Prefecture of East Macedonia and Thrace: Natural Environment
The natural environment in the Region of East Macedonia and Thrace is characterised by a variety of habitats, which host a great number of rare species, and by unique biotopes. There are many significant protected reserves (the Elati forest, the Frakto forest, the only virgin forest in Greece, the Porto Lagos lagoon, the Evros Delta, the Dadia forest). The natural environment of the Region of East Macedonia and Thrace is protected by the Ramsar Treaty (due to the fact that 4 out of the 11 Greek wetlands of international importance are in this area) and by the E.U. initiatives CORINE and NATURA 2000. The geomorphology of the terrain and the climatic variations have created the unique nature of the region. In the central, semi-mountainous and flat areas the climate is continental with perceptible diversions between summer and winter temperatures. On the south coastal zone the climate is a combination of Mediterranean and continental climate, while on the mountains to the north winter is harsh, precipitation is high and snowfall is very often. The islands have mild climate with the exception of the mountainous areas of high altitude.
The Rhodope mountain range, the forest complex in Drama and the riparian forest of Nestos, although they have been degraded, continue to be the most significant biotopes. The Evros Delta, the Nestos Delta and the lake ecosystems are sanctuaries for a large number of different species of breeding or wintering birds, which is an indication of the good preservation of the natural environment and the diversity of the biotopes. The close proximity of the lakes and the wetlands render them a unified ecosystem, a refuge for the emigrating birds that travel to Africa or to the opposite direction towards the colder North. The presence of rare predatory birds, such as the eagles, and of wild mammals (e.g. bears, wolves, otters) is an indication of a healthy habitat.
Although the intensive agricultural exploitation of the plains (e.g. the cultivation of cotton) has resulted in an inevitable degradation of the water bed, the natural environment of the region is still rather intact. There are many areas where nature is combined with the charming villages and create landscapes of unsurpassed beauty.