On the Northwest of Olympus there is a pine forest of unique beauty. It covers an area of 32,000 sq.Klm , big part of which belongs to the NATURA 2000 zone. It contains pure clumps of pine trees and evergreen hard leaved vegetation. In the interior of the woods we can find the typical bushy forest vegetation.
Foxes, hares, weasels, badgers, vipers, adders, owls, hawks, goldfinches, sparrows, robins, pigeons, blackbirds, thrushes, grouses and many more are some of the fauna to be found in Agiasos pine forest.
It is a place deeply connected with the history and socioeconomic development of Agiasos from the time of the Turkish occupation and on.
During the Turkish occupation people used to take resinous wood and resin which they used to produce light. They also manufactured hard tar and thick pitch. They used to sell tar to shipyards for the calking of boats. Tar was also used as insulating compound to walls and basements to protect the houses from dampness. Pitch had therapeutic properties and they used it to heal wounds.
“Giourouks” were nomads settled in the forests of Agiasos during the Turkish occupation. They remained on the island till 1923 when the exchange of Greek and Turkish population took place. Giourouks lived in tents and earned their living through selling firewood, firebrands, boards for carrying bread to the oven and other forest products.
In 1823 Mustafa Aga Koulaxiz, after the repression of the revolution on the North part of the Island and the rout of the people of Psara, usurped the area of the “Great Lake”and drained certain parts of it in order to sow wheat obliging the people of Agiasos to hard labour. This lasted until the end of the Greek Revolution when Mustafa decided that the cultivation of the Great Lake was not profitable and the area was given to shepherds as pastureland. Mustafa’s descendants kept the area until 1874. Then the Greek Orthodox Church bought it from the Turkish Government.
In 1929 the Cooperative of Landless peasantry of Agiassos together with their Chairman, reserve officer Stratis Kapatos, achieved their rehabilitation after the distribution of Church, Monastery, School and Public land. This started from the 8 monastery dependencies of Lemnos belonging to the Monastery of Megisti Lavra on Mount Athos. They were distributed to landless peasantry who fought in the Balkan Wars and the Minor Asian Campaign. The area of the Great Lake was expropriated and an area of 1,200 sq Klm and was turned into orchards and arable land solving the great social problems of the time.
During the period of the Civil War partisans had their mountain fastness (ambria) under the massive rocks (chalatsies) in the pine forest at the area “Sotira”.
Later on in 1970, the settlement of “retsinades” (raisin gatherers) was at its peak gathering raisin from the pines. Remnants of this settlement survive to the present day at the area called “Patildelia” (traces of houses and a bakery, raisin tanks, a dilapidated coffee shop etc).
Today the pine forest is a main source of income for many families of lumberjacks. The municipality of Agiasos rents them areas that need clearing.
Most drainage basins formed within the boundaries of the pine forest of the Great Lake concentrate average to large quantities of water which flow towards the small creeks during the winter months. The biggest of these rivers are Agia Sotira, and Tsigos flowing all year long.
Carkavoura River is of particular ecological importance because it springs in the highest points of Olympus, flows through Agios Dimitrios into Evergetoulas River and the Gulf of Gera. Kteneli Springs are in Carkavoura River at an altitude of 350m above sea level. This river flows through three different natural habitats protected by Natura 2000 and the European Union Instruction 92/43 (Annex I: Types of natural habitats which need to be characterized according to their terrain and special preservation zones.):
a) A high, steep, rocky cliff is the boundary of the eastern riverbed and hosts fissure vegetation while in certain points there are clumps of pine trees. According to the European Classification System this type of habitat is referred to as “Limestone rocks with fissure vegetation” (code 8210). These types of rocks and cliffs are nesting areas of predatory birds and an important habitat for many indigenous species of plants of NE Aegean Islands.
b) At the river bank there is lush vegetation with great diversity. Plane trees (Platanus orientalis), osiers ( Vitex agnus castus), poplar trees (popoulus sp.) and oleanders (Nerium oleander) are the ruling species of the area interrupted by orchards , olive groves and traditional dry stone walls in certain spots. This type of habitat is called “Forests with plane trees” (code 9200) and belongs in the category of “Greek-Balkan riverside forests with plane trees”(code Corine 44,711). Tall plane trees by rivers in the Mediterranean and the vegetation growing under them are a very rare ecosystem for Aegean Islands. Lush vegetation and diversity of species appear in mountainous areas with flowing surface waters on the bigger Aegean islands.
c) The western riverbed is much more regular with fewer inclinations. Immediately after the riverside vegetation there is dense pine forest with diversity of bushy plants such as: Holm oaks (Overcus coccifera), lentisks (Pistacea lentiscus), (Pistacea terebinthus), arbutuses (Arbutus unedo), (Arbutus andrachne), euphorbia (Euphorbia sp.), rock roses (Cistus sp.) and many others. This type of habitat is called “Mediterranean pine forests” (code 9540). The pine forests of Mount Olympus is a special category with a code number 42,852 which is called “Aegean pine forests of Lesvos”.
There are many springs in the forest. One of them is the spring of “Tsigos”. Its water is rich in minerals and magnesium according to the 1990 research made by the Department of Water economy of the Association of Municipalities owning Hot or Mineral Springs in Greece. A local company used the water coming out of Tsigos spring for many decades for the bottling of soft drinks. The springs were created by the rock weathering and breaking of peridodite as well as the presence of taluses covering the area. Agiasos belongs to the Association of Municipalities owning Hot or Mineral Springs because of the Tsigos spring.
More specifically the boundaries of the forest of the Great Lake are:
Due NW at the site “Sykia”, 650m west of the confluence of Camareli creek with Vouvaris torrent it follows Cavouropotamos creek eastwards until its confluence with Camareli creek.
Further on, due S - SE it follows Cavouropotamos creek to “Stavros” site and from there it follows the forest road which is higher than Lagadi creek until it reaches Agios Dimitrios creek (near the chapel). After that it crosses the main road and follows Carcavouras creek due S reaching its springs. From there it goes up “Kabia” site meeting the boundaries of private properties, Ambeliko, and the forest of the Great Lake. It follows the mountainous range until 770m and goes down due S until Kabia creek following it until it meets its buttress coming down from Azop peak.
From Azop it meets the forest of Ambelico and reaches the altitudes 771, 700, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200m. meeting the confluence of Agia Sotira and Stravolagado creeks which form Vourkos torrent. From the above confluence it turns due NW – N and reaches Kokkina peak (465m). Continuing due North it meets the forests of Agiasos and Vassilika passing altitudes such as 533, 523 and 508 at Tigana site to end at Stenoklidi site on the main road Mitylene-Polychnitos. It follows the limits of Vassilika forest due N-NE to Kakovouno site reaching Kara Dag peak (401m). Then it continuous due N leaving the forests of Vasilika and Vouvari reaching the Sykia site where it started from.
Municipal Unit of Agiasos