New Page 3 Home page

  Lake Doirani

Lake Doirani is situated on the Balkan Peninsula in South-eastern Europe (41°23’ N 22°45’ E). 75 kilometres to the north of Thessaloniki and 140 km south of Skopje. The lake is all that remains of the much larger Lake Paionia, which occupied an area of some 13000 ha and was formed by intense seismic activity in the pre-glacial geological period. The lake today covers an area of 39.9 km2.

The wetland with its many different plants and wealth of animal species combines with the features of the area’s recent history in a remarkable wetland landscape. In the nearby settlement, also called Doirani, the abandoned carriages of the old railway station by the shore of the lake remind the visitor of times gone by, while the British military cemetery on the hill behind the village awakens memories of the First World War.

The agricultural life of the area is clearly seen in the extensive fields sown with cereals, as well as the rangelands with bushes, scrub and brushwood where animals graze. The old boats now lie ashore, bringing to mind the familiar image of the fisherman, although it is rare to see men out fishing on the lake today: declining fish stocks mean that the lake can no longer feed the local people.

The lake is rather shallow with a depth from 3-4 m, in contrast with the depth of 10 m that the lake had some decades ago. Read more

  Climate and Geology

The climate of Lake Doirani has a strong Mediterranean influence with warm dry summers and cold and humid winters. Lake Doirani is located at the boundary between two tectonic blocks. The older of the two, situated on the lake’s north-eastern side, consists of metamorphic rocks and granites of the massif containing Belles/Belasitsa Mountain. The other is the Axios/Vardar River zone on the south-western side. The boundary between the two massifs lies along the eastern and north-eastern portions of Lake Doirani. The Doirani region lies in a particularly active seismic area.
Read more


Vegetation is the basis of all life for the lake, since it provides home, shelter and food to a host of organisms, while the roots of the plants help to retain and stabilise the soil. All the species, from the duckweed to the ancient plane trees contribute to the balanced survival of a complex and invaluable ecosystem.  

The lake itself is home to plants which have adapted to conditions of permanent immersion in water, such as the species Myriophyllum spicatum and Potamogeton perfoliatusta. Accompanied by dense clusters of wild reeds and bulrushes in the shallow water, they make up the aquatic vegetation of the wetland. Close to the shore of the lake, where the land is only occasionally submerged, there are dense clusters of rushes. All around the shore are extensive dune areas constituting a lake landscape unusual in Greece. Their vegetation combines with the reeds growing within the lake and with the lakeside trees. White willows, mentioned in Theophrastus, and white poplars, symbols of a chthonic cult in ancient times, grow in the light, moist soil of the area close to the shore, creating a wetland-lakeside forest. The climbing plants which grow among them give the forest a tropical look, while the massive plane trees scattered here and there are another distinctive feature of the place.

In the Greek side of the lake, 4 kilometres north of the village of Doirani and near to Mouries settlement stands the Mouries Forest is situated a little farther from the shore of the lake, amid fields and covers an area of 59 hectares. A forest of a kind rarely found today, it represents what remains of a much larger, alluvial forest, and is also an important resting point on the itinerary of migrating birds. It has been declared a Protected Natural Monument. More commonly known as the “Thousand Trees”, it is included, together with a small part of the lake, in the areas recommended for inclusion in the Natura 2000 Network.

Οak, sacred to Zeus in ancient times, alder, known since the time of Homer, and ash stand close together in dense clusters which provide the many species of wildlife with the ideal habitat in which to feed, nest and reproduce. Ancient plane trees scattered here and there through the forest lend it an extraordinary natural beauty, making it a favourite destination for visitors to the region.
Read more


The Doirani Wetland is home to many species of wildlife. The Greek part of the lake has been included in the List of Special Protection Zones, while of the birds which use the area for nesting, as a resting place during migration, for wintering or seeking food, a large number –some 36 species– are designated as rare and threatened with extinction on the European level. The importance of the area is heightened by the presence of the pygmy cormorant and the Dalmatian pelican, species threatened with extinction on a global level.

The lake hosts several wading birds, long legged with beaks, splashing in the shallow waters of the lake as they hunt for insects, amphibians, crustaceans and fish like the little egret, as well as other kinds of heron like the squacco heron, the common egret and the grey heron. The bird-lover will also be enchanted to catch a glimpse of the glossy ibex, the gallinago and the avocet, the ‘lady of the marshland’, one of the most attractive of waders.

The Dalmatian pelican, one of the largest birds on earth, 1.80m in length and with a wing span of over 3 metres, fishes in Lake Doirani. Pygmy cormorants, wigeons, gadwalls, mallards ducks, pintails, garganeys, pochards, and grebes all play their part in creating a rich ecosystem. Great crested grebes bobbing up and down on the water perform their elaborate mating rituals during the breeding season. Cormorants swim on the lake, nest in the nearby trees and fly through the air in spectacular formation and Mute swans with their orange beaks dip their heads in the water as they search for aquatic plants, or graze on the mossy vegetation of the shore. 

Birds of prey, such as the marsh harrier, the hen harrier, the goshawk, the sparrow hawk, the hobby and the common buzzard, with its sturdy legs and powerful hooked beak are also frequent visitors to the lake in search of prey.

The fish which formerly inhabited the lake numbered up to eighteen species, most important among them the carp, catfish, roaches and perches which, together with the northern pike, the rudd, the tench and the bleak, were once abundant in the lake and easy to sell. Other species included the eel, chub, bitterling, heckel, silver crucian carp, mosquito fish, loach, gudgeon etc., many of which are now rare and protected species. In recent years, because of errors in the management of the lake, there has been a dramatic decline in fish stocks and in the number of species found there. 

