The management Body – Manager of the Geopark

The most important protected area of Kefalonia is Aenos National Park that is the smallest National Park of our country with a total core area of 28,620 ha. It was founded as a National Park in 1962 by the Royal Decree 766 with the main purpose of protecting the forest of Abies cephalonica Loudon (Kefalonian fir), which is an endemic species to Greece and is found exclusively on Mount Aenos, Kefalonia among all the Ionian Islands (Fig. 1). Besides, Aenos represents locus classicus of Kefalonian Fir, which was described as a new species by the English Botanist Loudon JW in 1838 (Fig. 2). At the same time, however, a second purpose of National Park establishment is the protection of the rich flora and fauna and particularly interesting biodiversity. The core of the National Park consists of two areas, neighboring, but independent from each other; the main area of 23,160 ha around the top called Megalos Soros (altitude 1628 m) and the second area of 5460 ha called Roudi or Gioupari (altitude125 m). Megas Soros and Roudi or Gioupari, constitute Aenos mountain range.

Άποψη του δάσους της κεφαλληνιακής Ελάτης στον Εθνικό Δρυμό Αίνου
Figure 1. View of the Kefalonian fir forest in Aenos National Park.
Η κεφαλληνιακή Ελάτη στον Εθνικό Δρυμό Αίνου
Figure 2. Kefalonian Fir in Aenos National Park.

In recognition of its importance, Aenos National Park has been designated at an international level as a European Biogenetic Reserve, a Site of Community Importance (SCI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) of European Natura 2000 Network (GR2220002) and a Special Protection Area for avifauna (SPA) (GR2220006). Simultaneously to its proclamation to a National Park, it was also designated as a Wildlife Refuge. The European Natura 2000 network protected areas of Kefalonia - Ithaca are mentioned in the Table below:

α/α

Natura Code

Location

1

GR2220001 -ΤΚΣ

Kalon Oros Kefalonia

2

GR2220002 – ΤΚΣ & ΖΕΠ

Aenos National Park

3

GR2220004 - ΤΚΣ

Paraktia Thalassia Zoni, apo Argostoli eos Vlahata & Ormos Mounta

4

GR2220005 - ΤΚΣ

Ditikes Aktes Kefalonias - Steno Kefalonias Ithakis -  Voria Ithaki (Acrotirio Gerogobos – Drakou Pidima - Kedri – Agios Ioannis)

5

GR2220006 - ΖΕΠ

Kefalonia: Aenos, Agia Dinati & Kalon Oros

6

GR2220007 - ΤΚΣ

Thalassia zoni apo Vlahata eos Ormo Mountas

The map (Fig. 3) illustrates the Protected Areas of Kefalonia - Ithaca, which are also the areas of responsibility of the Management Body of Aenos National Park.

Χάρτης των Προστατευόμενων Περιοχών της Κεφαλονιάς - Ιθάκης και Περιοχών Ευθύνης του  Φορέα Διαχείρισης Εθνικού Δρυμού Αίνου
Figure 3. Map of the Protected Areas of Kefalonia - Ithaca and also Areas of Responsibility of the Management Body of Aenos National Park.

The responsible bodies for the administration and management of the Protected Areas are the Management Body of Aenos National Park and the Forest Directorate of Kefalonia. The Management Body of Aenos National Park was established by law 3044/2002 (Government Gazette Issue 197/27.8.2002), together with other 24 Management Bodies of Protected Areas and initially was in charge of the protection, management, promotion and generally sustainable management of Aenos National Park. Recently, according to Law 4519/2018, the limits of its responsibility were extended to all the other Protected Areas of Kefalonia – Ithaca. In 2003 it was appointed the first Board of Directors of the Management Body (Government Gazette Issue 126/7.2.2003), which operated until March 2004. In 2006 a second Board of Directors was appointed (Government Gazette Issue 775B/28.6.2006); in 2018 the number of the members of the Board of Directors was set in 7 (Law 4519/2018). The Board of Directors includes representatives of the Ministries of Environment & Energy, Development and Rural Development, of the Local Government, Local Bodies and Special Scientists. Since 2019 Chairman of the Board of Directors is the Research Director of the National Observatory of Athens Dr George Drakatos (Fig. 4a).

