Sand dune - Country Report, Greece

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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 heath

This is characterised by evergreen sclerophyllous shrubs, such as Juniperus phoenicea, Myrtus communis, Pistacia lentiscus, Spartium junceum, Arbutus unedo, Erica arborea and Quercus coccifera.


Today there are very few sand dunes with woody vegetation. Forests of Pinus halepensis are usually the best developed. The largest area with littoral pine forest occurs in the western Peloponnesus (coastal area of Strofilia). Other species are Pinus pinea and Quercus macrolepis, which form a zonation of forest stands from the coasts inland. The species of the shrub layer include elements of the maquis and phrygana (low scrub on dry stony soils) vegetation.

Important sites

The sites listed below comprise dune areas larger than 50ha. There are many smaller areas, which are also important for their biological, ecological or aesthetic value. The area covered by lagoons, marshes and adjacent forests has not been calculated, so the figure given below gives a good estimate of the dune resource in Greece.

Table of important sites

Figure: Numbered sand dune sites included in the Figure above

RS, Ramsar Site; HP, Hunting Prohibited; AF, Aesthetic Forest; SD, Special Decree; MA, Military Area. A large part of the data in this report was collected in the course of the sea turtle survey conducted by the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, during the years 1989-1991. Further information was received by the editor from the Hellenic Ornithological Society (K. Vassilakis and E. Economidou), who identified a number of additional sites. These are asterisked (*) in the table above.


In Greece, sand dune vegetation is natural in character. The major influences on the sand dunes are the increased tourism and the building of country houses near the beach. Many lagoons and marshes next to the dunes have been drained. Grazing pressure and sand extraction are of secondary importance. Because of the continuously increasing touristic pressure, the characteristic species Pancratium maritimum has disappeared from many areas and the vegetation of the Ammophiletea-class has been disturbed. The lack of an inventory of sand dune sites and investigation of sand dune ecosystems in Greece has seriously hampered the timely implementation of protection measures. As has been observed for other types of ecosystems, it is possible to apply experience from other countries in national protection policies in order to help protect the remaining undisturbed sand dune systems. Dune areas with pine or cedar woods are considered forestlands and are therefore protected by forestry legislation.

Source References

  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.

Babalonas, D., 1979. Pflanzensoziologisches Studium der Vegetation des Evros-Deltas (Ainision Delta). Thesis, Thessaloniki

Babalonas, D., 1980. Vegetationseinheiten und Vegetationskartierung im Mndungsgebiet des Evros-Flusses. Fed. Repert., 91, 615-627.

Babalonas, D., 1981. Floristischer Katalog des Mndungsgebiets des Evros. Candollea, 36, 251-269.

Economidou, E., 1981. Meleti paraktion viotopon. Tefchos I. Unpublished report. Ministry of Coordination, Athens.

Georgiadis, Th. & Economidou, E., 1990. Flora and vegetation of the Strofilia coastal area (N. W. Peloponnesos, Greece). Phyton (in press).

Joensen, A.H. & Jerrentrup, H., 1988. The Agios Mamas lagoon, Chalkidiki, Greece, an area of international importance for breeding waders. Natura Jutlandica, 22, 185-188.

Lavrentiades, G., 1963. On the vegetation of the Keramoti coasts. Boll. Inst. Bot. Univ. Catania, 4, 81-103.

Lavrentiades, G., 1964. The ammophilous vegetation of the western Peloponnesos coasts. Vegetation, 12, 223287.

Lavrentiades, G., 1976. On the vegetation of Patras Area. Verff. Geobot. Inst. Rbel, Zrich, 56, 59-71.

Lavrentiades, G. & Babalonas, D., 1976. ber die Vegetation der stlichen Kavala-Ksten II. Sandige Kstenstreifen Vegetation. Sci. Annals, Fac. Phys.-Math., Univ. Thessaloniki, 16, 309-324.

Papamichos, N. and Research Team, 1986. Pilot ecological study and use of nature resources in the area of Strophilias coastal forest. Unpublished report (in Greek) to the Ministry of the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works. Szijj, J., 1983. kologische Wertanalyse des Acheloos-Deltas (W.Griechenland), Essen.

Voliotis, D. & Drossos, E., 1983. A study of an extensive biotope of the aromatic sea daffodil (Pancratium maritimum) near Aphytos (Northern Greece). Bauhinia, 7, 229-242.

Additional information: A detailed account of the vegetation of the sand dunes of Greece was published in 2003 Skora, K.V., Babalonas, D. & Papastergiadou, E.S. 2003. Strandline and sand-dune vegetation of coasts of Greece and of some other Aegean countries. Phytocoenologia, 33-2/3, 409 - 446.

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 (2019): Sand dune - Country Report, Greece. Available from,_Greece [accessed on 25-06-2024]