Nature and Flora in Ikaria

The island of Ikaria is one of Greece's most impressive and important ecosystems, featuring a rich variety of both flora and fauna, as well as various landscapes made up of lakes, rivers, springs and caves. Additionally, there are several wetland areas throughout the island which are worth visiting. Many of Ikaria's prized natural sites are officially protected and belong to the Natura 2000 initiative within the categories of Areas of Exceptional Natural Beauty, Important Bird Areas, and CORINE Habitats.

Flora

With 92 families, 401 genuses and 829 species of plants, Ikaria's flora is one of the most diverse throughout Greece. In the southern part of the island, there are several endemic species and sub-species, such as: Ikarian Peony (Paeonia muscula cariensis), and the unique species Iberis runemarkii, which can be found in  the area of Plagia. Several of these endemic species are protected under Greek law, as they are considered endangered, such as: Linum gyaricum, Verbascum ikaricum, Nigella icarica, Polygonum icaricum, Symphytum icarium, and Rorippa icarica. Other varieties found on the island include: Campanula hagielia, Pteris dentata, Corydalis integra, Muscari macrocarpum, galanthus ikariea, digitalis cariensis (found only in Ikaria), Dianthus elegans, and Symphytum anatolicum. Pristine forests thrive on the island, due to minimal human interference in those areas of the island. Additionally, the Hawthorn plant (Crataegus monogyna), known on the island as “Perikathe”, grows in the highlands of the island and produces fruit which is considered beneficial to the human body.

Randi Forest, Central Ikaria

Located just west of the Athera mountain range in the central section of the island, lies the Randi Forest. Estimated to be over 200 years old, it features trees dating back to over 300 years, making it one of the oldest remaining forests throughout the eastern Mediterranean. It's the home of a rare, protected type of Oak tree (Quercus ilex), which is believed to have evolved around five million years ago. Other species of trees found within the forest include Arbutus and Fyllyrea trees, as well as a variety of bushes, such as yew, heather and cistus. Several animals call the forest home as well, such as the rock badger, marten, (Martes fiona), the hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor) and different types of rodents.

Atheras Mountains

Ikaria is a mountainous island and the mountain range of Atheras (Pramnos) cuts through a large section of it. With its highest point reaching an altitude of 1,042 m., the frequent occurrence of fog and mist create high levels of humidity during the entire year. A closer look throughout the thickets and protected areas of Ikaria, reveals that the island was once completely covered by forests. Even the mountain range's limestone cliffs shelter several types of endemic plants. Caves dot its coastal cliffs, and have ben known to be inhabited by the Mediterranean Monk Seal. Overgrazing of goats, arson (with the intent to create more grazing found) and the extension of the island's road system, all threaten the survival of the region's ecosystem. As one of the island's chief protected areas, its thick vegetation is home to several rare plant species as well as a variety of birds, amphibians and reptiles, such as the “Lizard of Ikaria” Lacerta oertzeni certzeni).

Wetlands

The man-made lakes of Vathes and Pezi are respectively found in Kastanies and Christos. Both were created by dams on the rivers of Mirsona and Halari, and both wetlands are located within an area designated for the protection of birds. Dense vegetation grows around the lakes' borders, and most of the greenery is in the form of trees, such as pine, plane and oleander trees, as well as wicker and schinias bushes, and reeds. Not surprisingly, the area is inhabited by a large variety of birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Estuaries of the rivers Halari, Voutside, Mirsona and Haraka

The three estuaries of the Halari, Voutside, and Mirsona rivers are located respectively within the areas of Nas, Kambos, Gialiskari and Armenisti. All four rivers flow year round with brackish water and serve as a natural irrigation system to the small cultivations scattered along the riverbanks. Additionally, these wetlands feature rich biodiversity of both flora and fauna, among them a large number of protected and endemic species. A large variety of trees and bushes can be found here, such as reeds, bushes (oleander and schinous) and trees (alderwood and tamarisk). Several types of birds, amphibians and reptiles also inhabit the estuary. The Halari Gorge is home to several rare and protected species, among which are the Turkish lizard, river otter, a rare type of freshwater crab, and a bottom-dwelling fish of the salaria genus. Most interesting of all is the European eel, a species which migrates from America, crosses the ocean for three years before reaching the rivers of Ikaria. The gorge also provides shelter to dozens of permanent and migratory birds, such as falcons, egrets and bitterns. Overgrazing and extreme draining for agricultural purposes pose the greatest risks to the estuaries' ecosystem. Recently, increased tourism during the summer months has also had a negative effect, as the estuaries frequently drain into beaches full of tourists.

The Cape of Fanari

The cape of Fanari is located in the northeastern edge of Ikaria and features sheer coastal cliffs and beaches. As frequently found throughout the Mediterranean, the area consists of important sea ecosystems found along the coastline and under the water, where sea grass grows in abundance on the seafloor. It's an important haven for both the Mediterranean Monk seal (Monachus monachus) and the Loggerhead Sea turtle (Caretta caretta).

Other Activities for Ikaria
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