Προσωπικό Φορέα Διαχείρισης Εθνικού Δρυμού Αίνου
Figure 4α. Ο Πρόεδρος και το Προσωπικό του Φορέα Διαχείρισης Εθνικού Δρυμού Αίνου.

During the first phase of operation, the Management Body implemented the Action entitled “Management and Operation of Aenos National Park” funded by the Operational Program “ENVIRONMENT 2000-2006” and completed the Action entitled “Protection and Conservation of Biodiversity on Aenos National Park " which was included in the Operational Program "ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 2007-2013, with extension to the end of 2015" (Priority Axis 9 - "Protection of the Natural Environment and Biodiversity") of the NSRF, co-financed 80% by the European Union and 20% from national resources. For 2014-2020 period the Management Body will additionally implement the Action entitled: "Recording and presentation of Geotopes & Geopaths of Kefalonia - Ithaca Geopark with the aim of its inclusion in UNESCO Geoparks Network". The priorities set by the Management Body for the current management period until the end of 2023, have as an ultimate goal apart from the designation of Kefalonia - Ithaca Geopark in UNESCO Global Geoparks Network and the development of innovative management actions for the protection of biodiversity in all the Protected Areas of Kefalonia - Ithaca.

To date, the Management Body of Aenos National Park implements actions divided into five main axes:

I. Recording and monitoring of Protected Areas key biodiversity

Recording and monitoring biotic parameters by the Management Body personnel or in by assignment to external partners, in the context of the implementation of European programs by own means are the following:

1. Recording, monitoring and sustainable management of Flora species in Aenos National Park and also in the wider area of Kefalonia – Ithaca Regional Unit

About 400 species of plants are registered in Aenos National Park, 36 of which are endemic to Greece, 7 are endemic to the Ionian Islands and 2 grow exclusively in the National Park (Foitos & Damboldt 1985, Efthymiatou-Katsouni 1998, Efthymiatou-Katsouni 2012). Among the exclusive endemic species, Viola cephalonica Bornm holds a prominent position. It is the rarest plant of Kefalonia, since it is found only in the highest peaks of Mount Aenos, in stony soils and rock crevices (Fig. 4b). It is a narrow endemic species to Mount Aenos, which has been characterized as Critically Endangered according to IUCN criteria (2001), in the The Red Data Book of Rare and Threatened Plants of Greece (Foitos et al 2009).

Viola cephalonica.
Figure 4. Viola cephalonica.
Scutellaria rupestris subsp. cephalonica
Figure 5. Scutellaria rupestris subsp. cephalonica

Another endemic species, registered only in Aenos National Park, is Scutellaria rupestris subsp. cephalonica (Bornm.) Greuter & Burdet (Fig. 5), which is also found only at Aenos higher altitudes, where grows Viola cephalonica. It has been designated as Endagered (EN) in the Red Data Book (Foitos et al 2009), mainly due to the restricted size of its population. Some other endangered, endemic species of the Ionian phytogeographical area, which have been detected in mount Aenos and are also included in the Red Data Book, are the following: Saponaria aenesia Heldr designated as endangered species (ΕΝ) (Fig. 6), Campanula garganica subsp. cephallenica (Feer) Hayek (Fig. 7), designated as Vulnerable (VU) and Ajuga orientalis subsp. aenesia (Heldr) (Foitos & Damboldt) (Fig. 8). In Aenos also grow some Greek endemic or rare plants, such as Centaurea subciliaris Boiss & Heldr subsp. subciliaris, Cerastium illirycum Ard subsp. illirycum, Fritillaria mutabilis Kamari, Thymus holosericeus Čelak etc.

Saponaria aenesia.
Figure 6. Saponaria aenesia.
Campanula garganica subsp. cephallenica.
Figure 7. Campanula garganica subsp. cephallenica.
Ajuga orientalis subsp. aenesia
Figure 8. Ajuga orientalis subsp. aenesia.

