Wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres. A cardinal characteristic of the transitional zone between the permanently flooded and the strictly terrestrial areas is the presence of hydromorphic soils and hydrophytic vegetation.
Wetlands, those which have not yet been degraded by Man, support a wonderful world of living organisms that form complex food webs. A notable wetland feature is the plethora of waterfowl which reproduce, nest, feed, and rest in wetland habitats. Several of these bird species are migratory and are protected by international conventions (e.g. Ramsar, Bonn) and EEC Directives (e.g. 79/409/EEC on wild birds, 92/43/EEC on Habitats).
Greece has today about 400 large and small wetlands. Several of them are composite and form wetland mosaics or complexes. The most common wetland types in Greece are: rivers, estuaries, deltas, lagoons, shallow lakes, shallow marine formations, marshes. Their total area is still quite large (210,000 ha) in spite of the heavy losses that occurred during the last two generations.
Wetlands have multiple values for man because:
their high biological diversity is essential to the breeding of superior yielding plants and farm animals, to advances in science and to the security of many industries that use living resources.
they provide drinking and irrigation water, enrich underground waters, protect against floods, improve water quality and reduce damage from frost and heat stress.
they support fish and game and provide rich grazing land for farm animals.
they offer opportunities for recreation, ecological tourism, education, and research
they are linked with the history, myths, and traditions.
There is presently a trend in Greek society towards the recognition of the immense importance of the multiple values of the country's wetland resources. This trend, however, is not so far attained the necessary strength to arrest wetland degradation which is caused by unsustainable activities in the wetlands and their watersheds. The road to the sustainable management of wetland and terrestrial ecosystems will therefore be long and hard. The outlook is optimistic provided that conservation efforts are coordinated and that human communities living close to natural ecosystems are more actively involved in conservation and management.