NATURE AND ENVIRONMENT
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The Rodhopi mountain range, a section of which lies in the Prefecture of Xanthi, is characterised by a beautifully diverse landscape: streams run through the forests, and the small valleys give their place to small hills, with luscious or little vegetation. The Prefecture or Xanthi has much biodiversity. Travelling from Porto Lagos to the Rodhopi Forest, you will encounter almost as many species of flora as if you were to travel by road from Thessaloniki to Sweden (elm, holly, ash, hornbeam, maple, oak, chestnut, silver birch, beech, forest pine, fir). The wild fauna of Xanthi Prefecture is particularly rich.
Many rare bird species (such as grouse and ring-neck pheasant) reproduce in the local forests, as do large mammals, such as the wild boar, deer and brown bear (in the north of the Prefecture). In the mountain region of Haintou and Koula there are rare birds and endemic plant species. Bears use this area to build nests and reproduce. In the River Nestos there live ruddy shelducks (Tadorna ferruginea) and otters (Lutra lutra). The River Kompsatos is particularly interesting, a refuge for many birds of prey. This wetland can be considered a unified ecological entity along with Vistonida, and is protected internationally by the Ramsar Convention.
The Prefecture has plenty of waters, and we thus often encounter springs, bridges and watermills. There is little cultivable land, as there are few flat parts. Steep and inaccessible precipices jump out in amongst the mountain slopes. The climate is continental with rain and snow, and for this reason the entrances to houses face south whilst their north side has few and small openings.
The specially protected zone for birds of prey of Dadias Forest is constituted of a small core area (922 ha) and a larger one (6,368 ha). The rocks in the larger core are volcanic, whilst 95% in the smaller core are metamorphic, primarily silicon. The varied terrain, with a large number of small and large streams, rock formations, small and large openings in the forest, living hedges of various forest species and fields with traditional crops compose a most intriguing forest landscape. The forest is comprised of pure and mixed oak (Quercus) and other broadleaved species, as well as black and Calabrian pines. The region has particular ecological value, thanks to the presence of birds of prey, many of which are rare in Europe. The region is also an important biotope for many reptiles and fowl, as a result of its location. It is a crossroads for migrating birds and an ideal position for nesting. The last population of Monk vulture (Aegypius monachus) in Greece lives and reproduces in Dadias Forest, and the only colony that reproduces in southeast Europe. Also observed in the Forest are: vultures (Gyps fulvus); Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) returning from late March to early April; white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) appearing in winter; imperial eagles (Aquila heliaca) in spring and summer; 4 or 5 pairs of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos); 20 pairs of lesser spotted eagles (Aquila pomarina); 8-10 pairs of Bonelli?s eagles (Hieraaetus pennatus); 13-16 pairs of short-toed eagles (Circaetus gallicus); at least 60 pairs (half the European population) of long-legged buzzards (Buteo rufinus); 1 nesting pair of lanner falcons (Falco biarmicus); 1-2 nesting pairs of peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus); and, 5 pairs of horn owls (Bubo bubo). There are also goshawks, sparrow hawks, kestrels, hobbies, common scops owls, tawny owls, long-eared owls and barn owls. Non-birds of prey also make an appearance, such as around 12 pairs of black storks (Ciconia nigra), a reproducing population; the Isabelline wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina) nests in Europe ? with 50 pairs reproducing in Thrace alone; masked shrikes (Lanius nubicus); and the Aletoris ghukar kleini, a Thracian partridge sub-species. Thanks to the favourable nesting conditions and plentiful food, these populations continue to reproduce.