The Management Body completed the study in the programming period 2007-2013 (2015) about the recording and monitoring of 17 rare and endemic flora species of Aenos National Park.

2. Recording, monitoring and sustainable management of Fauna species living in Aenos National Park, and the wider area of Kefalonia-Ithaca Regional Unit

Podarcis tauricus subsp. ionicus.
Figure 9. Podarcis tauricus subsp. ionicus
Μικρή ομάδα από τα άλογα του Αίνου.
Figure 10. A small herd of Aenos semi-wild horses

Vertebrates whose presence can be perceived in the area of Aenos National Park and the wider area of Kefalonia are the reptiles such as: Podarcis tauricus Pallas subsp. ionicus (Fig. 9), Algyroides moreoticus Bibron & Bory, Vipera ammodytes Linnaeus and mammals, like Erinaceus roumanicus Barrett-Hamilton (white-breasted hedgehog), Talpa stankovici Martino V & Martino E (Balkan mole), Myoxus glis Linnaeus (edible dormouse), Lepus europaeus Pallas (European hare), many bat species, etc. The area of the Holy Monastery Zoodochos Pigi is frequented by a group of about 35 horses (Equus caballus Linnaeus) living in a semi-wild state (Fig. 10).

During the programming period 2007-2013 (2015) the Management Body completed the recording and monitoring of rare and endemic fauna species of Aenos National Park in Kefalonia, especially reptiles, amphibians, micro-mammals, bats and Aenos semi-wild horses.

 

3. Recording, monitoring and sustainable management of Avifauna species in Aenos National Park

More than 100 bird species have been recorded in the area of ​​the National Park, such as: Circaetus gallicus Gmelin (short-toed snake eagle), Falco biarmicus Temminck (lanner falcon), Pernis apivorus Linnaeus (honey buzzard), Accipiter gentilis Linnaeus (northern goshawk), Buteo buteo Linnaeus (common buzzard), Alectoris graeca Meisner (rock partridge), Emberiza caesia Cretzschmar (Cretzschmar's bunting), Lanius senator Linnaeus (woodchat shrike) etc. The study conducted by the Management Body in the programming period 2007-2013 (2015) concerned the recording and monitoring of rare and endemic avifauna species thriving  in Aenos National Park, within the Special Protection Zone, and the two important wetlands of the island (wetland of Livadi and Koutavos lagoon).

4. Recording, monitoring and sustainable management of Habitat Types of Aenos National Park

The study was completed by the Management Body in the programming period 2007-2013 (2015) and concerned the recording, monitoring and mapping of Habitat Types in the core and the peripheral zone of Aenos National Park.

5. Recording and monitoring of macrofungal species (mushrooms) in Aenos National Park

The study conducted by the Management Body in the programming period 2007-2013 (2015) and was related to the recording and monitoring of mushrooms species (Fig. 11a, 11b) thriving in the core and the peripheral zone of the Aenos National Park.

Αφίσα του Σεμιναρίου για τα Μανιτάρια.
Εικόνα 11α. Αφίσα του Σεμιναρίου για τα Μανιτάρια.
Clitocybe sp.
Εικόνα 11β. Clitocybe sp.

II. Surveillance-Guarding and Management of the Protected Area:

The Management Body is engaged with the important role of the Supervision/Guarding of Aenos National Park and the other protected areas of Natura 2000 Network in Kefalonia-Ithaca. The effective Surveillance/Guarding of the Protected Area is ensured by the preparation and implementation of a Guarding Plan, which aims at the daily presence of the Management Body personnel within the Protected Areas. The Management Body disposes of two 4x4 vehicles equipped with binoculars, photographic equipment, video camera, portable GPS, toolboxes, chainsaws, digging tools, marking tapes, security equipment, etc. Except of recording illegal activities within the Protected Areas, the Supervision/Guard personnel of the Management Body takes care of the maintenance of the forest recreation infrastructure, the removal of fallen trees and rocks from the forest road network (Fig. 12a & 12b) and the provision of assistance to visitors of Aenos National Park and the other protected areas of Kefalonia – Ithaca. The Management Body actively cooperates and coordinates with competent authorities (Forest Service, Fire Service) responsible for the Supervision/Guarding. Ensuring compliance with the operating regulations for the Protected Areas contributes significantly to their effective protection.

