The wetlands surrounding the Mornos River in central Greece are home to a unique and threatened ecosystem.
By Lia Mageira
After the construction of the Mornos River dam in the mountainous region of Fokida, Greece, the formerly torrential river is now flowing slowly, emptying out through its wide delta to its mouth.
Viewed from a distance, it is more distinguished by its valley than by its water. The river that slakes the thirst of Athens, even now, is the beneficial friend of the riverside villages as well.
On the delta of the river, the villages of Dorida — Malamata, Aghios Polycarpos and Managouli, and a little higher up, Kastraki — have linked their lives to the Mornos.
The river forms the largest delta of the Corinthian Gulf. At the center of the Delta plain is located the village of Managouli.
Wetlands along Mornos River in Greece home to important ecosystems
The “Mornos estuary-Malamata” area is a protected area of NATURA 2000. The bay is
one of the most important resting places for migratory birds.
Thousands of birds flock to the coast of Chiliadou to roost. There are 189 species of birds, permanent and transient, in the Delta.
The Delta is home to one of the two populations of jackals in mainland Greece as well. The jackal is a protected endangered species.
In the waters of the river live seven different species of fish; among them is the small Zournas fish, which is an endangered species and exists worldwide only in Central Greece and western Albania.
The five-arched bridge over the Mornos, which was built in 1939, connects the prefecture of Aitoloakarnania and the prefecture of Fokida, as the river is the natural border between them.
Following the valley of the river, the road leads to the first village, Malamata. Then, the route passes through Aghios Polycarpos and reaches Managouli. Its name comes from the word “gouliasma,” which means the mud, or silt, deposited by the river when it overflows its banks.
That particular soil is considered very fertile and productive. A narrow road starts from the centre of the village and crosses the plain there.
Amidst the smells of sprouting clover and rich bottomland soil, the road leads to Koutsoukia, a rocky shore with a few houses. The Peloponnesian peninsula can be seen across the gulf.
Returning to the main road, a small detour leads to a small hill, where the church of the Panagia Faneromeni is located. Turning towards the beach, the road leads to the village of Chiliadou.
A small harbor shelter for fishing boats and a 2 km (1.2 mile) long sandy beach creates the infrastructure for a vacation village there. At the end of the delta next to the beach, is the beautiful Parathalasso lagoon.
At a slightly higher altitude is the village of Kastraki village, built amphitheatrically with a magnificent view of the Corinthian Gulf and the mountains of the Peloponnese in the distance.
The biotope of the delta is one of the unknowns of Greece. According to a study carried out by the Department of Civil Engineering of the National Technical University of Athens, the area is threatened by fires, illegal hunting and gathering of plants, and also uncontrolled building.
It is considered a wetland with a “top priority” for protection.