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||This region is one of the most important ecosystems because of its rare flora and fauna. The landscape is probably the most magnificent in Greece. The geographical isolation of the area, the relatively small human influence and the great variation of biotopes and microclimatic conditions favour the growth of different plant species. So, the area is a place where many rare plants are gathered and conserved; some of them are considered threatened taxa. The ravine of Aoos remains in nearly virgin condition and in its extensive forests we can find every kind of Greek tree, as well as more rare plants and animals than in Vikos gorge. In addition to the Greek endemic plant species listed in sections 3.3 and 3.4 with motivation B, many interesting taxa are found in the examined area. A great number of them are endemic to the Balkan peninsula (listed in sections 3.3 and 3.4 with motivation D). These are: Aesculus hippocastanum, Astragalus creticus subsp.rumelicus, Anthyllis vulneraria subsp. bulgarica, Achillea holosericea, Aubrieta scardica, Ballota hispanica subsp. macedonica, Campanula tymphaea, Cerastium decalvans, Crepis viscidula subsp. geracioides, Erysimum microstylum, E. cephalonicum, Galium anisophyllum subsp. plebeium, Geocaryum pindicolum, Hieracium cymosum subsp. heldreichianum, Hypericum rumeliacum subsp. apollinis, Linum flavum subsp. albanicum, Malcolmia orsiniana subsp. angulifolia, Myosotis alpestris subsp. suaveolens, Nepeta spruneri, Pedicularis graeca, Plantago media subsp. pindica, Polygala alpestris subsp. croatica, Pterocephalus perennis subsp. bellidifolius, Ptilotrichum cyclocarpum subsp. pindicum, Saxifraga porophylla subsp. frederici-angusti, Saxifraga rotundifolia subsp. taygetea, Scorzonera purpurea subsp. rosea, Silene caesia, Thlaspi microphyllum, Thymus boissieri, Trifolium pignantii, Trinia glauca subsp. pindica, Trisetum flavescens subsp. tenus, Achillea abrotanoides, Athamantha albanica, Abies borisii-regis, Bupleurum karglii, Campanula hawkinsiana, Centaurea pawlowskii, C. epirota, Cirsium tymphaeum, Crocus veluchensis, Geranium aristatum, Lilium carniolicum subsp. albanicum (=L.albanicum ), L. chalcedonicum, Ramonda serbica, Onobrychis montana subsp. scardica, Pinus heldreichii, Scrophularia laciniata, Sideritis raeseri subsp. raeseri, Cardamine carmosa, Crepis baldacii, Cirsium appendiculatum, Galium degenii, Galium speciosum, Dianthus integer subsp. minutiflorus, Helictotrichon aetolicum, Saxifraga rotundifolia subsp. chrysosplenifolia, Sesleria tenerrima, Silene fabarioides, Stachys plumosa, Taraxacum pindicola, Scutellaria rupestris subsp. adenotricha, Hieracium waldsteinii, Valantia aprica, Helleborus cyclophyllus, Hernaria parnassica subsp. parnassica, Carum graecum subsp. serpentinicum, Digitalis laevigata, Silene chromodonta, Valeriana crinii subsp. epirotica and Viola albanica. Linum punctatum subsp. pycnophyllum is also important since it is distributed in two widely disjunct areas in SE Turkey and Greece. Digitalis ferruginea subsp. ferruginea (section 3.4, motivation D) is scattered in Greece.The presence of the rare, endangered Ramonda serbica (which recieves motivation D) in this site is very significant as it is protected by Greek legislation (Presidential Decree 67/1981) and listed in the WCMC Plants Database as "Vulnerable". Additionally receiving the same motivation are the following taxa: a) Aesculus hippocastanum, Campanula hawkinsiana, Lilium carniolicum subsp. albanicum (=L.albanicum) and L. chalcedonicum since they are listed in the Greek Presidential Decree 67/1981 and b) Centaurea epirota, Crepis baldacii, Galium degenii, Scutellaria rupestris and Valeriana crinii subsp. epirotica since they are included in the WCMC Plants Database as "Rare". Scutellaria rupestris is also listed in UNEP as "Rare". Pinguicula crystallina subsp. hirtiflora (=P. hirtiflora) which is included in the Bern Convention is listed in section 3.3 with motivation C. Of the Greek endemics, Centaurea albanica and Lithospermum goulandriorum are protected by the Greek Presidential Decree 67/1981; Lithospermum goulandriorum and Scorzonera purpurea subsp. peristerica are also listed in the WCMC Plants Database as "Rare"; also included in the same database are Sedum tymphaecum and Rindera graeca as "Rare", as well as Silene haussknechtii as "Vulnerable". Another category is that with taxa having interesting distribution areas from a phytogeographical point of view (listed in sections 3.3 and 3.4 with motivation D). Such taxa are: a) Cynoglottis barrelieri subsp. serpentinicola (=Anchusa serpentinicola), occurring in Greece, Yugoslavia and SC Anatolia and listed in the WCMC Plants Database as "Rare"; b) Crocus olivieri and Achillea fraasii, occurring in the Balkan Peninsula and Turkey, c) Lilium candidum, occurring in Balkan peninsula and SW Asia, d) Corylus colurna, distributed in the Balkans, Turkey and Anatolia and protected by Greek legislation (Presidential Decree, 67/1981), e) Minuartia juniperina, a chiefly Asiatic species, f) Campanula foliosa, Silene roemeri and Saxifraga glabella, endemics to the Appennini and the Balkan peninsula, g) Globularia meridionalis, endemic to Italy, Austria and the Balkan Peninsula h) Barbarea sicula, occurring in Greece, S Italy and Sicily, (listed in the WCMC Plants Database as "Vulnerable"), i) Thymus longicaulis subsp. chaubardii and Carduus tmoleus occurring in Balkan Peninsula and j) Dianthus viscidus occurring in S Balkan Peninsula and NW Turkey. We must also cite (section 3.3, motivation D) Asphodeline taurica which is rare in Greece, Limosella aquatica which is in Greece only reported from dried-up meltwater pools and small lakes at altitudes of 1750-1900 m, Sempervivum marmoreum (=S. reginae-amaliae) which is rare and scattered in Greece and is protected by the Greek Presidential Decree 67/1981, as well as three taxa recently discovered in Greece: Telekia speciosa, Geum reptans and Verbascum nigrum subsp. abietinum. Narcissus poeticus subsp. radiiflorus listed in Greek Presidential Decree /1982 occurs also in the area (section 3.4 with motivation D). Furthermore, we must mention the presence of pure stands of Juniperus foetidissima above the village of Papingon, as well as solitary individuals of Taxus baccata and Ilex aquifolium and stands of Quercus cerris and Quercus daleschampii in the mixed woodland zone. Also important is the presence of Alnus glutinosa in the riparian forest, the populations of which must be protected in Greece. This site is also one of the most important Greek areas from the point of view of its fauna since it maintains a diverse and abundant animal life including some of the rare large mammals of Europe. Some mammalian amphibian and reptilian taxa are listed in Annex II of the Directive 92/43/EEC. Among them the brown bear, Ursus arctos is a priority species for the E.C. The population of Ursus arctos inhabiting the Pindos mountain range (part of which is included in the Vikos-Aoos and Pindos National Parks), is evaluated as one of the healthiest in the E.C. area. It should be noted that the Pindos bear population is the southernmost in Europe, isolated from all conspecific ones which exist mainly in areas of eastern Europe and have a patchy distribution pattern. Regarding Canis lupus, the National Park of Vikos-Aoos, is an important area for its survival, since this species suffers from a strong decline of its habitats in Greece due to various human activities. The importance of this site is also indicated by the presence, although very rare, of Lynx lynx, which has the southernmost point of its European distribution in N Pindos. The Chamois, Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica, a Balkan endemic taxon, shows a discontinuous distribution on some mountains of northern and central Greece, which is the southern end of the species range. Taking into account the ecological requirements of the chamois, it becomes evident that this site is a very significant area for this animal because of the existence of extensive suitable habitats (rocky cliffs of the gorges). For the otter, Lutra lutra, there are many well-conserved habitats along both the Vikos/Voidomatis and Aoos rivers, which cross the area of the National Park. All the above mentioned mammals as well as the bat Myotis blythi which also exists in this site, are mentioned in the Greek Red Data Book (the bear and lynx as "Endangered", the chamois as "Rare" and the remaining as "Vulnerable"). Concerning amphibians and reptiles, this site is also of great importance, since it contains a variety of suitable habitats usually supporting quite dense populations. Of the amphibians and reptiles of Annex II the Orsini's