LAND USE CHANGE

Forest ecosystems are threatened by land use changes, chiefly the expansion of financial activity into the natural environment and changes in the type of vegetation. Agricultural expansion, tourist industry pressures and uncontrolled development often result in concrete popping up in the place of forests in burnt areas.

It is imperative to constantly monitor forests and land use changes, publicizing the findings, and to intervene by legal and political means to deal with any kind of illegal activity.

In cooperation with the academic community and with the support of active citizens, WWF Greece develops the necessary tools for monitoring the condition of forests.

We recorded land cover and mapped the changes that occurred during the past 20 years — a task never before been carried out in Greece. Spatial data on land cover and its change tendencies had never been collected at such scale. The mapping results can be found in the Land Cover section of Oikoskopio (in Greek) and are presented and analyzed in the book entitled Greece Then and Now: Longitudinal Mapping of Land Cover, 1987–2007 (in Greek). Each of its main chapters is dedicated to one of the 9 geographic departments of Greece, presenting in detail its land cover data for the two years examined and the most significant land cover changes. In addition, field experts discuss the overall land cover change tendencies in Greece.

Furthermore, through photointerpretation and analysis of more than 250 aerial photographs of the past 65 years, we documented the situation in chosen areas of the country, so that they might serve as tangible examples of land cover change over time and help increase public awareness concerning its overall consequences. We turned our focus towards areas that showed significant change and narrowed it down to the following 7 stories of development or abandonment:

  1. Hymettus (Attica): intense urbanization and parceling
  2. Kassandra (Chalkidiki): expansion of coastal development
  3. Xylokastro (Corinthia): reduction of agricultural areas and concurrent forest degradation due to grazing
  4. Trichonida (Aetoloakarnania): fragmentation of shrubby areas and conversion over time to agricultural
  5. Livadi, Parnassus (Boeotia): expansion of development (mainly second home) combined with the presence of considerable tourism infrastructure
  6. Dadia–Pomak villages (Evros): conversion over time of low vegetation areas to forests
  7. Zagorochoria (Ioannina): patchy afforestation of fields and expansion of settlements at the expense of grasslands

The conclusions confirm and underline the significant pressure exerted on the natural environment by residential development. Urban sprawl is accompanied by tourism development in coastal as well as mountain areas, such as Livadi of Mount Parnassus and Trikala in Corinthia. In lowland areas, particularly so in areas with easy access to water resources such as lakes and rivers, intense agricultural expansion is favored, and forests are lost due to increased pressures of land use change. On the contrary, in mountainous areas (Evros, Zagorochoria), forest densification and expansion is clearly documented, as a result of the abandonment of animal husbandry, mountain agriculture and forest-related economic activities (e.g. resin collection), and the lack of forest management.

Results of the examination of each of the seven areas can be found in a handy web application (in Greek) that presents the changes in land cover over time (1945–2007) for each of the chosen areas through maps.

In February 2013, we organized a one-day conference, in which we gave a presentation (in Greek) of the overall changes in land cover in the country and of those in the chosen areas, to stimulate public debate over rational and sustainable land management in Greece.


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