This paper refers to ecological values of one of the famous Greek national parks. It concerns the White Mountains (2,453 m altitude) including a world biosphere reserve, that situated in western Crete. The area includes extensive cave systems and flat internal upland plains encircled by mountains. The typical landscape consists of deep gorges, steep and imposing vertical rocks forming narrow openings. The steepest, tallest and narrowest opening of the White Mountains is the Samaria Gorge, that was proclaimed as National Park by the Greek Government in 1962 and a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1981. The Gorge is famous as a mountainous limestone area with steep rocky slopes and canyons up to 600 m deep. The area is characterized by the presence of 16 habitats of the European Habitat Directive, 7 of which are of priority. The vascular flora consists of more than 500 species of trees, shrubs and herbs, 77 of which are endemic species, 37 rare, and 6 vulnerable. The forest ecosystems are broadleaved evergreen woodlands, pines, cypress, maples, wetlands, garrique, maquis, phrygana and chasmophytes. The fauna is very rich in species with 16 mammals (nine are referred to in the Red Book including the endemic Capra aegagrus cretica) and 69 birds (12 are included in annex I of the Directive 79/409/E.U. and eight in the Red Book). The special values of the studied area and the impact of human activities to local land-use were clearly described and taken into consideration by the General Management Plant.
Key words: Samaria Gorge, World Biosphere Reserve, Crete, Lefka Ori, general management plan.
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