Απομάκρυνση πεσμένων δέντρων από το δασικό οδικό δίκτυο Απομάκρυνση πεσμένων δέντρων από το δασικό οδικό δίκτυο

Figures 12a & 12b. Removal of fallen trees from the forest road network.

The Supervision/Guarding is carried out either by the elaboration or the proclamation of important studies and research for the National Park, such as:

(i) Study for the accurate definition of the Core boundaries within the Protected Area

(ii) Study for the configuration of the exterior space of Aenos Environmental Center

(iii) Study for the Management Plan of the Protected Area

(iv) Study for the grazing management in the peripheral zone of Aenos National Park

ΙΙΙ. Management Body Communication strategy, Information/Awareness actions:

Πινακίδα για το μονοπάτι Διγαλέτου -Μέγα Σωρού
Figure 13a. Sign for the forest trail Digaleto – Megas Soros
Περιβαλλοντική Εκπαίδευση μαθητών στα μονοπάτια του Αίνου.
Figure 13b. Students receiving Environmental Education while hiking on Aenos forest trail

In order to implement the planned actions for the protection, promotion and management of the Protected Areas of Kefalonia-Ithaca in a succeful way, it is necessary that the Management Body clarifies its role and be accepted by the local community. Therefore, an integrated communication strategy has been established and implemented throughout the program, which aims to highlight the central role of the Management Body in the management and protection of Aenos National Park and the rest of the protected areas and to strengthen the participatory process of organized groups, and ordinary citizens.

Παρατήρηση πουλιών στη λιμνοθάλασσα του Κούταβου
Figure 14. Bird watching in Koutavos lagoon
Περιβαλλοντική Εκπαίδευση μαθητών δευτεροβάθμιας εκπαίδευσης στον Αίνο
Figure 15. Environmental Education in secondary school students at mount Aenos

To achieve this important goal, the specific Axis of Actions includes the information and awareness of the island residents, visitors and organized groups. For this purpose, special presentations are organized at the Environmental Education Center (Management Body headquarters) in Koutavos, Argostoli, at Aenos Environmental Center, and along the five forest trails of Aenos National Park (Fig. 13a & 13b) for which specific information and thematic signs have been prepared by the Management Body (Fig. 13a). The issues raised concern the particular abiotic and biotic characteristics, the value of the ecosystems of Aenos National Park, and the pressures and threats they receive. The purpose of these activities is to awaken citizens towards the need for the protection and respect of the Protected Areas, and the undeniable benefits that derive. Such activities include the environmental education in primary (Fig. 14) and secondary (Fig. 15) school students, the use of modern electronic media (website, digital museum, virtual tour, etc.), the production and distribution of various printed materials, such as posters, leaflets, books, cards, etc., the information material in electronic form, the holding of Conferences on environmental topics (Presentation of the Institution Actions - Fig. 16, Orchids - Fig. 17, Mushrooms, etc.) and Seminars (Aromatic Medicinal and Edible Plants, Ecotourism - Fig. 18, Fire Protection - Fig. 19, Flora, Fauna, etc.), the targeting of specific groups of citizens, the dissemination of the spirit of volunteerism through the multi-year operation of the Management Body as a Host Agency for foreign volunteers in the framework of the European Voluntary Service (EVS) program, etc.

