Lesvos Geopark

The Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark, one of the finest and rarest monuments of geological heritage worldwide and 2nd largest in all the world, is a founding member of the Geoparks Network that brings visitors to an ancient forest preserved by a massive volcanic eruption 20 million years ago, known also as the Petrified Forest of Sigri. The Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark features rare and impressive fossilized treetrunks, formed some 15 to 20 million years ago, due to intense volcanic activity that covered the trees by lava, ashes and other materials spewed into the atmosphere. Moreover in the area of Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark there are findings of the oldest known land mammal (Prodeinotherium bavaricum) 19 million years ago in Greece, impressive fossils of animals that lived on Lesvos 2 million years ago, numerous volcanic sites and thermal springs, faults and landscapes created from tectonism, caves and karstic structures, erosional forms and waterfalls as well as impressive coastal landforms all created by the intense volcanic activity some 21.5-16.2 million years ago.
Petrified Forest
The Petrified Forest of Lesvos is a rare petrified forest ecosystem made up of large concentrations of fossilized trees and animals which were covered by volcanic material and petrified in place 18 million years ago. The area of the Petrified Forest is characterized by impressive volcanic geosites, witnesses of the intense volcanic activity during Miocene. Lesvos island for this reason could be characterized as a window on the geohistoric development of the Aegean over the last 20 million years and is considered one of the most beautiful and rare monuments of geological heritage in the world.
Geomorphological sites (geomorphosites), caves and coastal features
The geological and tectonic structure of Lesvos, the variety of rocks, the climate conditions and changes of the sea level have all contributed to the formation of approximately 382 km of gorgeous coastal landscapes and geosites, like tafoni, arches and impressive vertical cliffs, especially in the western coastline of Lesvos,  and in Nissiopi islet. In the coastal area of Ag. Isidoros – Plomari appear important coastal formations called beach rocks, which show great exposure and create continuous zones several hundreds of meters long. They are considered to be significant traces of past shorelines and are a valuable element for the study of the evolution of the coasts and changes of the sea level.
On Lesvos one finds also a plethora of caves, mostly found on the eastern part of the island. Many of these caves have been used as places of Christian worship. The biggest cave of the island, 120m long is the one of Magara, at the community of Alifanda. Decorated pottery dating back to Roman and Byzantine times underline the cave’s archeological importance. At the community of Taxiarches, one will find the cave of Saint Bartholomew, which has an interesting stalagmite decoration. Furthermore, of special archeological interest is the cave of Agios Ioannis or Foussa found at Mychos, where graves dating to the 5th b.C where found. One of the most important, as well as being the largest cave of western Lesvos is called Spilios, the cave of Antissa. Two thirds of Lesvos is covered by volcanic rocks, mainly andesite, rhyolite, tuff and ash. The oldest strata are located in the region of the Gulf of Gera Gulf, as well as in the regions of Sigri and Gavatha. They are rocks of permiantriassic age and they are schist, quartzite, phyllite and metasandstone alternating with marble and crystalline limestone. On top there are ophiolithic rocks from the Mesozoic Era.
Lesvos is rich in wetlands ideal for watching and photographing birds, thus attracting more and more enthusiasts from around the world, especially in spring and autumn. In the wetland of Kalloni Bay the sea has no waves or spoondrift and sea water is trapped in salt pans. As a result, innumerous birds choose this location to stop on their long journey, and the region is swarming with life. The coexistence of man and wildlife has reached the point where flamingos with their long legs and impressive pink plumage are not bothered by human presence. The wetland has been included in Natura 2000 network, and includes, besides the bay marine habitat, also a large number of terrestrial wetlands such as the saltpans of Kalloni and Polichnitos, the stream beds of Tsiknias, Vouvari, Mylopotamos, Ennia Kamares, Potamia, the lagoon of Messa, etc. In the eastern part of the island, at the junction of Mytilini-Kalloni and Mytilini-Gera roads, the river Evergetoulas and the marsh of Dipio create another impressive wetland called Dipio-Larso. Many reptile, amphibian, bird and insect species nest in the river mouth. Wild geese and ducks, herons and other birds searching for food end up in the mouths of the rivers Almyropotamos and Vourkos in the wetland of Vatera. The clay soil and the shallow waters of the area foster the development of various plant and animal species close to the shore.
Thermal Springs
Not far beneath the surface of Lesvos there are still large concentrations of hot magma, which act as vast heaters, warming water which penetrate the crust to a considerable depth. When it approaches the magma chamber, the meteoric water is heated and comes up through the surface of the Earth via thermal springs. The most important thermal springs on Lesvos are at Polichnitos, Lisvori, Thermi, Therma at Geras gulf, Eftalou and Argenos.
