Amvrakikos Gulf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amvrakikos Gulf is situated in the Ionian Sea in northwest Greece. It is a large semi-enclosed bay covering an area of 405 square kilometers and is connected to the Ionian Sea via the Preveza Channel, which is a narrow and shallow corridor measuring 3 kilometers long and 370 meters wide at its narrowest point. The Amvrakikos Gulf has an average depth of 30 meters, with a maximum depth of 60 meters. The Aracthos and Louros rivers flow into the Gulf, resulting in the formation of delta complexes, which include freshwater marshes with the largest reedbeds in Greece, wet meadows, seasonally inundated land, lagoons, barrier spits, a significant saltmarsh, and some of the most extensive riparian forest tracts remaining in Greece. The Amvrakikos Gulf is the largest wetland in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gulf has been designated as a National Park of Greece, while it includes two Natura 2000 sites (GR2110001 – an SCI site, GR2110004 - an SPA site) and the northern part is designated as a Ramsar site. Additionally, the Gulf has been recognized as an Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) and an Important Bird Area (IBA).

It is strongly impacted by the high rate of river influx and evaporation, causing strong stratification of the water column throughout the year due to significant fluctuation in the water column's salinity and temperature. This semi-enclosed bay, which is connected to the Ionian Sea by a single narrow channel, experiences spatial and temporal variations in dissolved oxygen levels, with the western part of the gulf being seasonally hypoxic and the eastern part seasonally anoxic. Additionally, the Gulf has a high level of nutrient pollution due to the discharge of fertilizers from local agriculture and the effects of fish farming. These conditions have a negative impact on the ecology of species in the area and, combined with illegal fishing by small trawlers (reported by local fishers), constitute the primary threats to marine biodiversity in the Amvrakikos Gulf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amvrakikos Gulf is one of the best conserved ecosystems in Greece with significant ecological value on both national and international level. It is thus included in the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands of International Importance (23,700 ha; 3GR009), the Barcelona Convention and has been identified as an Important Bird Area (GR081; 26,275 ha).

The great variety of habitats occurring within its waters are formed by the deltas of rivers Louros and Arachthos which flow into the north part of the Gulf, forming 20 large and small lagoons (7,000 ha), sand bars, salt marshes, reedbeds, wet meadows, mudflats, and riverine zones with remnants of riparian forest and hills between and among the lagoons. Its reedbeds and salt marshes, as well as complex of lagoon systems comprise the most extensive in the country. The lagoons (the largest and most important being Tsoukalio, Logarou and Rodia) are characterized by high biological productivity and function as natural fish farms both for fish and crustaceans, providing food for many bird species and other organisms.

The area supports a rich biodiversity including marine megafauna species. The Amvrakikos Gulf, where the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is the only cetacean species present, hosts a population of about 150 dolphins; one of the highest densities in the Mediterranean for this species. At the same time the Gulf is an important foraging ground for loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) linking at least four breeding populations in the Mediterranean. The Amvrakikos Gulf is used as a foraging area year-round by both adult and immature individual turtles, and more recently the presence of green turtles was confirmed. The Amvrakikos Gulf also hosts 290 different species of birds, 75 of which are considered threatened in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Management body of Amvrakikos Gulf). While more recently important populations of 8 batoid (Aetomylaeus bovinus, Bathytoshia lata, Dasyatis pastinaca, Dasyatis tortonesei, Gymnura altavela, Myliobatis aquila, Torpedo marmorata, Torpedo torpedo) and 1 shark species (Mustelus mustelus) that reproduce in the gulf have been reported, with 4 species listed as Threatened of which 2 are Critically Endangered in the Mediterranean, IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projects that are implemented in the National Wetlands Park of the Amvrakikos Gulf: