Greece is a relatively small country of 132,000 km2, which is situated among three continents (Europe, Asia, Africa), playing a significant role in the Mediterranean's commercial activity, cultural interchange and evolution.
Greece's coastline is very long (c. 16,000 km), including numerous peninsulas and islands. Greece also has an intense mountain topography, with a large variety of geological formations and rocks. All these features create an unprecedented landscape, with unique specialness from one area to another.
Furthermore, several different climatic types are met in our country (from dry-semiarid of SE Crete to cold-continental of Rhodopi), forming a big vegetation mosaic and contributing to the isolation of certain biotopes, which in turn host a relatively large number of endemic and rare plant and animal species.
Simultaneously, the palaeogeographic history of the Hellenic area, combined to climatic changes and Ice Ages, resulted in the enrichment of the Greek flora and fauna. Moreover, several species previously expanding to Central and North Europe, remained in our country as relicts and today they are considered extremely rare.
It is a fact that Greece has a huge natural wealth and it is among the first European countries in this field. Unfortunately, the Greek environment faces multiple dangers, that sometimes lead to catastrophes. It is characteristic that 3/4 of the Greek wetlands are destroyed,
while forestation coverage is only 25%, among the lowest in European Mediterranean!
The danger of our country's environmental destruction imposes the protection of certain areas, biotopes, plants and animals. A fairly large percentage of the Greek area is currently under some protection status, by national laws, presidential decrees, international conventions and EU directives.
According to the definition given by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the term protected area refers to: "An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and
managed through legal or other effective means".
Several different categories of protected areas have been established in our country, most of which are included in NATURA 2000, a European Network of Protected Areas.
This network is based on two European Directives, the 92/43/EEC Directive for the protection of habitats and the 79/409/EEC Directive for the protection of birds.
The Habitat's Directive, as it is known, aims to the protection of certain habitats, as well as to the protection of plant and animal species, which are considered important for Europe. The basic means for achieving this purpose is the creation of a network of protected areas (sites). This network will be under special management, set by each country, according to its individual needs.
However, the Directive's Annexes concerning Greek important habitat types and species, do not represent our country's biodiversity. A significant number of habitat types and even more important numbers of endemic and endangered plant and animal species, are not included in the above-mentioned annexes.
Today, 234 NATURA 2000 sites have been defined all over Greece, covering 18% of continental Greece, i.e. approximately 2,360,000 hectares, leaving outside of that figure, nett sea territories.
Parnitha has been included in NATURA 2000 network and has been declared a special area for the protection of birds (SPA), as well as a landscape of particular natural beauty (25638/1269 decision of the Ministry of Agriculture). The Hellenic Protected Areas are cited in the following pages.