The Mοuries Forest is home to a large number of mammals, including weasels, foxes, badgers, ferrets, hares and European ground squirrels. Doirani is also home to reptiles like the water snake, the marsh turtle, the green lizard and the Balkan wall lizard (Podarcis taurica) – which are protected species on the European level. Amphibians divide their time between the waters of the lake and the shore, such as the Rana balcanica frog, as well as a number of protected species like the eastern spadefoot toad and the great crested newt, which is the largest species of Triturus (newt) in Greece. Molluscs, insects and crustaceans also form an important link in the food chain.

The lake is home to aquatic insects which move on the surface of the water or immerse themselves in the depths, such as the common dragon fly and along the shore there is a band some 10-15 metres wide covered in impressive piles of empty shells of the bivalve mollusc Dreissenia polymorpha.
Read more

  Lake and Human life

People living around the lake are approximately 9,000 working mainly in agriculture, fisheries and animal husbandry. The population of the area saw several ups and downs after the establishment of the borders and the events that followed 2nd World War. In the last few years a small increase has been recorded.

The main land uses in the area around the lake are agriculture, grazing, while in the mountainous area there are some forestry operations.

  The decline of lake's water level

At the beginning of the last century the water balance –i.e. the relationship between incoming and outgoing water– began to be disturbed. In recent years there has been a continual decline in the surface and underground waters which feed the lake, leading to a general decline in its level. The fall in water level -over the years 1988-1992 it is calculated that it has dropped by 2.5 metres- has led to a reduction in fish stocks.
Read more

  Proposed restoration measures for Lake Doirani

Considering that Lake Doirani straddles the border of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, “The Goulandris Natural History Museum - Greek Biotope / Wetland Centre (EKBY)” and the non-governmental organization “Society for the Investigation and Conservation of Biodiversity and Sustainable Development of Natural Ecosystems (BIOECO)” carried out a joint two-year project entitled “Assessment of the degree of expression of the functions and values of the transboundary Lake Doirani”, funded by the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the framework of the Bilateral Development Aid Programme. The main scope of the project was to propose measures to restore lake functions and values. A brief description of the proposed measures is presented in the following table. 

Proposed restoration measures for Lake Doirani:





Environmental friendly agricultural practices

Irrigation affects the lake’s water level but not in the magnitude expected.

Even in the case of no irrigation in the catchment area, water level drops following the same general trend observed in the cases of irrigated scenarios. This shows that the lake’s hydroperiod is mainly affected by the prevailing environmental conditions (precipitation and temperature).

Nevertheless, it seems that implementation of environmental friendly agricultural practices is possible to yield until 40 cm rise in lake's water level.


Implementation of an agro-environmental measure aiming at the reduction of the total irrigated area.


Public awareness concerning the use of water saving irrigation techniques and farmers training.


Setting up of experimental fields where water saving techniques can be applied.


Establishment of a meteorological station for the collection of data and further calculation of evaporotranspiration in the cultivated areas.


Close examination of the possibility of water transportation from an external source to Lake Doirani taking into account that o thorough Environmental Impact Assessment should precede


For Doirani catchment area important restrictions apply for new irrigation drills. Furthermore the application of drip irrigation is advantaged.

Wastewater treatment facilities

Lake Doirani has long been characterized as a eutrophic natural lake. However, recent events, particularly the decline in water level due to anthropogenic impacts and a prolonged dry period, have begun to accelerate the lake toward a higher eutrophic state.


Construction or completion of sewage collecting systems and use of artificial wetlands for the treatment of sewage.

Study and implementation of treating wastewaters for reuse for irrigation purposes


Regards all hamlets in Greece and Former Yugoslavia.

Monitoring of water quality and quantity

A well designed and well functioning monitoring system may act as the basis for the judgment of the success/failure or the need for alteration of a restoration measure. Furthermore, lake Doirani’s drop in water level significantly affects its physico-chemical and biological quality elements. The establishment of a monitoring system, that will provide continuous data to both countries, is thus considered necessary.


Monitoring will be carried for parameters indicative of the biological, hydromorphological and general physico-chemical quality elements, most sensitive to pressures to which lake Doirani is subject, taking also into account the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive (60/2000/EC).


Installation of automatic water level recorder for surface water and groundwater.

Acquisition of two polyparametric water quality recorders (one for each country) for in situ assessment of water quality.


Establishment of automatic meteorological stations in including the system and software for the wireless transfer and download by both countries.


Implementation of a monitoring program for water's  physicochemical parameters and for the phytoplankton




Study regarding the fish fauna in Lake Doirani

The average annual catch dropped from 529 tonnes in 1946 to only 25 tonnes in 2002. Furthermore, the composition of the fish catch and the location of the fish nurseries grounds have changed. Further to the impacts on fish fauna itself, this considerable decrease of fish yield over the past 40 years poses a serious problem for the local economy.

Elaboration of a study regarding the current situation on fish fauna with emphasis on commercial fish


Visitor management plan, design and establishment of environmental interpretation facilities in Lake Doirani.

The last years the visitors increase, there are limited “commercialized” services and infrastructures, lacking various important features and there are no economic benefits for the locals.


These services have been developed without planning.

Visitor management plan.

Design and establishment of environmental interpretation facilities.




  More information for Lake Doirani


Home page  |  Conservation Projects  |  Site map  |  Contact  |  Webmaster  |  EKBY, 2006  |