Dadia Forest: Burning nature against economic development?

Here are some of Greece’s vital statistics: 17 national parks, 2 geoparks, hundreds of Natura 2000 areas in the country. There is an ecological saying, “nature doesn’t need protection, it has to be”. It’s true.

Nature is not something fragile; it is an unlimited force that created us – out of all – us.

But human beings are selfish people who believe that the world revolves only around them and they rightfully possess the power to protect and destroy.

It is not like that. We sniff at the four corners of the Earth, unbalancing everything. Therefore, it has been necessary to establish protected natural areas all over the world. You can call them national parks, Natura 2000 areas, geoparks, marine parks, etc., depending on national or global legislation. These are all areas of nature, protected from the greed of human activities – but not only.

Dadia National Park is one of my favorite places in Greece. It has extraordinary beauty, balancing hundreds of thousands of lives. Or it was. The Dadia fire in 2022 destroyed much of this unique land. I will not analyze the reasons for this fire, but I will present the highlights of the park itself.

This magnificent organism, the Dadia-Lefkimi-Sofli National Park is one of the most important protected areas in the world at national, European and international level. It is one of the first national parks in Greece due to the mosaic of landscapes that unfold there: forests of pines and oaks, riparian vegetation, pastures and cultivated areas, inhabited and wild lands. This is one of the reasons for the great diversity of predatory birds like vultures that call it home. Dadia is the habitat of the last black vulture colony in Europe.

In this remote region of Greece, something unique is happening: the flora and fauna of Dadia are a combination of Europe and Asia. It is the corner of the Balkans, uniting East and West, in terms of nature.

Even though the highest area of ​​the park only rises to 620m, the area features Paleogene volcanic rocks, creating an intense landscape with rocky cliffs. There is also a large network of small and large streams. The climate is Mediterranean but with cold winters due to the north winds. The median annual rainfall is 732 mm with the lowest amounts – of course – in August. However, last year’s rainfall totals were not as great.

The forest is a great example of economic support for the nation that still comes from rural areas. At the very least, the region’s economy is heavily dependent on the national park. The exploitation of the forest is the main source of income for many inhabitants of this remote region. In addition, the region is an important beekeeping destination. Pine and oak honey is very aromatic and delicious.

The Soufli region is also known for the production of high quality silk. But competition with cheap, low-quality silk is shrinking this vibrant agricultural sector.

So, do all these fragile protected areas deserve to be protected? Aren’t we entirely dependent on them in our capitalist exploitation/economy and way of life? Are we doing enough to maintain vital balances? The future will show it.

*The above is not medical advice but simple suggestions for improving your diet. Before using any herbs, you should consult your doctor, especially those who have medical conditions, are pregnant, or are under 6 years old.

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira holds a doctorate in agricultural economics and a master’s degree in botany-biology.