low-productive mountainous regions of Bulgaria, the rural sustainable development should be reinforced by implementation of agri-environmental and other policy measures that encourage effectively small-scale extensive farming. © 2015, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Biodiversity continues to decline in the face of increasing anthropogenic pressures such as habitat destruction, exploitation, pollution and introduction of alien species. Existing global databases of species’ threat status or population time series are dominated by charismatic species. The collation of datasets with broad taxonomic and biogeographic extents, and that support computation of a range of biodiversity indicators, is necessary to enable better understanding of historical declines and to project – and avert – future declines. We describe and assess a new database of more than 1.6 million samples from 78 countries representing over 28,000 species, collated from existing spatial comparisons of local‐scale biodiversity exposed to different intensities and types of anthropogenic pressures, from terrestrial sites around the world. The database contains measurements taken in 208 (of 814) ecoregions, 13 (of 14) biomes, 25 (of 35) biodiversity hotspots and 16 (of 17) megadiverse countries. The database contains more than 1% of the total number of all species described, and more than 1% of the described species within many taxonomic groups – including flowering plants, gymnosperms, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, beetles, lepidopterans and hymenopterans. The dataset, which is still being added to, is therefore already considerably larger and more representative than those used by previous quantitative models of biodiversity trends and responses. The database is being assembled as part of the PREDICTS project (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems – www.predicts.org.uk). We make site‐level summary data available alongside this article. The full database will be publicly available in 2015.
The European protected-area network will cease to be efficient for biodiversity conservation, particularly in the Mediterranean region, if species are driven out of protected areas by climate warming. Yet, no empirical evidence of how climate change influences ecological communities in Mediterranean nature reserves really exists. Here, we examine long-term (1998–2011/2012) and short-term (2011–2012) changes in the butterfly fauna of Dadia National Park (Greece) by revisiting 21 and 18 transects in 2011 and 2012 respectively, that were initially surveyed in 1998. We evaluate the temperature trend for the study area for a 22-year-period (1990–2012) in which all three butterfly surveys are included. We also assess changes in community composition and species richness in butterfly communities using information on (a) species’ elevational distributions in Greece and (b) Community Temperature Index (calculated from the average temperature of species’ geographical ranges in Europe, weighted by species’ abundance per transect and year). Despite the protected status of Dadia NP and the subsequent stability of land use regimes, we found a marked change in butterfly community composition over a 13 year period, concomitant with an increase of annual average temperature of 0.95°C. Our analysis gave no evidence of significant year-to-year (2011–2012) variability in butterfly community composition, suggesting that the community composition change we recorded is likely the consequence of long-term environmental change, such as climate warming. We observe an increased abundance of low-elevation species whereas species mainly occurring at higher elevations in the region declined. The Community Temperature Index was found to increase in all habitats except agricultural areas. If equivalent changes occur in other protected areas and taxonomic groups across Mediterranean Europe, new conservation options and approaches for increasing species’ resilience may have to be devised.
Agricultural land abandonment is one of the main drivers of land use change, leading to various responses of farmland ecological communities. In an effort to better understand the effect of agricultural land abandonment on passerine bird communities, we sampled 20 randomly selected sites [1 km × 1 km] in remote Greek mountains, reflecting an abandonment gradient, in terms of forest encroachment. We sampled 169 plots using the point count method of fixed distance (47 passerine species), and we investigated bird diversity and community structure turnover along the gradient. We found that grazing intensity has a beneficial effect hampering forest encroachment that follows progressively land abandonment. Habitat composition changes gradually with forests developing at the expense of open meadows and heterogeneous grasslands. Forest encroachment has a significant negative effect on bird diversity and species richness, affecting in particular typical farmland and Mediterranean shrubland species. Birds form five distinct ecological clusters after land abandonment: species mostly found in pinewoods and cavity-dwelling species; species that prefer open forests forest edges or ecotones; species that prefer shrubland or open habitats with scattered woody vegetation; Mediterranean farmland birds that prefer semi-open habitats with hedges and/or woodlots; and, generalist forest-dwelling or shrubland species. We extracted a set of 22 species to represent the above ecological communities, as a new monitoring tool for agricultural land use change and conservation. We suggest that the maintenance of rural mosaics should be included in the priorities of agricultural policy for farmland bird diversity conservation.
