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This article on the sand dunes of Greece, is a revised country report for the 'Sand Dune Inventory of Europe' (Doody ed. 1991) [1]. The 1991 inventory was prepared under the umbrella of the European Union for Dune Conservation [EUDC]. The original inventory was presented to the European Coastal Conservation Conference, held in the Netherlands in November 1991. It attempted to provide a description of the sand dune vegetation, sites and conservation issues throughout Europe including Scandinavia, the Atlantic coast and in the Mediterranean.

An overview article on European sand dunes provides links to the other European country reports. These represent chapters from updated individual country reports included in the revised, 2nd Edition of the 'Sand Dune Inventory of Europe' prepared for the International Sand Dune Conference “Changing Perspectives in Coastal Dune Management”, held from the 31st March - 3rd April 2008, in Liverpool, UK (Doody ed. 2008)[2].

Status: revised 2008.

Greece- Sand Dune Inventory Report

Author: Dimitrios Babalonas, Dimitris Margaritoulis and Kimon Danieldis - original text with minor revisions.


Greece is surrounded by the Aegean Sea to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Ionian Sea to the west. In spite of its small area (about 132,000km2) it has a very long coastline (estimated between 15,000 and 16,500km). Coastal dunes are mostly rather small, scattered and found on many places along the Greek coast. About 30% is actively prograding whilst 70% is eroding.

Distribution and type of dune

Great geomorphological variation is a characteristic of the Greek coasts. There are many places where sand dunes cannot develop because the bases of hills or mountains are near to the sea. This is the case between Albania and Patraikos Gulf and along the islands. In other cases, the seashores have deposits of fine loamy sand, which is not suitable for dune formation, as in the delta area of the rivers Axios, Aliakmon etc. Some of these are occupied only by salt marshes. Sand dunes tend either to occupy a narrow fringe bordering flat areas of land or to form extensive dunes up to 10m height, as in western Peloponnesus. In Kiparissia Bay, the dunes may even reach a height of 20-30m.


The sand dunes of the Greek coasts are colonised by flowering plants with different life forms. A clear zonation with four or five zones is usual. Only in a few cases is the natural vegetation forest (e.g. the Strofilia area in the western Peloponnesus). Grazing and other human activities have helped create open dune grassland and heath.


The first zone along the sand dune coasts is colonised by the nitrophilous species Atriplex tatarica together with Euphorbia peplis, Salsola kali and Xanthium strumarium, which form the two associations of the Cakiletea-Class: Salsola kali-Xanthium strumarium-Ass. and Atriplicetum tataricae (mainly in northern Greece).


In these areas the associations Agropyretum mediterraneum and Ammophiletum arundinaceae (initial, optimal or terminal phase), are mainly found. The dominant species are Agropyrum junceum ssp. mediterraneum, Ammophila arundinacea, Elymus giganteus ssp. sabulosus (only in North Aegean coasts), Sporobolus pungens, Calystegia soldanella, Medicago marina, Otanthus maritimus, Eryngium maritimum, Euphorbia paralias and Pancratium maritimum. 

Dune grassland

This is usually represented by dense grassland dominated by Ephedra distachya and Silene conica ssp. subconica in northern Greece. Also present are the species Jasione heldreichii var. microcephalus, Nigella arvensis, Cyperus capitatus, Teucrium polium, Hypericum olympicum and Scirpus holoschoenus. In the South Euphorbia terracina and Silene nicaeensis are the main species, while Bromus rigidus, Pseudorlaya pumila, Hedypnois cretica, Petrorhagia glumacea and Thymus capitatus are also present.


Dune Juniper thickets mainly consist of Juniperus phoenicea (habitat 2250*) occur in valleys and slopes of stabilised dunes which correspond to the Class QUERCETEA ILICIS. Arborised thickets of dunes (habitat 2260) with communities that belong to the order Pistacio lentisci-Rhamnetalia alaterni occur in Cyprus dunes. This vegetation mainly consists of Rhamnus oleoides, Pistacia lentiscus, Olea europaea var. sylvestris, Ceratonia siliqua and other species. Dunes with pines, Pinus brutia and Pinus halepensis (Hadjichambis, 2005) occur rarely in the sand dune ecosystems of Cyprus. They occur in stabilised dunes, towards the rear of the zonation reported. In some cases, they also occur at a small distance from the coast. In most places in which these communities occur, pines of different ages occur, as well as natural regeneration.

Dune slacks

These are the rarest habitat type in Cyprus. They occur in humid depressions between dunes (habitat 2190). This vegetation mainly consists of Schoenus nigricans, Plantago maritima subsp. crassifolia, Linum strictum and other species.

Important sites

The list of sites given below includes the most important areas of coastal dunes in Cyprus according to their ecological status. The estimated size includes other habitats as well.

Table of important sites

The map shows the Botanical divisions of Cyprus (I: Akamas peninsula, II: Troodos range, III: The south area around Limassol, IV: Larnaca area, V: The east part of Central plain, VI: The west part of Central plain, VII: The northern slopes and peaks of Pentadactylos, VIII: Karpasia peninsula).

Figure: Numbered sand dune sites included in the Figure above


Many dune sites of Cyprus are remnants of greater dune areas, which have declined due to significant pressures and impacts affecting them during the last 30 years, mainly tourism. Many dune areas have also been afforested with Acacia saligna (Labill.) Wendl. fil. or Eucalyptus spp. destroying most of the natural vegetation (Hadjichambis and Della, 2007)[3].

Coastal sand dunes are among the most vulnerable habitats of Cyprus (Hadjichambis, et al. 2004))[4], however, they are subject to high-intensity recreational and other uses. Fourteen types of anthropogenic pressures and impacts take place on the sand dune ecosystems of Cyprus. The majority of these are internal or local activities influencing each site (e.g. trampling, driving and grazing). Although others are external, occurring at some distance from the dune site, they can affect the structure and function of the systems by reducing the delivery of sediment e.g. by dam construction (Hadjichambis et al., 2003b)[5]. In a very small area of few square Kilometres on the south coast, where sand dune ecosystems exist, about 20% of the national flora including many endemic, rare, threatened and protected elements exists. Their high species diversity can significantly add to the conservation value of the ecosystems. The conservation and management of the sand dune ecosystems of Cyprus continue to be required.

Adequate and strict management measures are needed for sand dune ecosystems, which seem to have the potential for recovery. This will only occur if human impacts diminish. For the most degraded sand dunes sites, there is a need for restoration and improvement of their ecological quality.

Contact: Dr. Andreas Ch. Hadjichambis, Cyprus Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CY.C.E.R.E. - KYKPEE), E-mail: a.chadjihambi@cytanet.com.cy, Cyprus.


  1. Doody, J.P., ed., 1991. Sand Dune Inventory of Europe. Peterborough, Joint Nature Conservation Committee/European Union for Coastal Conservation.
  2. Doody, J.P., ed. 2008. Sand Dune Inventory of Europe, 2nd Edition. National Coastal Consultants and EUCC - The Coastal Union, in association with the IGU Coastal Commission.
  3. Hadjichambis A. Ch. & Della A., 2007. Ecology of Threatened Coastal Ecosystems of Cyprus. Agricultural Research Institute - Research Promotion Foundation, Nicosia, Cyprus, 412pp. (in Greek with English summary and lists)
  4. Hadjichambis A. Ch., Georghiou K., Della A., Dimopoulos P. and Paraskeva-Hadjichambi, D., 2004. Flora of the Sand dune ecosystems of Cyprus. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Mediterranean Climate Ecosystems (MEDECOS), Rhodes Island, Greece, CD-Rom.
  5. Hadjichambis, A.Ch., Dimopoulos P. & Georghiou K., 2003b. Conservation Biology of threatened coastal sand dune habitats of Cyprus. Hellenic Society for Biological Sciences, Proceedings of 25th Annual Conference, Mytilene, May, 2003, 350-351.

See also

The main author of this article is Doody, Pat
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Doody, Pat (2015): Sand dune - Country Report, Greece. Available from http://www.coastalwiki.org/wiki/Sand_dune_-_Country_Report,_Greece [accessed on 11-08-2020]