Pindus Mountains mixed forests

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The Pindus Mountain range, extending across the countries of Greece, FYROM, and Albania, contains high, steep peaks, dissected by many deep canyons and other karstic landscapes. At higher elevations the forest is composed of conifer species, while at lower altitudes, mixed broadleaf species predominate. The region has an outstanding rate of floral endemism. Surprisingly, the Mediterranean’s forests are second only to the tropical Andes worldwide in richness of endemic plants, and this ecoregion’s rate of endemism can exceed 35%. A large number of endemic and restricted range plant species are threatened with extinction. Brown bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus), and jackal (Canis aureus) populations persist in these mountains. Threats to the ecoregion are the result of a wide array of human activities. Socio-economic and political instability in the northern part of the ecoregion contributes to pressures on the region’s biodiversity.

  • Scientific Code
  • Ecoregion Category
  • Size
    15,300 square miles
  • Status
  • Habitats

Location and General Description
The Pindus Mountain Conifer and mixed broadleaf forests ecoregion extends geographically in a north-south direction from the mountain ranges of the Peloponese (Taiyetos, 2,404 m) to the central Greek Parnasos (Liakoura, 2,457 m; Giona, 2,510 m), Smolikas (2,637 m), and Olympus, (2917 m), to northern Albania and western FYROM (Perister, 2,601 m; Galicica, 2,255 m). Climatically, the ecoregion is characterized by an average annual rainfall of 1,200 mm, but in certain high altitudes this can be higher than 2,000 mm. Snow frequently falls during winter and minimum average temperatures are below freezing (-5 to 0º C). From the geological point of view, the Pindus mountain ranges belong to the Alpine orogenic system, distinguished by a very complex lithological composition. Mesozoic dolomite and limestone predominate; other important substrates are sandstone and marl, the oldest crystalline metamorphic (i.e. quartzite and schist), and ultrabasic serpentines (Smolikas range). The landform is characterized by high steep elevations, mainly related to the calcareous massifs, and the abundance of deep canyons and other karstic landscapes.

The wide altitudinal range of this ecoregion results in two major forest zones: a conifer zone, found at the highest elevations (average altitudinal range of 1,200-2,500 m), and a mixed broadleaf zone, that occurs at medium elevations and lowlands.

The dominant canopy tree species of the mountain conifer forests are the Pallas pine (Pinus nigra pallasiana), the endemic Greek fir (Abies cephalonica), and the hybrid Balkan fir (Abies borisii-regis). Two rare and endemic pine species (Pinus heldreichii and P. peuce) occur on certain mountain massifs. Mixed fir and beech (Fagus sylvatica) forests frequently appear from Albania and FYROM mountains to the northern Pindos. Juniper woodlands (Juniperus foetidissima) usually define a timberline in high mountain areas of certain massifs.

Broadleaf mixed oak forests dominate at medium and low altitudes in deep soil and humid elevations, valleys, and canyons. An outstandingly high diversity is present of deciduous oak species (i.e. Quercus frainetto, Q. pubescens, Q. cerris, Q. trojana, Q. petraea, Q. dalechampi) and other deciduous broadleaf species (i.e. Carpinus orientalis, C. betulus, Ostrya carpinifolia, Tilia spp., Sorbus spp., Acer spp.). Canyons host important Tertiary relic species such as Aesculus hippocastanum. Evergreen oaks, mainly holly oak (Quercus calliprinos) spread widely on dry and rocky south-facing slopes, from the broadleaf mixed forest zone to the mountain conifer high altitude zone.

Biodiversity Features
The endemism rate of this region’s mountain ranges can exceed 35%, especially in southern and central Greece. This is within a total mountain flora of about 4,000 species. The majority of the conifer tree species (Abies cephalonica, A. borisii-regis, Pinus heldreichii, and P. peuce) are endemic to the ecoregion. Among the notable endemic and relict species are Aesculus hippocastanum, Jankaea heldreichii, Ramonda nataliae, Macrotomia densiflora, and Primula kitaibeliana. Many plant taxa related to these forest ecosystems have a very restricted distribution range, and are included as threatened species in the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. The total number of threatened plant species in Greece is 571 species and in Albania is 79 species.

The ecoregion hosts a very high faunal diversity, mainly with regard to birds. The ecoregion includes many IBAs (Important Bird Areas) as well as threatened SPECs (Species of European Concern). Mountain lakes (i.e. the Prespa Lakes) host an amazing bird fauna. These include large breeding colonies of herons, spoonbills, and egrets, as well as two pelican species. The Dalmatian pelican population of Prespa represents one of the few colonies in Europe.

The brown bear (Ursus arctos) population is still significant and under threat. Wolf (Canis lupus) and jackal (Canis aureus) are also two important endangered large mammals from the ecoregion.

Current Status
According to historical data, at the end of the Antiquity, it appears that the Pindus mountain ranges had a very low human population, and tall forests prevailed widely throughout. No evidence exists of a significant timber trade or intensive logging in the Pindus until the eighteenth century. Rapid landscape changes occurred between 1800-1870 including overgrazing, firewood collection, and agriculture, during a period of important population growth and political instability. Pressure on forests continued until after 1950, leading to accelerated deforestation and soil erosion. Nevertheless, the Pindus mountain ranges still host significant old-growth forest stands, mainly related to inaccessible high mountain slopes and canyons (i.e. the Aos River canyon).

Types and Severity of Threats
Human impact is high in this ecoregion. The socio-economic and political instability of the northern part of the ecoregion (Albania and FYROM) contributes to illegal logging that has already destroyed extensive forest areas, including certain National Parks in Albania. Mountain tourism, ski facilities, and road construction are strongly degrading huge mountain forest ecosystems. Due to the soil instability of the steep mountain slopes, road construction and clear cutting operations have provoked significant landslides, and the collapse of large mountain slopes. Mining is a threat both directly and indirectly. Related activities threaten certain protected areas and their endangered habitats and species. An example of this is bauxite mining occurring in Iti National Park. Overgrazing and over-collection of plants continue to threaten the region’s ecosystems.

Degree of Protection

  Country Area Name

& Creation Date
 PA size (Ha/Sq Km)
 % Ecor.


& IUCN Cat.
 Major Forest Types
Greece Mt. Olympus (1938) 40 sq Km   National Park

Biosphere reserve
Greece Mt. Parnassos 35 sq Km   National Park  
Greece Mt. Iti 72 sq Km   National Park  
Greece Vicos-Aoos 12 sq Km   National Park  
Greece Prespa 49 sq Km   National Park  
Albania Dajti     National Park  
Albania Lura     National Park  
Albania Tomori     National Park  
FYROM Periscer     National Park  
FYROM Galicica     National Park  

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
This ecoregion is equivalent to the DMEER (2000) unit of the same name, and is a composite ecoregion involving the modification of an early DMEER unit with the addition of areas delineated by Bohn et al. 2000. The southern half of the ecoregion emerged during the DMEER delineation process, while the northern portion of the ecoregion was developed through the addition of a corridor of montane and altimontane beech and mixed beech forests extending north through Albania and ending at the Drin River, the southern boundary of the Dinaric Mountains mixed forests ecoregion.

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Prepared by: Pedro Regato
Reviewed by: In process