Land abandonment is a widespread phenomenon in agricultural systems, especially in former communist countries of Eastern and South-eastern Europe. Moreover, Croatia was affected by acts of war which enhanced the depopulation of marginal areas impelling further land abandonment. Agricultural landscapes in Croatia are highly parcelled with various proportions of forest habitats due to traditional smallholder farming systems. Secondary successions as a consequence of land abandonment affect farmland birds that are among the most endangered bird species in Europe. We examined bird communities along a habitat gradient in heterogeneous agricultural landscapes. We used the share of woody vegetation cover as a proxy measure for land abandonment that we classified in four classes. Our results showed no significant Shannon Wiener Index differences of bird communities along the land abandonment gradient. However, there were differences in abundances when we examined bird guilds such as farmland, forest and “other” birds separately. However, the conservation value of each of the four land abandonment classes did not show significant differences. We extracted single bird species such as the Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio), Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) and European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) as potential indicator species for the four examined land abandonment levels. With these four species we successfully modelled the distribution of the recorded bird assemblages at the plot level along the four vegetation succession stages. We emphasized the need to develop new and integrative land use management concepts for areas affected by land abandonment in order to formulate sound conservation policy.
Agricultural land abandonment is a major conservation issue when it comes to remote Mediterranean mountainous ecosystems. Although its impact on taxa such as birds or butterflies is well known, knowledge remains poor for less studied invertebrate taxa such as spiders. We sampled ground spiders (Gnaphosidae, Liocranidae, Miturgidae and Corrinidae) in 20 randomly selected sites (1 km × 1 km; 15 pitfall traps) that well depicted a land abandonment gradient, in terms of four forest encroachment classes. Our results showed a negative effect of land abandonment on ground spider species richness and diversity (Simpson index), pinpointing that forested habitats with more than 75 % woody vegetation cover are relatively poor. We also provide evidence for the beneficial role of low intensity grazing (0.4–4 livestock units/km2) for ground spider abundance. Community analysis revealed four distinct clusters of co-occurring species, while Generalized Linear Models at cluster and species level showed the definitive role of forest encroachment, and secondarily of other environmental factors such as humidity, elevation and longitude, in regulating species distribution patterns. Conservation measures for ground spider diversity maintenance should focus on promoting traditional agricultural practices, including small-scale cultivation and mild livestock grazing in order to preserve open and semi-open rural mosaics.
No Description
Landscape metrics are widely used to investigate the spatial structure of landscapes. Numerous metrics are currently available, yet only little empirical research has comparatively examined their indicator value for species richness for several taxa at several scales. Taking a Mediterranean forest landscape – Dadia National Park (Greece) – as a case study area, we explored the performance of 52 landscape level landscape metrics as indicators of species richness for six taxa (woody plants, orchids, orthopterans, amphibians, reptiles, and small terrestrial birds) and for overall species richness. We computed the landscape metrics for circular areas of five different extents around each of 30 sampling plots. We applied linear mixed models to evaluate significant relations between metrics and species richness and to assess the effects of the extent of the considered landscape on the performance of the metrics. Our results showed that landscape metrics were good indicators for overall species richness, woody plants, orthopterans and reptiles. Metrics quantifying patch shape, proximity, texture and landscape diversity resulted often in well-fitted models, while those describing patch area, similarity and edge contrast rarely contributed to significant models. Spatial scale affected the performance of the metrics, since woody plants, orthopterans and small terrestrial birds were usually better predicted at smaller extents of surrounding landscape, and reptiles frequently at larger ones. The revealed pattern of relations and performances will be useful to understand landscape structure as a driver and indicator of biodiversity, and to improve forest and landscape management decisions in Mediterranean and other forest mosaics.
