Erimitis is a wild natural area of high ecological value. It is located at the northeast coast of Corfu and includes the nearest point, within a distance of about 2 km, to the Albanian coast. The extent of the area is about 150 ha and the highest point is at 126 m. The climate is mediterranean with mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers with fresh winds. Precisely, the average monthly temperature during the winter ranges from 9 to 11 οC and in the summer from 24 to 27 οC (HNMS, 2020). The lowest average monthly precipitation has been observed in July at 9 mm and the highest in December at 190 mm. While the average monthly humidity is 62% and 77% respectively. Further, the wind blows on average, from September to May, to the south with 3 to 5.5 Kt and from June to August, mostly west, with 3.5 Kt.
Erimitis has a remarkably high biodiversity. The landscape is diverse and consists of hills, forests, shrubland with macchia vegetation, small brackish lakes, small marshes, sandy and stony beaches and the sea. Especially the lakes Akoli and Vromolimni and the Erimitis marsh, which are included in the list of protected small island-wetlands (G.G. 229/AAP/2012), are of particular interest. The vegetation of the area is mostly mediterranean, including characteristic species like kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), holm oak (Quercus ilex), wild-olive tree (Olea europaea oleaster), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus), common myrtle (Myrtus communis), mock privet (Phillyrea latifolia), tree heather (Erica arborea) and many other evergreen hardy shrubs. In the forest part, even deciduous broad-leaves species exist, such as the pubescent oak (Quercus pubescens) and the hungarian oak (Quercus frainetto). In total 282 plant species have already been recorded in Erimitis including many herbaceous plants along with 23 species of wild orchids (Flora Ionica, n.d.). Also, over a hundred species of fungi are known to live there. The marine vegetation of the area is characterized by the thick Posidonia oceanica meadows. Furthermore, the fauna of the area includes a rich insect-fauna and many species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. Notably examples of the special biodiversity of Erimitis are the eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) (Gremillet, 1993 & 1998), the common tree frog (Hyla arborea), the european pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis), the balkan terrapin (Mauremys rivulata), the dice snake (Natrix tessellata), the little egret (Egretta garzetta), the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) and the european shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis). Also, on the Kapareli, a rocky islet near the maritime borders, the wild rock pigeon ( Columba livia) breeds. Finally, in the marine part of Erimitis very interesting is the presence of the mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) and the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).
The ecological value of Erimitis is based on the fact that it is one of the last natural areas of Corfu that have remained unaffected by the residential and rural development of the island. Except of mild livestock uses and the use of the naval fort that is located at the highest spot of the area, the only mild interactions with the humans have been for years through the hikers, the hunters and the fishermen. That implies the natural evolution of a specially rich flora and fauna. Besides that, the ecological value of Erimitis depends on the small distance to the national park of Butrint in Albania. This protected area consists of a lagoon with an extent of 1600 ha, sandy and stony coasts, marshes, wet meadows, densely forested hills, mountains, smaller lakes, rivers and a big natural channel that ends up to the Ionian sea (Bego et al., 2012). This area has a rich and diverse flora of over 900 species and a special fauna with 246 bird-, 9 reptile-, 25 amphibian- and 39 mammal- species including rare and endangered species. Because of its special location, Erimitis is operating as a passage for many fauna and flora species to the island (Gasteratos, 2020). It constitutes perhaps the only spot of possible biodiversity enrichment of Corfu apart from the transport by migratory birds.
Moreover, an important part of the ecological value of Erimitis derives from the ecosystem services it provides to humans. According to the CICES1, the ecosystem services are classified into three categories, the cultural services, the regulation- and maintenance-services and the provisioning services (Dimopoulos et al., 2017). The cultural services of Erimitis are based on the aesthetic and spiritual pleasure, like recreation, artistic inspiration, environmental education and research, and ecotourism (Ploumi et al., 2017). Further, Erimitis provides necessary habitats to the wild fauna and flora and therefore it contributes in the conservation of biodiversity, which are services of regulation and maintenance. Very important is also the soil formation and the control of soil erosion via the thick macchia and forest vegetation. The vegetation also affects the air quality through the binding of carbon dioxide and the release of oxygen. Erimitis even supports the hydrological cycle and the conservation of the nutrient cycles. Further, the conservation of pollinators is very important for the pollination of cultivated plants on the whole island. Another important service is the adjustment of the climate through the binding and storage of carbon dioxide by the terrestrial and marine vegetation, and the storage and release of heat by the small wetlands. Last, but also important, the service of pharmaceutical raw material supply from the wild herbs of Erimitis, based mainly on the genetic diversity that is expected in such an area. Finally, all these ecosystem services are significant for the economic valuation of Erimitis ecosystem.
Elena Papadopoulou – M.Sc. Landscape Ecology
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- Dimopoulos, , I. Kokkoris & E. Drakou (2017): Technical guide of mapping and evaluation of ecosystems and their services. National Center of Environment & Sustainable Development, 104 p., Athens
- Flora Ionica (n.d.): Save Erimitis – Flora (Χλωρίδα). Retrieved from https://www.erimitis.gr/xlorida/
- Gasteratos, Ι. (2020, March 6-8): Changes at the ecosystems of Corfu – Some examples. Scientific-Educational Conference “Biodiversity – Climate Change & Impacts on island ecosystems”, Management Body of Kalama- Acheronta-Kerkyra, Ionian University, Corfu
- Gremillet, X. (1998): Otter (Lutra lutra) Surveys on Corfu island and at lakes Prespa (Greece). VIIth International Otter Colloquium, Laz
- Gremillet, X. (1993): Field survey of Lutra lutra on Corfu island (Greece). IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 8: 39-42, Sizun
- HNMS – Hellenic National Meteorological Service (2010): Climatic data for Corfu. Retrieved from http://www.hnms.gr/emy/en/climatology/climatology_city?perifereia=Ionian%20Islands&poli=Kerkyra
- Ploumi, , E. Georgopoulou & N. Kyriakopoulou (2017): Informative guide for the ecosystem services inside the Natura 2000 net of the coastal areas on Crete. University of Crete – Museum of Natural History of Crete, Heraklion
- Stille, B. & M. Stille (2017): The Herpetofauna of Corfu and Adjacent Islands. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt am Main
- G. 229/AAP/2012 – Government Gazette of the Hellenic Republic No 229 (2012, June 19): Greek Presidential Decree for the protection of small island wetlands, “Approval of a list of small island wetlands, and provision of terms and conditions for the protection and conservation of small coastal wetlands included therein“. ΦΕΚ ΑΑΠ 229/19.06.2012
1 The Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services