Lesvos has an impressive hydrographic network due to the climatic conditions, rainfall, geological formations and active tectonics. Thus Lesvos hosts impressive gorges, valleys and waterfalls which are scattered throughout the island. They are sites of aesthetic value but also important ecological hot spots. Along the riverbeds appear steep waterfalls which are usually associated with the presence of active faults.  Impressive waterfalls appear such as: the Man’ katsa formed in the ignimbrite rocks close to Mandamados,
Thanks partly to its size, Lesvos has a variety of flora and fauna rare for an island. About one third of the island is covered by olive groves, with experts estimating the number of olive trees to reaching approximately 11,000,000! A large central section of the island is also covered by pine forests, some reaching the coastlines. The western part of the island is dry and its main characteristic is the grasslands which explain the robust livestock breeding in the area. According to a study of forester and former Forest Director of the island Mr. Seraidis, there might be more than 1,000 botanical species on the island with the largest variety located in the vicinity of the Olympos massif. Lesvos is know for its unique, wild orchids, its rhododendron in the Pterounta region, the special aniseed, chickpeas and distinct wheat and onions found in the region of Lisvori, its sea daffodil at Vatera Beach, the chestnut forest in the Agiasos region and more!
The main feature of the flora of Lesvos is its close association of various vegetation types with the island’s geological structure. The geological makeup of Lesvos divides the island into the following regions with their corresponding vegetation:
The herbaceous vegetation of the island is also impressive. Two anemone species (Αnemone coronaria & A. pavonina) and daisy species (Anthemis chia & A. arvensis), red (Papaver rhoeas) and orange poppies (P. Levigatum), as well as asphodels (Asphodelus microcarpus), the typical plants of the Elysian Fields of ancient Greeks, bloom over extensive areas and create a multicolor display. The Lesbian Alyssum (Alyssum lesbiacum) seems to be the only endemic species on the island, while Rhododendron luteum (yellow azalea) and Haplophyllum megalanthum (orchid species) are plants of the Orient, which, in the Greek territory, grow only on Lesvos. Other species, such as Osmunda regalis (Royal fern), Datisca cannabina (False hemp), Comperia comperiana (Komper’s orchid), Dianthus anatolicus (small carnation), Elatine alsinastrum (chickweed), Corydalis integra, Ranunculus isthmicus (type of buttercup) and Silene urvillei (type of campion), are very rare in other parts of Greece. It is worth mentioning Colchicum Automnale, a bulbous plant that flowers with the first autumn breeze, on the island. Its flower is perfect; it has both male reproductive organs, six stamens and female ones, three carpels. All parts of the plant are poisonous; they contain an active poison called colchicine. According to mythology, Medea daughter to the king of Colchis, killed her own children with its poison, and that’s how it got its name. Finally, dozens of rare and quite elusive orchid species are a fascinating part of Lesbian flora, while there is a vast variety of toadstools and mushrooms, mainly in the district of Achladeri.
The island’s fauna is just as rich as its flora combining animal species of both the Orient and the West. Among the carnivores encountered in the olive groves are the fox (Vulpes vulpres), the ferret (Martes foina) and the weasel (Μustela nivalis). The most important mammal of Lesvos is the Persian squirrel (Sciurus anomalus) or ‘galia’ as the natives call it, which lives in the Minor Asia shores and nowhere else in Europe but on Lesvos. Other species present on the island include the otter, the hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor) and the hare (Lepus capensis).
On Lesvos, we also encounter the amphibian Greek March frog, the European tree frog, the Eastern spadefoot and the green toad. Many reptiles also live on the island (,Testudo graeca (Greek tortoise) Mauremys rivulata (Balkan terrapin), Emys orbicularis (European pond terrapin), Agama stelio, Lacerta trilineata (Balkan green lizard), Podarcis taureca (Balkan wall lizard), Ophiosaurus apodus (armoured glass snake), Hemidactylus turcicus (Mediterranean house gecko), Coluber jugularis (Caspian Whipsnake) , Coluber gemonensis (Balkan whip snake), Coluber najadum (Dahl’s Whipesnake), Vipera xanthina (coastal viper), Natrix tesselata (dice snake), Elaphe situla (European ratsnake), Elaphe quatuorlineata (four-lined snake), Telescopus fallax (cat snake), Eryx jaculus (sand boa), Typhlops Vermicularis (worm snake), Malpolon monspessulanus (Montpellier Snake). An impressive group of insects with a diverse variety of species that inhabit Lesvos are the dragonflies. (order Odanata). The research is still progressing but 45 different species have already been spotted on the island. These dragonflies seem to be members of the prehistoric family of giant dragonflies, the first insects to become avian. Finally, it is worth mentioning that more than 530 species of bees live on Lesvos. The list is constantly growing as research progresses. This impressive variety of bees is, of course, related to the huge range of plant and habitat variety of the island.
Source: ETAL S.A.

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