2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Preparatory Actions
- Identification of ecosystem types (terrestrial): using the Ecosystem type map of Europe , the Corine Land Cover dataset , the Natura 2000 Standard Data Forms and monitoring results [50,51] and spatial data for habitat types , and following the European Environment Agency (EEA) guidelines  and recent survey results [42,43], we have identified and classified the ecosystem types present in the Greek territory; a detailed ecosystem type mapping for Greece, i.e., MAES level 3 (sub-categories of MAES level 2  ecosystem types in Greece) is an ongoing procedure of the LIFE-IP 4 NATURA project, summarized in Section 2.2.
- Literature review for ES indicators in Greece: we reviewed the provided list of primary and secondary ES indicators used for the site-level assessment of ES supply at mountainous Natura 2000 sites in Greece . The overview on ecosystem condition indicators was based on the EU ecosystem condition assessment framework  and recent work for Greece .
- Exploration of data availability and quality: to identify and select possible indicators for (a) mapping and assessing ecosystem condition and ES, and (b) establishing a national set of indicators for future MAES studies, we revised and assessed (regarding their thematic detail and spatial scale) all available datasets for terrestrial ecosystems (based on the review by Dimopoulos et al.  and on datasets freely available by state authorities (Supplementary Table S1)), updated by the input of recent datasets and information from the relevant national and regional offices/authorities, after an official request by the Hellenic Ministry of Environment and Energy (leader of the LIFE-IP 4 Natura project).
- Response to policy needs: using the guidance provided by Maes et al. [2,38] and in combination with the targets of (a) the EU Green Deal , (b) the Greek Biodiversity Strategy , (c) the Forest Strategy, (d) the Regional Policy, (e) the Agricultural Policy, (f) the Climate Policy and (g) the Water Policy, each indicator was evaluated and assigned with a “1” (yes) or “0” (no) mark regarding its direct relation with the above-mentioned strategies and policies.
- Supporting valuation and NC assessments: using a simple scaling method, experts from the LIFE-IP 4 NATURA consortium rated each indicator’s dataset for its ability to support valuation and NC studies (i.e., 0—not relevant, 1—very low, 2—low, 3—medium, 4—high, 5—ready for use). This allowed the co-authors to decide on final indicators and to explore the uncertainty, data availability and applicability.
2.2. Drafting the National Set of Indicators
Development and Implementation of Indicators’ Protocols
- Development of the indicator protocol fields: (i) Indicator name (name of the index for national use), (ii) Definition (summary definition of the index), (iii) Description (summary description of the index), (iv) Application (for ES and/or EC assessments), (v) Use and interpretation (local, regional, national), (vi) Measurement units (e.g., m3/ha), (vii) Data source (e.g., Ministry of Environment and Energy), (viii) Calculation method (detailed description of the method used to calculate the index).
- Implementation of the indicator protocol fields: (i) Indicator name (name of the index for national use), (ii) Responsible, coordinating authority for the implementation (authority/organization, etc., and person responsible for indicator calculation and communication), (iii) Use and interpretation (includes: key questions to which the indicator responds, (iv) Users of the indicator, (v) Appropriate scale for the implementation, (vi) Potential for aggregation (interpretation of increasing or decreasing trends, possible causes for these trends), (vii) Impact of indicator alterations/change to management, (viii) Measurement unit, (ix) Data source, (x) Calculation method, (xi) Presentation of the index (maps, graphs, tables, etc., appropriate for communication purposes), (xii) Limitations of index utility and accuracy, (xiii) Update/revision of the index (frequency and procedure), (xiv) Relative indicators (report relevant indices if available), (xv) Additional information and comments (free text).
2.3. Thematic Maps
2.3.1. ES Indicators Bundles
2.3.2. ES Hotspots
2.3.3. Compliance with the MAES Indicator Framework
2.3.4. Data Gaps
2.3.5. Relevance to Policies
3.1. Classification Scheme of Terrestrial Ecosystem Types in Greece
- Grassland: 13 habitat types in Natural grasslands.
- Woodland and forest: (i) seven habitat types in Temperate deciduous forests, (ii) seven habitat types in Mediterranean deciduous forests, (iii) five habitat types in Floodplain forests (Riparian forest/Fluvial forest), (iv) six habitat types in Temperate mountainous coniferous forests, (v) four habitat types in Mediterranean coniferous forests, (vi) four habitat types in Mediterranean sclerophyllous forests and (vii) one habitat type in Mixed Forest.
