The Greek island of Samothraki in the northern Aegean Sea is relatively isolated from the mainland, ecologically rich with a large number of endangered and endemic species. Samothraki is an island of high mountains with rich forests of unique natural beauty as well as an abundance of water in the form of small streams, waterfalls and natural springs. Its highest peak reaches 1 611 m, making Samothraki the third highest island in the Aegean. About three quarters of its total surface area of 178 km2, covering most of the mountainous part together with a large marine area, are included in the Natura 2000 network. The current permanent population is 2 840 inhabitants (2011 census), with a low population density (15 persons / km2), a number that more than triples during the peak tourist season.

In addition, the very early human presence on the island since prehistory has created cultural landscapes in the accessible lowland areas, with traditional settlements, olive groves and arable farming, which merge into the natural landscapes. Moreover, there are several cultural conservation sites, such as the capital town of Chora and the magnificent Sanctuary of the Great Gods, a large sanctuary of pre-Greek origin that was a place of worship devoted to the Kaveiria mysteries from the 5th century BC onwards up into the 4th century AD and the place of discovery of the famous Nike of Samothraki exhibited in the Louvre.

Fortunately, these natural and cultural assets that make Samothraki special were kept largely intact over the years and can provide the baseline for the path of the island towards a sustainable future. The basic idea is to use the Biosphere Reserve concept as a tool for implementing sustainable development on the island with reference to both main areas of economic activity: agriculture and tourism.

Images © Sophia Bourdanou