Prespa National Park in Greece is an important breeding-area for rare and endangered waterbird species, but people living within the Park and using its resources create serious conservation problems. An environmental management plan which will regulate mainly the human activities within the Park is therefore necessary. Such a plan should be based on a land cover/use analysis of the area, for which much of the necessary information, in the form of a thematic map, has been collected by interpreting blackand-white aerial photographs. The procedure involved the development of a classification system, transferring the interpreted data onto a base-map, field-checking the results, and tabulating the area measurements with the pertinent errors.
Of the total Park area (25,690 ha), 66.5% is classified as terrestrial (forestland, rangeland, agricultural land whether irrigated, non-irrigated, or abandoned, wet meadows/marshland, barren and eroded land, and urban areas), and the remainder as aquatic (water, reedbeds). The most extensive category in the Park is forestland, much of which is seriously degraded. Rangeland provides forage for sheep and goats, being also degraded owing to uncontrolled grazing. Wet meadows/marshland are invaluable as waterbird breeding and feeding habitats, but the present use of this category as grazing fields, and its proximity to agricultural land and to the existing irrigation/drainage system, have all had negative impacts on the resource. Irrigated land is almost half of the cultivated area.
The abandoned agricultural land is interspersed within the forestland and is a result of the human population decline in the area, while barren and eroded land has resulted from prolonged land misuse. Twelve old villages are distributed over the Park, being visually unobtrusive. Lake Mikri Prespa is the main water-body and covers almost the entire nucleus of the Park. Extensive reedbeds are found along the lakeshores, which are the main breeding habitats of certain waterbirds. As land cover/use analysis of the Park has shown much serious environmental degradation, conservation measures should be undertaken urgently.