- Heathland and shrub: (i) five habitat types in Moors and heathland and (ii) 10 habitat types in Sclerophyllous vegetation.
- Sparsely vegetated land: (i) 11 habitat types in Sparsely vegetated areas and (ii) eight habitat types in Beaches, dunes, sands.
- Wetlands: (i) three habitat types in Inland freshwater marshes, (ii) six habitat types in Inland saline marshes, (iii) four habitat types in Peat bogs and (iv) eight habitat types in Marine wetlands.
- Rivers and lakes: (i) five habitat types in Rivers and (ii) four habitat types in Lakes.
3.2. Indicators for ES and EC Assessments
3.2.1. Selection of Indicators
- Provisioning services: 15 indicators, corresponding to 10 CICES codes.
- Regulating and maintenance services: 18 indicators, corresponding to 22 CICES codes.
- Cultural services: 6 indicators, corresponding to 3 CICES codes.
- Urban: 9 indicators (two from Biodiversity, three from Environmental quality, two from Food, material and energy and two from Recreation).
- Cropland: 11 indicators (four from Biodiversity, three from Environmental quality, two from Food, material and energy and two from Recreation).
- Grassland: 11 indicators (three from Biodiversity, three from Environmental quality, two from Food, material and energy, one from Forestry and two from Recreation).
- Woodland and forest: 20 indicators (three from Biodiversity, eight from Environmental quality, one from Food, material and energy, five from forestry and three from Recreation).
- Heathland and shrub: 17 indicators (four from Biodiversity, six from Environmental quality, three from Food, material and energy, two from forestry and two from Recreation).
- Sparsely vegetated land: 11 indicators (three from Biodiversity, three from Environmental quality, two from Food, material and energy, five from forestry and three from Recreation).
- Wetlands: 8 indicators (three from Biodiversity, three from Environmental quality and two from Recreation).
- Rivers and lakes: 15 indicators (three from Biodiversity, one from Environmental quality, one from Food, material and energy, three from Recreation and seven from Water resources).
- Marine inlets and transitional waters: 7 indicators (two from Biodiversity, three from Environmental quality and two from recreation).
3.2.2. Data Quality and Suitability for Tiers
3.2.3. Indicator Development and Implementation
3.3. Thematic Mapping
3.3.1. MAES-Related Dataset Availability and Potential ES Bundles and Hotspots
- Biodiversity: most administrative regions are covered by an adequate number of biodiversity-related datasets (their majority is rated above 80%). The regions of South Aegean, East Macedonia and Thrace and Crete are covered at highest rates (91.5%, 90.7% and 89.3%, respectively). The region of Attica, hosting the metropolitan center and capital of Greece—Athens, is in the last position of the classification, with 69.1% of its area covered by biodiversity-related datasets. Overall, area-size differentiations are not of significant importance.
- Environmental quality: in most regions (nine out of thirteen), more than 70% of their surface is covered with data relevant to environmental quality. The region of Attica, including Athens, ranks in the last position of the list. Area-size differentiations are not of significant importance.
- Food, material and energy: all regions are considered to have adequate spatial coverage regarding the available datasets for food, material and energy. Area-size differentiations are not of significant importance.
- Forestry: regions of northern Greece, Western Macedonia, East Macedonia and Thrace and Central Macedonia are the first in the list with 71.0%, 63.7% and 62.2% cover of their surface, respectively. The Metropolitan region of Attica and island regions are placed last in the list: Attica 7.4%, South Aegean 1.6%, North Aegean and the Ionian Islands at 0%. Area size is considered important and follows the pattern of area covered by the datasets.
- Recreation: most areas covered by recreation-related data are present in the Ionian Islands (47.4%), Crete (34.9%) and Central Macedonia (29.5%). Regions’ area size is important; for example, for the Ionian Islands region, it is highlighted that 47.4% of the area cover is of high importance regarding the relatively small area of the region.
- Water resources: all regions are relatively well covered by water resources-related datasets and this is due mainly to the recent monitoring and assessment networks established for the EU Water Framework Directive. Although not apparent at this regional scale analysis, some local fine-scale data is still poorly compiled or surveyed, due to the country’s high geographical fragmentation (many small river basins and small isolated wetlands). Area-size differentiations among regions are not of significant importance.