Από την Ημερίδα για τον εορτασμό των 50 χρόνων του Εθνικού Δρυμού και των 10 χρόνων του Φορέα Διαχείρισης του
Figure 16. From the Conference on the celebration of the National Park 50th anniversary and the  Management Body 10th anniversary.
Από την Ημερίδα για της Ορχιδέες της Κεφαλονιάς
Figure 17. From the Conference on the Orchids of Kefalonia
Αφίσα του Σεμιναρίου για τον Οικοτουρισμό και την Προστασία της Βιοποικιλότητας
Figure 18. Poster of the Seminar on Ecotourism and the Protection of Biodiversity
Αφίσα του Σεμιναρίου για την Πυροπροστασία
Figure 19. Poster of the Seminar on Fire Protection

IV. Administrative support for the implementation of actions under the operational program:

Consistent and accurate administrative support of the program is an important component in achieving the goals set by the Management Authority about the program implemented by the Management Body concerning both its physical and financial object. The compliance of the timeschedules, writing, receiving by the competent departments and sending to the competent authorities the deliverables of the individual actions, as well as the anticipation and confrontation of factors that may lead to delays are the subject of the fourth axis of Actions.

V. Development of innovative actions:

  • Gene Bank Operation & Laboratory for Flora Species Regeneration (Fig. 20a, 20b)
  • Investigation on the historical evolution of Mount Aenos vegetation
  • Creating an infrastructure for monitoring using G.I.S. log file data
  • Designation of Kefalonia-Ithaca Geopark in UNESCO Global Geoparks Network
Μελέτη υλικού για την Τράπεζα Σπερμάτων
Figure 20a. Studying material for the GeneBank
Μικροσυσκευές για την Τράπεζα Γενετικού Υλικού
Figure 20b. Lab devices for the GeneBank

 

VI. Participation in national and international organizations Networks

The Management Body participates in Greek and international forums aiming at the   protection of Kefalonia & Ithaca biodiversity in combination with the sustainable development of the protected areas. In order to achieve this goal, attention will be given to people who live and work in the wider area of Kefalonia and Ithaca protected sites, ie people working on the primary sector, tourism, etc. The Management Body of Aenos National Park seeks cooperation with Greek Agencies, as well as with other European parks. Priority areas for cooperation include know-how exchange, ways to develop ecotourism, environmental protection, mitigation of climate change effects and sustainable development of the protected areas.

VII. Designation of Kefalonia-Ithaca Geopark in UNESCO Global Geoparks Network

Until recently, environmental protection has been correlated to the protection of biodiversity. However, in recent years a new dimension in the protection of the environment has been added, the protection of Geodiversity. The protection of the abiotic environment and more specifically of the geoenvironment is considered equally important with the protection of biodiversity. Geological formations and processes determine the physiognomy of an area, and therefore its biodiversity; for this reason the protection of geodiversity significantly contributes to the protection of biodiversity. In many cases, geodiversity determines the anthropogenic environment and greatly influences moral identity and traditions of local communities.

The connection of geodiversity to biology, landscape and anthropogenic environment in combination with the sustainable development, may take place within a Geopark, in which the geological and natural inheritage of an area is highlighted, along with the promotion of archaeological and cultural monuments, such as the Holy Monastery of Agios Gerasimos in Omala or the obelisk in the port of Argostoli (Fig. 21a, 21b). In a Geopark the protection of the abiotic and biotic environment "goes hand in hand" with the gentle development of the local communities through growth of a different alternative tourism, the "geotourism" interested in geological monuments and high quality local products.

A Geopark is characterised by its geotopes, a set of geological monuments of an area that need promotion and protection, and by geological trails connecting geotopes one with another as well as with other natural and cultural monuments of the area. Good signage and information material enable visitors to get acquainted with the geology, the natural environment and the culture of the area.

Once a Geopark becomes operational, it can join the European and Global Network of Geoparks, which have been under the auspices of UNESCO since 2015. A designated Geopark becomes a member of the Network of UNESCO Global Geoparks and it is under the protection status of UNESCO. The UNESCO Global Geoparks network aims to promote areas of international geological value and interest, which will be the basis for the sustainable development of local communities. The area of a Geopark will be able to use UNESCO logo.