The present paper studies butterfly, grasshopper and vascular plant communities in ten seasonally flooded grasslands with different anthropogenic disturbance regimes (NW Greece). Disturbance intensity was assessed on the basis of disturbance frequency and type (grazing, mowing, trampling, constructions). The distribution patterns of butterflies are regulated by humidity and elevation (Redundancy Analysis). Elevation, flower-heads abundance, low disturbance intensity and plant species richness predict grasshopper species richness well, while the latter together with humidity predict plant species richness (Generalized Linear Models). Chorthippus lacustris, a critically endangered endemic grasshopper species, is positively associated with humid microhabitats with high flower-heads abundance. An indicator value procedure reveals four butterfly species as being typical species for habitats with a pronounced character of hedgerows and tree lines. Conservation management of grassland butterflies should focus on the maintenance of the humid character of the humid grasslands as well as on the maintenance of hedgerows and tree lines. The reduction of human-induced disturbance towards occasional grazing and mowing seems to benefit both butterfly and grasshopper communities. Finally, we suggest the use of grasshoppers as surrogates for vascular plants and vice versa, given their congruent species richness patterns.
With increasing road encroachment, habitat fragmentation by transport infrastructures has been a serious threat for European biodiversity. Areas with no roads or little traffic (“roadless and low-traffic areas”) represent relatively undisturbed natural habitats and functioning ecosystems. They provide many benefits for biodiversity and human societies (e.g., landscape connectivity, barrier against pests and invasions, ecosystem services). Roadless and low-traffic areas, with a lower level of anthropogenic disturbances, are of special relevance in Europe because of their rarity and, in the context of climate change, because of their contribution to higher resilience and buffering capacity within landscape ecosystems. An analysis of European legal instruments illustrates that, although most laws aimed at protecting targets which are inherent to fragmentation, like connectivity, ecosystem processes or integrity, roadless areas are widely neglected as a legal target. A case study in Germany underlines this finding. Although the Natura 2000 network covers a significant proportion of the country (16%), Natura 2000 sites are highly fragmented and most low-traffic areas (75%) lie unprotected outside this network. This proportion is even higher for the old Federal States (western Germany), where only 20% of the low-traffic areas are protected. We propose that the few remaining roadless and low-traffic areas in Europe should be an important focus of conservation efforts; they should be urgently inventoried, included more explicitly in the law and accounted for in transport and urban planning. Considering them as complementary conservation targets would represent a concrete step towards the strengthening and adaptation of the Natura 2000 network to climate change.
Nature conservation should ideally build on the scientific recommendations that are concluded from applied conservation research, as well as on monitoring schemes that evaluate the effectiveness of recommendations. We considered as a case study a system of six protected areas located in the Eastern Rhodopes mountains in the southern part of the European Green Belt (EGB). To investigate nature conservation effectiveness, we reviewed 196 articles from scientific journals and books, eight doctoral and master theses, and 39 scientific reports regarding the Greek (one protected area, 428 km2) and the Bulgarian (five protected areas, 904 km2) part of the study area. We extracted 743 conservation recommendations, and through questionnaires completed by 10 local experts, we found that 74% of the recommendations were familiar for the experts. In the Greek (GR) and the Bulgarian part (BG) only 52% and 16%, respectively, of the recommendations were implemented, and only 15% (GR) and 3.1% (BG) were implemented and evaluated regarding their effectiveness. According to the experts, the main reasons for non-implementation and non-evaluation were absence or incompetence of the responsible authorities. Some recommendations obtained a remarkable low rate of implementation, such as those regarding agriculture and livestock rearing practices (GR: 29%, BG: 16%) or mammal conservation (GR: 0%, BG: 16%). Some other recommendations obtained rather high rates at least for Greece, such as tourism and environmental education (GR: 57%, BG: 42%) and bird conservation (GR: 57%, BG: 11%). We found that researchers and conservation managers at both sides of the Greek-Bulgarian border face similar implementation problems, related often to the lack of political will for nature conservation and establishment of competent authorities. The role of the EGB is crucial in enhancing the established cross-border collaborations between stakeholders involved in nature conservation.
In this paper, we present a novel approach for using ecological heterogeneity in reserve design. We measured five ecological heterogeneity indices (EHI) and we used a database of six biological groups (woody plants, orchids, orthopterans, aquatic and terrestrial herpetofauna and passerine birds) across 30 sites in a Mediterranean reserve (Greece). We found that all the five EHI were significantly related to the overall species richness and to the species richness of woody plants and birds. Two indices, measuring vertical vegetation complexity (1/D) and horizontal heterogeneity of landcover types (SIDI) in terms of Simpson’s index, predicted well overall species richness and had significantly higher values inside the complementary reserve networks designed after five of the six biological groups. We compared five methods of forming reserve networks. The method of ecological heterogeneity (selecting those sites with the greatest 1/D and then SIDI) was less efficient (non-significantly) than the species-based methods (scoring and complementary networks) but significantly more efficient than the random method (randomly selected network). We also found that the method of complementary ecological heterogeneity (selecting those sites where each EHI had its maximum value) was not that efficient, as it did not differ significantly from the random method. These results underline the potential of the ecological heterogeneity method as an alternative tool in reserve design.
The current study explores the diversity patterns of the lizard species assembly found on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus with the broader aim of providing guidelines for the conservation management of these types of Mediterranean species communities. We sampled lizards in eight quadrats of 10 ha each, located in the Xeros Potamos protected area (SW Cyprus), and recorded 16 environmental parameters for each quadrat. We identified eight lizard species, five of which are protected under European legislation (Ablepharus budaki, Chalcides ocellatus, Laudakia stel- lio, Mediodactylus kotschyi, Ophisops elegans), and one that is listed as endangered (Acanthoda- ctylus schreiberi) based on IUCN assessments. The microhabitats used by the resident lizard com- munity in the study area were defined best by substrate, bush cover, humidity, altitude and incli- nation (RDA). Traditionally cultivated land with hedges harbored the highest lizard diversity. The typical habitat for the endangered species A. schreiberi consisted of humid sandy river banks with bush cover, a habitat currently threatened by the Xeros Potamos River channelization. Im- mediate action should involve the establishment of a control mechanism for the protection of the sandy riverbeds from illegal deposit of construction debris, the removal of embankments, and the sustainable use of water so as to maintain the natural flow regimes of the river.
Europe is one of the world’s most densely populated continents and has a long history of human‐dominated land‐ and seascapes. Europe is also at the forefront of developing and implementing multinational conservation efforts. In this contribution, we describe some top policy issues in Europe that need to be informed by high‐quality conservation science. These include evaluation of the effectiveness of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites, implications of rapid economic and subsequent land‐use change in Central and Eastern Europe, conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainability of fisheries, the effect of climate change on movement of species in highly fragmented landscapes, and attempts to assess the economic value of ecosystem services and biodiversity. Broad policy issues such as those identified are not easily amenable to scientific experiment. A key challenge at the science–policy interface is to identify the research questions underlying these problem areas so that conservation science can provide evidence to underpin future policy development.
We used the community of passerines and woodpeckers as a target group for the conservation management of Pindos National Park (NW Greece). We conducted bird point counts twice during springtime in 72 plots that represented the main vegetation types (16 sites). We recorded 56 species (14 of conservation concern-SPEC). The montane grasslands were the most important habitats in terms of species of conservation concern, whereas the agricultural mosaics were the most species-rich habitats. The mixed pine-beech woods were significantly richer than the pinewoods, whereas pinewoods and broad-leaved woods did not differ significantly between them. The bird diversity was significantly correlated with the number of tree layers, the vertical structural complexity and the maximum height of trees. The presence of grassland, forest and agricultural habitat type, as well as the altitude and the vegetation structural complexity were the main environmental parameters determining species composition (Canonical Correspondence Analysis). We identified a set of 17 typical species (IndVal analysis) to be used in the monitoring scheme of the Park, which were characteristic of the main bird habitat types distinguished by Ward’s hierarchical clustering. Conservation measures should involve maintenance of the traditional agricultural practices, montane grasslands, old growth woods, as well as the vertical vegetation complexity and high trees in forest stands.
We tested the surrogate value of butterflies, red-listed butterflies and grasshoppers for each other in terms of diversity patterns congruence and complementarity at a site in the NATURA 2000 network. Grammos Mountain is proposed as a new Prime Butterfly Area for Greece: it supports a total of 56 grasshopper species and 112 butterfly species, 24 of which are of European conservation concern (SPEC) and two of Prime Butterflies Area Project. We found a strong congruence in the species richness patterns of SPEC butterflies, butterflies and grasshoppers, because three common ecological factors influenced them: number of flower heads, altitude, and cover of low trees or bushes (Redundancy Analysis, CANOCO). Each complementarity network maintained quite well the species richness of the other two target groups (<18% average species loss). SPEC butterflies were the best surrogate group overall and therefore we propose that they should be monitored on a permanent basis.