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Threats of Mt. Ainos National Park

The National Park of Mt. Aenos, as is also true for all the protected areas of Greece, is faced with numerous threats. In rare cases, there have been reports of illegal activities, such as the lighting of a fire, collection of plants and other species, which are all against the operation regulations of the National Park. Based on the experience gathered so far from this Line of Actions by the corresponding staff, the most serious threats that have been recorded are briefly discussed below: the most serious, direct threat posed against the natural environment of the National Park, especially during the summer months, is the fire threat. The majority of forest fires threatening the National Park are related to arson and mostly originate from pastural or forest areas in the peripheral zone of the National Park, and mainly from the SW. slopes of Mt. Aenos. There have been cases of fires having originated from lightning, but those are rather rare, isolated events.

The most dangerous fire, which started just above the village Vlachata and threatened the National Park with destruction, broke out on 17.08.2010. The threat for the National Park was averted, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Fire Department, but also of the personnel of the Management Body and all the people involved in putting out the fire, the existing peripheral road of the National Park, and most importantly, thanks to the change in wind direction.

Another serious threat to the biodiversity of the National Park is the illegal grazing in the core of the Protected Area. The Forestry Service, realizing the danger of degrading the natural wealth of the National Park because of illegal grazing, went on in 1968 to demarcate the borders of the National Park and build a fence around it. As expected, after half a century went by, the fence is in its majority destroyed and the personnel of the Management Body has undertaken anew the demarcation of the National Park preparing the reconstruction of its fence.

The Guarding personnel of the Management Body of the National Park of Mt. Aenos successfully concluded the demarcation of the fence of the core of the National Park in 2012. The demarcation was created on-site with the use of GPS equipment. A study was then carried out for the replacement of the fence, which, unfortunately, is still awaiting approval from the proper Forestry Services. Despite those measures, the danger from illegal grazing remains serious until today, due to the great exploitation of the grazing grounds around the National Park by pastural farming and, of course, because of the largely destroyed and thus ineffective fence. The farm animals, mainly because of lack of supervision, enter the core of the National Park, causing the destruction of both the herbaceous and bushy vegetation and hampering the regeneration of the Cephalonian Fir forest. The long lasting overgrazing in the National Park has had as a result, the crucial degrading (desertification) of the soil in many areas, as well as the reduction of the biodiversity in the core.

The study and meticulous monitoring of illegal grazing by the staff of the Management Body during the past years has proven that its daily presence in the Park has played an important, diminishing effect on this illegal activity Hunting in the core of the Park was forbidden with the declaration of the National Park. Because of inadequate guarding during the previous years, poaching incidents occurred often. Today, with the daily presence of the Guarding personnel of the Management Body, this illegal activity has been significantly restrained. The rare poaching events that have been recorded are dealt with according to the forestry legislation and formal complaints are filed with the Forestry Service of Cephalonia. The number of visitors to the National Park increases during the summer months, that is, from June till August, while in winter there is a rise in the number of visitors during sunny days and especially after a heavy snowfall. The great majority of visitors treats the National Park with the utmost respect.

The establishment of the radio-television and telecommunication transmitters in the location Chionistra of the National Park, resulted in a serious degradation of the natural characteristics of the affected habitat and in the limitation of the area of occurrence of rare and endemic plant species of Mt. Aenos. In an attempt to protect this location from further human influence, a fence was put up in 2008 by the Management Body of the National Park with the help of the Forestry Service of Cephalonia, which ensured the reproduction and conservation of these species.

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