Once, Greece had a long un-blemished history, respecting nature's treasures they even invented a word for it: ECOLOGY

loggerheaded turtle paparaziThe first recorded botanist in the world was the Greek Theophrastus, who lived in the 4th to 3rd centuries BC. Aristotle, who studied the animal world, was his contemporary, and during the 1st century AD, the physician, Dioskoridhis, compiled an herbal which remained a major source on the subject for more than a millennium.

It may come as a surprise to many that Greece was once heavily forested, even on the islands, with Aleppo and Calabrian pines growing on coastlines, with fir or black pine farther up in the hills and low mountains. This was true in early antiquity, though by Classical times clearing of forests for agriculture and grazing had become the pattern, sometimes with periods of abandoning the areas to scrub before resuming one or the other.

Major uses of wood from cleared forests were for smelting of metal, production of pottery and charcoal, the building of ships and general construction. The more extensive forested areas in modern Greece are found on the mountains of central and northern Greece; on the islands, the larger patches of remaining forest are found in the Ionian islands (especially Kefalonia), in the Sporades island group and in the Eastern Aegean islands (Samos, Lesvos/Mytilini), and on the long island of Evvia (Euboea), though many of these have been much reduced by fires, often set by arsonists to clear land so that building will be allowed (since forests are off limits to this activity).

The traditional farming style in much of Greece, which is largely mountainous, involves farming smaller areas of land, often on terraces, which has saved some wildlife from being exterminated, although the bulldozer has brought much destruction with it, used to clear areas for short term use, often wiping out native flora in the process, and scarring the hills with roads in upland habitats.

endangered wetlandsAlong with the increased accessibility of heavy equipment, an agricultural policy went into effect in Greece (in the 1950s) of draining wetlands for agriculture. Though some are now 'protected', many are poorly managed (as are many Greek National Parks), and other incursions, such as sewage and industrial pollution, hunting, tourism, off-road vehicles and bikes, military plane exercises, dumping, and many other human activities still take their toll on some of these remaining wildlife area. Tourism has had a devastating affect on coastal areas all over Greece, as well as around lakes and lagoons, though one of its positive effects has been the reduction of grazing in areas where many of those born to the traditional lives of shepherds have drifted off to the coasts to work in the tourist industry.