First compilation date
Date site proposed as SCI
Date site confirmed as SCI
Date site designated as SAC
National legal reference of SAC designation
Law 3937/29-3-11 (OJ 60 A)



The lake of Kournas is the only natural freshwater lake in Crete. The whole freshwater system, including the lake, the marshes and Almyros stream and estuary in Georgioupolis, is one of the most important in the east Mediterranean region.Drapano peninsula is also a quite important undisturbed area, which has to be protected. The extended Euphorbia dendroides formations and the several patches of Phoenix theophrastii, make the place unique for Crete.The value of this site lies on:1) It consitutes one of a limited number of freshwater systems in Crete and, moreover one of the scarse systems with continual water supply. It is noteworthy that Lemna minor and Ulmus minor ssp. canescens are present only in this area in Crete. 2) It comprises a great variety of different biotopes and vegetation types, including a lake, springs, riparian vegetation and moist meadows as well as coastal marshes and an estuary and also phryganic vegatation, cliffs and rocks. It is worth noting that Euphorbia dendroides forms a very significant vegetation cover on the rocky east side of Drapano, unique for Crete.3) It is important for migratory birds.4) Its fauna is quite rich, hosting endemic inertebrates, legally protected amphibian and reptile species (and endemic subspecies) as well as protected mammals. Caretta caretta, a priority species of Annex II, is present in the site, although the combination of hardenned muddy sand and of the increased freshwater concentration in the sea near the estuary do not create a "friendly environment for the tortoise. The presence of Podarcis erhardii cretensis is important, as Crete is the southern limit of the distribution of the restricted population of the species. Also, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum ssp. creticum, included in section 3.2.c. as Rhinolophus ferrum-equinum, is a subspecies endemic to Crete.5) Regarding the flora, although Kournas has a poor wetland flora, the area has endemic or rare species (notably, Phoenix theophrastii).Notes:1) The possible presence of Spalax leucodon has also been reported, but our collection have not ascertained the presence of this species in Crete.2) Regarding the fish population of Kournas lake, most of the species have been imported into the lake (e.g., Cambusia affinis was imported in the past for the elimination of the mosquito populations). Only the youngs of Anguilla anguilla come to mature into the lake.OTHER IMPORTANT SPECIES WITH MOTIVATION DPlants: Pancratium maritimum is an important species of sandy beaches, with decreasing populations due to the destruction of its habitats. Colchicum macrophyllum is protected by the Greek Law (Presidential Decree 67/81).Lactuca acanthifolia (= Scariola acanthifolia) is found in Ydra, Cyclades, East Aegean Islands andonly in SW Turkey out of Greece. Brassica cretica ssp. cretica is a chasmophyte occurring only in C. and S. Lebanon out of Greece.

Other characteristics

The site includes the eastern part of Drapano Cape, the western part of the coastline of Almyros bay, including Almyros estuary and the area of Georgioupolis, and, towards the interior, Kournas lake.The hydrological system supplies and maintains a great peripheral area of humid land, which, especially around Almyros estuary, is mixed either with cultivations or with land which used to be cultivated in the past. At the estuary there are Phragmites australis reed beds (a habitat type not included in Annex I, with Corine 91 code 53.1).Another feature of the site is the big number of underground cold springs which continuously supply with water Kournas lake and the freshwater habitats around Georgioupolis village, in particular: the last part of Almyros stream (close to the estuary), the delta of the stream and the estuary (the upper part of the channel of Almyros stream is dry during the summer months). At the lake-shore the vegetation is characterized by Vitex-agnus castus, Ulmus minor ssp. canescens and other hygrophilous species formations.Regarding the coastal area in the north and north-east of the village of Georgioupolis, it includes an extended sandy beach, with Ammophila arenaria sand dunes. The beach is covered in places by a hard, muddy layer.On the rocky east side of Drapano there is a fair cover of tree-spurge (Euphorbia dendroides) formations.NOTESThe habitat of the constantly flowing mediterranean river with gravel bank (usually pebbles) and common perennials (not included in Annex I) covers less than 1% of the site and has good representativity, good conservation and good global value.


1) Kypriotakis Z. Unpublished data. [3.2.g., 3.3.]

2) Patras University - Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works. 1988. (Work Team: Economidou E. et al) Entopismos kai meleti ton ygroviotopon kai allon simantikon gia tin ornithopanida viotopon tis Kritis (Localization and study of wetlands and of other important for the birdfauna biotopes of Crete). Final report, Vol. 1, Patra. p. 384.

3) Museum of Cretan Ethnology. 1987. Limni Kourna. Prokatarktiki meleti - oikosystima - prostasia - anaptyxi (Kourna Lake. Preliminary study. Ecosystem - protection - development). p. 65.

4) University of East Anglia. 1976. A preliminary biological survey of lake Kourna. Report of the 1974 expedition to Crete p. 63.

5) Sioulas A. 1980. Sedimentologische Untersuchungen an Sedimenten and dem Kurna-See, Kreta p. 52

6) Yannitsaros A. & L. Koumpli-Sovantzi. 1991. A contribution to the hydrophilous flora of Crete. Bot. Chron. 10: 579-586.

7) Georghiou K. 1995. Checklist of Endemic, Rare and Threatened Plants of Greece. Draft. University of Athens. (3.3, 3.4, 4.2)

8) Morgan V & C. Leon. 1992. Datasheets of Flora species for revision of Appendix I of the Bern Convention. Volume IV. endemic taxa of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey Nature and environment. Nature and Envrionment. No 63 p. 106. Council of Europe, Publishing and Documentaion Service, Strasbourg. (3.2.g.)

9) Catsadorakis G. 1985. Preliminary ecological study of lake Kournas. Dublicated report. Chania forest service. p. 16. (3.2. a,b).

10) Catsadorakis G. & M. Malakou. 1991. The birds of lake Kournas, Crete, Greece. Kartierung mediterr. Brutvogel 6: 13-17. (3.2. a,b).

11) Goulandris Museum Natural History - EU/DG XI. 1994. ORNIS Data Bank, unpubl. data. Kifissia, Greece. (3.2. a,b).

12) Grimmet R.F.A. & T.A. Jones. 1989. The Important Bird Areas in Europe. ICBP Technical Publication No. 9, p. 906. (3.2. a,b).

13) Hellenic Zoological Society, Hellenic Ornithological Society. 1992. The Red Data Book of threatened vertebrates of Greece. Athens, p. 356. (3.2. a,b).

14) Malakou M. & G. Catsadorakis. 1992. Past and present situation of the wetlands of Crete with specil reference to their birds. Biologia Gallo-hellenica 19 (2): 59-72 (143-156). (3.2. a,b).


Reference: Natura 2000 data form, database release 7 Feb 2014