Η Ι.Μ. Αγίου Γερασίμου, όπως φαίνεται από τον Αίνο
Figure 21a. The Holly Monastery of Agios Gerasimos, photographed from mount Aenos
Ο οβελίσκος του Νάπιερ στο λιμάνι του Αργοστολίου
Figure 21b. The obelisk of Napier in the port of Argostoli

In order to be designated in the Network of UNESCO Global Geoparks, a Geopark should first be organized to function already as a Geopark. This means that geotopes and geotrails should have already been defined, the relevant infrastructure should have been created and the local community and local actors should have embraced it. In order to create a Geopark is needed initial funding, so that Geologists with relevant experience can determine and highlight geotopes and geopaths and provide scientific information to support Geopark importance and need for protection. Biologists need to record habitats biodiversity especially in areas of special biological interest that need promotion and protection.

The islands of Kefalonia and Ithaca, apart from their rich archaeological and cultural history and biodiversity richness which led to the proclamation of mount Aenos as a National Park,   are also important for geology, representing an active geological laboratory, located in the most active tectonic region of Europe. The geological formations, the large number of faults several of which are active, and consequently the great seismicity, caves and karst formations, Aenos and the remarkable marine environment create a geological "mosaic"pattern which renders the islands suitable with all the necessary specifications to become a Geopark, within which dozens of geotopes and several geopaths could be defined. It would be appropriate to include in the Geopark, except the islands of Kefalonia and Ithaca, the inner Ionian Archipelago with its steep coastlines, which clearly depict the geology of the area and the coastal caves. In this way a unique Geopark in the European Area will be created which will include an important marine area, with a defined marine geo-route to connect the two islands or more precisely connect the geotopes and the geo-routes of the two islands. The aim of the marine georoute is to attract a high level of tourism using pleasure boats to reach coastal geotopes by sea.

Then appropriate infrastructure should be created and local communities should be informed and sensitized to support the aspiring Geopark. Afterwards it would be possible to submit the relevant dossier for Geopark designation in the European and International Network of UNESCO Geoparks.

The Management Body of Aenos National Park with the appropriate staff, structures and experience will definitely facilitate the organization and operation of the Geopark. Besides, there is already an example of a Management Body (Management Body of Helmos-Vouraikos National Park) as the manager of Helmos-Vouraikos Geopark (UNESCO Global Geopark).

Το Λιμνοσπήλαιο της Μελισσάνης
Figure 22a. Melissani cave lake
Το Σπήλαιο της Δρογγαράτης
Figure 22b. Drogarati cave

Besides, the already exploited and well organized caves Melissani and Droggarati (Fig. 22a & 22b) represent the initial core and the model for the selection, promotion and protection of other geotopes of the Geopark. The aim of the Management Body is to make Kefalonia-Ithaca Geopark function as an aspiring Geopark at the European Geoparks Conference in 2019, to gain experience before its evaluation by the UNESCO committee and its designation in UNESCO Global Geopark Network.

The staff of the Management Body of Aenos National Park is always available and willing to provide any information about Kefalonia - Ithaca Geopark, Aenos National Park, the island of Kefalonia in general, and about the tasks we perform. For this purpose, you can either visit the website of the Management Body of Aenos National Park at the address: www.aenosnationalpark.gr, contact the staff (Tel./Fax: 26710-29258), E-mail: [email protected], or visit the headquarters of the Geopark at Koutavos Environmental Information Center, in Argostoli, Kefalonia.

References

  • Foitos D & Damboldt J (1985) Flora of the island of Kefallinia. Botanical Chronicles, 51, 2, 1-204 + 2 maps
  • Efthymiatou-Katsouni N (1998) Tribute to Aenos National Park, Kefalonia. Museum of Natural History of Kefalonia-Ithaca Editions.
  • Efthymiatou-Katsouni EN (2012) Human influences on the evolution of vegetation flora of Kefallinia from prehistoric times to present: A study for application in Environmental Education. Doctoral Thesis, University of Patras, p 417
  • Foitos D, Konstantinidis Th & Kamari G (2009) Book of Red Data of Rare and Endangered Plants of Greece. Published in Hellenic Botanical Society Edition, Patra, Volume 1 (A-D), I-XXVI, 1-406 & Volume 2 (EZ), 1-414
  • IUCN (2001) IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: version 3.1. Gland & Cambridge: IUCN Species Survival Commission