viper, Vipera ursinii has the southernmost end of its European distribution in the Pindos mountain range. The small, susceptible Greek populations of this snake live in subalpine meadows of Pindos mountain range and they are fully isolated. Vipera ursinii is considered a threatened taxon in Greece (threat category "Rare"). Some freshwater fish species recorded in the area of National Park are also among those mentioned in Annex II of the Directive 92/43/EEC. Apart from Rutilus rubilio, the others are threatened taxa in Greece mentioned in the Greek Red Data Book under the categories "Locally Vulnerable", (Barbus taxa) and "Rare", "Vulnerable", or "Endangered", depending on the particular population . It should be noted here that according to Economidis (pers. comm.) the valid names of the Greek populations of these three fish taxa are: Rutilus ohridanus prespensis (instead of R. rubilio), and Barbus peloponnesius rebeli (instead of B. meridionalis). Some more vertebrate taxa, other than birds, recorded in this site are evaluated as Other Important Species and listed in section 3.3. Five of them are threatened in Greece and placed under the categories "Vulnerable" (the large mammals Canis aureus, Canis lupus and Capreolus capreolus) and Locally Vulnerable (the fish Leuciscus cephalus vardarensis). Another one is Greek endemic (the rodent Muscardinus avellanarius). Most of the taxa are mentioned in the lists of the Bern Convention and have thus been allocated motivation C; the exceptions are the mammals Canis aureus, Microtus thomasi, Apodemus mystacinus epimelas, Apodemus flavicollis brauneri and Mus macedonicus and Leuciscus cephalus vardarensis. The wildcat Felis silvestris and the wolf Canis lupus are also protected by the CITES Convention. Moreover, apart from the frog Rana ridibunda, the lizards Ophisaurus apodus, Ablepharus kitaibelii and Lacerta agilis, the snake Vipera ammodytes, the jackal Canis aureus, the wolf Canis lupus, the wildcat Felis silvestris, the Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus, the hare Lepus europaeus, the rodents Microtus thomasi, Apodemus taxa and Mus macedonicus, and the fish, all the other taxa of section 3.3 are protected by the Greek Presidential Decree 67/1981 (motivation D). The wolf (Canis lupus) is also mentioned in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals 1988, and together with the rodent Muscardinus avellanarius, is also included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals 1988 and the European Red List of Globally Threatened Animals and Plants (UNEP). Furthermore, the frog Rana dalmatina, the lizards Ablepharus kitaibelii and Lacerta agilis, the snakes Coronella austriaca and Natrix tessellata, the Wildcat Felis silvestris, the wolf Canis lupus and the fish Alburnoides bipunctatus, are listed in the handbook of the CORINE-Biotopes Project. The lizards Algyroides nigropunctatus and Podarcis erhardii, the snake Coluber gemonensis, the rodents Glis g. pindicus, Microtus thomasi, the two Apodemus taxa and all the fish taxa except Orthrias pindus, are Balkan endemics. The frog Rana temporaria and the lizard Lacerta agilis show the southernmost end of their range in Europe in the Epeirus district. The hare and the Wildcat are very rare animals in Greece, and finally the mouse Mus macedonicus shows the westernmost end of its distribution in the S Balkans. For all the reasons mentioned above, the taxa concerned are exclusively or additionally marked with motivation D. From all this analysis it becomes clear that a very rich vertebrate fauna (excluding birds) lives within the National Park of Vikos-Aoos. The existence of some very important European animal taxa, together with the occurrence of other extinct or very rare European taxa, emphasizes the great zoological value of this area and justifies its importance as one of the most significant and well conserved natural areas in Europe. The invertebrate species listed in section 3.3 and 3.4 with motivation D are protected by the Greek Presidential Decree 67/1981. The site is important for breeding raptors, alpine and forest species. Breeding birds inlude some of the species in Europe that are restricted (when breeding) to the Eurasian high-montane biome. Species of concern include Neophron percnopterus, Circaetus gallicus, Aquila chrysaetos and Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax.