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Greece lies at the southeastern edge of Europe. It is a land of mountains and sea, where it is difficult to be far out of range of either - a factor of major influence on the country’s economic and historical development. It has an area of 131,957 square kilometres, of which approximately one-fifth consists of islands (9,835 islands, islets and rock-islands, of which around 220 are inhabited), explaining in turn the country’s strong nautical tradition throughout its history.
Greece is one of the richest in Europe in terms of its biodiversity, and when it comes to the varieties of its endemic herbs and medicinal plants, on a global scale it is second only to Madagascar. Approximately 6,000 plant species have been recorded, with a large number of endemic species, due to the isolation of mountains and islands. Nearly all mammal species recorded are indigenous, as well as 85% of freshwater fish species.
Greece hosts a large variety of Mediterranean habitats included in the reference list of the Natura 2000 initiative: from open sea, tidal areas and sea dunes, to several types of shrubs and grasslands and Mediterranean mountainous forests of coniferous. The Greek list of Natura 2000 sites includes 241 Sites of Community Importance (SCI) and 202 Special Protection Areas (SPA).
See also: Europe’s Champ in Biodiversity & Amvrakikos Gulf: An Abundant Wetland
Climate change has already noticeable impacts, such as rising temperatures and sea level due to the melting of Polar ice, and a more frequent occurrence of floods and storms. These impacts will have an effect on the balance of the ecosystem, water and food supply, public health, industry, agriculture and infrastructure. Greece is required to limit the increase in greenhouse gas emissions to 25% (relative to levels in 1990 for certain emissions and 1995 for others) in the period 2008-2012.
The European Union’s climate change package, includes 20% cut in emissions, 20% improvement in energy efficiency and 20% increase in renewables by 2020. The triple targets of the 20-20-20 package are considered by the Greek Government as both an obligation and an opportunity. Moreover the ‘2050 roadmap’ looks beyond the 2020 objectives and sets out a plan to reduce domestic emissions by 80 to 95% by mid-century.
See also: Bank of Greece Report on Climate Change
Green Growth - which respects the environment and sees it as a source of growth, rather than a drain on development - is the only viable way forward for Greece. Green Growth has the ability to make Greece more competitive in the global economy, creating quality jobs and new business opportunities, while attracting new investments and improving quality of life. The three key priorities for Greek Green Growth are protecting biodiversity, climate & energy, conserving the country’s natural resources, as well as changing the patterns of production and consumption.
For problems such as the environmental crisis, we become part of the problem if we don’t contribute in finding the solution. Hundreds of volunteering actions in the whole of Greece give us the opportunity to participate.
Did you know?
• Greece has zero navigable rivers because of the mountainous terrain. Nearly 80% of Greece is mountainous.
• Greece has 9,835 islands, islets and rock-islands, of which around 220 are inhabited. Greece’s largest island is Crete.
• Greece has the longest coastline in Europe and the 10th longest in the world. (14,000 km or 8,700 miles), of which 5 % belongs to areas of unique ecological value. The coastline is equally distributed between the mainland and 3,000 islands. Over 70 % of the coastline is rocky (EU,2009).
• Continuously inhabited for over 6,000 years, Athens is one of the oldest cities in Europe. (It was first settled around the Acropolis, during the Neolithic period 4,500-4,000 BC).
• Greece enjoys more than 250 days of sunshine—or 3,000 sunny hours—a year.
• Thousands of birds stop in Greece’s wetlands on their migrations. As many as 100,000 birds from northern Europe and Asia spend their winters in Greece.
• Greece has one of the most varied fauna in Europe, including 111 species of mammals, 21 of amphibians, 62 of reptiles, 442 of birds, and 555 of fish. (2009)
• The monk seal has been a part of Greek’s natural and cultural heritage and is described in The Odyssey. The image of a monk seal was even found on a coin dated 500 B.C.
• No point in Greece is more than 137 km (85 miles) away from water.
• Greece was once a mass of rock that was completely underwater. When a tectonic plate crashed into Europe, the collision created Greece’s mountainous ranges. The plate is still moving and causes earthquakes all around the Aegean.