Environmental Conservation


Human impact trend in Crete: the case of Psilorites Mountain

George A. Lyrintzisa1 c1

a1 National Agricultural Research Foundation, Institute of Mediterranean Forest Ecosystems and Technology of Forest Products, 115 28 Athens, Greece


An historical overview of human intervention in the natural environment of Crete is presented by considering trends in human population size as well as land-use records since the Neolithic period. Trends in human impacts over the last forty years are interpreted from available statistical data on human population, forests, rangelands, livestock and cultivated areas from 20 villages of the Psilorites Mountain area, central Crete. Depopulation occurred, mainly from 1961 to 1971, with migration to urban centres of Crete and abroad; this affected traditional land-use in the uplands and transformed the rural landscape. An increase of rangelands then occurred at the expense of forests, and human activities in agricultural lands intensified, through such as tree cultivation and irrigation. Livestock grazing has become a dominant activity on all wildlands with a dramatic increase in animal numbers (70.4% in sheep and 50.8% in goats recorded in 1992 as compared with 1981), attributable to European Union subsidies. This overstocking, coupled with frequent pastoral wildfires and uncontrolled grazing, has resulted in rapid changes of land-use systems and landscapes on Psilorites that now endanger the natural environment and resources.

(Received August 28 1995)

(Accepted May 28 1996)


c1 Dr George A. Lyrintzis Tel: +30 1 7784 850 Fax: +30 1 7784 602