On the west coast of the Thermaic gulf lies one of the most important ecosystems in Greece: the wetland complex which includes the Lagoon of Kalochori, the estuary of the Gallikos river, the delta of the Axios river as well as its riverbed up to the border with FYROM, the estuary of the Loudias river, the delta of the Aliakmon river, the wetland of Nea Agathoupoli and the Alyki Kitrous wetlands.
This constitutes a system of river estuaries, marshes, lagoons and salt flats. Thanks to the considerable alternation in its ecological conditions – ranging from agricultural crops and fields to salty ground, marshes and dunes – this region is an ideal biotope for many species of wild animals and birds. Almost three hundred kinds of birds take refuge here, many of which are rare and threatened, such as the avocet, the glossy ibis, the pygmy cormorant, the Dalmatian pelican and the black-headed seagull, while the riverine forest of the Axios river hosts one of the most important mixed colonies of birds in Greece, as well as in Europe. Apart from birds, the region is also very important for many kinds of mammals, like the ground squirrel, as well as for reptiles, as it hosts one of the largest populations of Mediterranean tortoise in all of Europe.
Today’s picture of the region is largely the result of human intervention and technical works which took place over previous decades, such as the diversion of river Axios, the hydroelectric dams in Aliakmon and Axios respectively, the creation of an irrigation and draining network, as well as the creation of coastal embankments.
This protected region offers multiple benefits to man, as its services and goods are of vital importance. For instance, it gives water for water supply and irrigation, protects the inhabited and rural areas from flooding, regulates the climate, provides food, as well as allowing for research, education and recreation.
Thanks to its considerable ecological importance, this area has been included in the Natura 2000 network of European ecological regions. At the same time, it is protected by the Ramsar International Convention on wetlands.
The largest part of this protected area has been listed as a National Park, through Joint Ministerial Decision (JMD) 12966/2009. The National Park of the Delta of Axios – Loudias – Aliakmon, ranging across 33.800 hectars, includes the deltas and the estuaries of four rivers, the Lagoon of Kalochori and the Alykes Kitrous, the wetland of Nea Agathoupoli and the riverbed of Axios, reaching until the Elli dam.
From an administrative point of view, the protected area belongs to the District of Central Macedonia and more specifically, it expands into areas of the regional units of Thessaloniki, Kilkis, Pella, Imathia and Pieria. At a municipal level, it extends over the municipalities of Delta, Chalkidona, Oraiokastro, Paionia, Pella, Alexandria, Pydna – Kolindros and Katerini.
The wetland in numbers
- 298 species of birds, in other words 66% of the species observed in Greece today, of which 106 nest
- 350 species and subspecies of plants
- 40 species of mammals
- 18 species of reptiles
- 9 species of amphibians
- 7 species of invertebrates
- 25 habitats, of which two are priority habitats on a European level
Vokou D, Giannakou U, Kontaxi Ch, Vareltzidou S (2016) Axios, Aliakmon
and Gallikos Delta Complex, Νorthern Greece, In Encyclopedia of Wetlands, Vol. 4 World Wetlands, Finlayson M., Prentice C. & R. Milton (eds), Springer, ISBN-13: 9789400740006