From: WWF
Published September 30, 2007 09:36 AM

Greek forests severely damaged by summer fires

Athens, Greece – A report by WWF gives an overview of the damages and environmental impacts caused by the devastating wildfires that raged throughout southern Greece this past summer.

According to WWF-Greece, the wildfires scorched a total of 177,265 hectares in the Peloponese Peninsula south of Athens — 55% (97,518ha) of which consisted of forests and areas of natural vegetation, 41% (78,104ha) of  agricultural land and 1% of infrastructure (settlements, roads, etc.).

More than 30,000ha of burnt land were located within Natura 2000 protected sites.

The fires also caused severe damage to the habits of many wildlife species including the golden jackal, turtles, hedgehogs and lizards.

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According to WWF, further research will be required to assess long-term impacts on wild fauna.

“The root causes of the disastrous situation we faced this summer lie in the state’s chronic negligence of the country’s forests in terms of protection and management," said Demetres Karavellas, CEO of WWF-Greece.

"The potential for rehabilitating these sites is dependent on managing human activities and avoiding extensive land-use change."

WWF-Greece is committed to helping in the rehabilitation process, and has undertaken a long-term commitment to contribute to solving the root cause of forest degradation in the country. This includes establishing a forest monitoring system that will provide early warning when land-use changes are being planned, and facilitating the process to overhaul the national forest protection system.

“The future of these areas presents a major challenge for us all," Karavellas added. "Negative land-use changes and ill-conceived rehabilitation could mean total destruction for these sites.”

END NOTES:

• The following protected areas in Greece affected by the fires include:

Lake Kaiafas and the surrounding forest: 758 ha burnt (22,5% of the Natura site)
Olympia: 67 ha burnt (21,3% of the Natura site)
Foloi plateau: 2,994 ha burnt (30,7% of the Natura site)
Mt Taygetos: 8,654 ha burnt (16,3% of the Natura site)
Mt Parnonas: 4,506 ha burnt (8,1% of the Natura site)
Mt Barbas, Mt Klokos, Selinounta gorge: 3,048 ha burnt (50,4% of the Natura site)
Vouraikos gorge: 636 ha burnt (29,2% of the Natura site)

• The report was prepared in coordination with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

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