- Provisioning services: (i) 39% of the terrestrial area is covered by agricultural areas, Thessaly, Western Greece, Central Macedonia, East Macedonia and Thrace and Crete can be considered as hotspots of agriculture-related provisioning services, (ii) approximately 15% of the country is under forest management control for timber and other forest products: Pindos, Rhodopi and Evros mountain ranges are considered as hotspots, (iii) most wind parks are developed in Central Greece, followed by Crete and East Macedonia and Thrace, and a local hotspot can be identified in Southern Evvoia (Central Greece), (iv) proposed and developed hydroelectric power plants from small dams hotspots are located throughout the mountain range of Pindos and continue southwards to the mountains of Northern Peloponnese: secondary hotspots are located lengthwise of north Greek borders, (v) a hotspot of solar energy production is identified at the surrounding area of Ptolemaida (Western Macedonia), while most solar energy units are developed in Thessaly and Central Greece.
- Regulating and maintenance services: Most high-altitude mountains of Greece, wetland areas, lakes and numerous coastal areas can be perceived as hotspots for regulating and maintenance services. Although some regions are characterized by relative higher proportional area coverage by Natura 2000 sites and wildlife refuges than others (e.g., East Macedonia and Thrace versus Attica, respectively), the spatial distribution pattern of these hotspot areas designates them as of equal importance for every region.
- Cultural services: Using the currently limited number of indicators the spatial pattern of the related information pinpoints Central Macedonia, Crete and the Ionian Islands as hotspot regions for cultural ecosystem services, hosting a dense concentration of high-quality mountain and coastal areas for recreational and spiritual activities/interactions (i.e., identified by a necessarily limited number of proxy indicators, being mountain shelters, “blue flag” beaches, thermal springs, fresh-water sports). This initial review shows that the restricted number of country-wide Cultural Ecosystem Services indicators should be increased and further developed.
Relevance to Policies
- Biodiversity strategy: 21 relevant indicators, including 5 from Biodiversity, 8 from Environmental quality, 1 from Forestry, 4 from Recreation and 3 from Water resources groups.
- Forest strategy: 25 relevant indicators, including 3 from Biodiversity, 7 from Environmental quality, 1 from Food, material and energy, 6 from Forestry, 4 from Recreation and 4 from Water resources groups.
- Regional policy: 19 relevant indicators, including 7 from Environmental quality, 2 from Food, material and energy, 5 from Recreation and 5 from Water resources groups.
- Agricultural policy: 21 relevant indicators, including 4 from Biodiversity, 4 from Environmental quality, 4 from Food, material and energy, 1 from Forestry, 1 from Recreation and 7 from Water resources groups.
- Climate policy: 26 relevant indicators, including 2 from Biodiversity, 9 from Environmental quality, 4 from Food, material and energy, 4 from Forestry, 2 from Recreation and 5 from Water resources groups.
- EU Green Deal: All (40) proposed indicators are relevant to the EU Green Deal policy. However, specific relevance is present among indicators and the thematic targets of the EU Green Deals.
Conflicts of Interest
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|Scientifically sound||Indicators should be based on the best available knowledge while giving a good representation of the ecosystem characteristics addressed.||1|
|Supporting environmental legislation||Indicators should support the implementation of environmental legislation in the European Union (EU).||2|
|Policy-relevant||Indicators should be policy-relevant: they have multiple policy uses and can support a policy narrative which links pressures, ecosystem condition, ecosystem services and policy objectives.||3|
|Include habitat and species conservation status||The conservation status of habitats and species (and in particular the parameters “area” and “structure and function”) reported under Art.17 of the EU Habitats Directive should constitute a major indicator for assessing ecosystem condition.||4|
|Include soil-related information||Terrestrial ecosystems are not in good condition if their soils are not in good condition. Specific indicators which assess the condition of soils should therefore be included.||5|
|Applicable for natural capital accounts||The indicator framework should support the development and testing of ecosystem extent and condition accounts.||6|
|Spatially explicit||Ecosystem condition is not equal across space. Different spatial gradients of pressures and differences in the response of ecosystems to pressures result in spatial variance of ecosystem condition, which needs to be acknowledged in the indicator selection.||7|
|Baseline||Indicators should be measurable relative to a baseline year (e.g., 2010).||8|
|Sensitive to change||Indicators should be able to detect change over time.||9|
|MAES Ecosystem Category (Level 1)||Ecosystem Type for Mapping and Assessment (Level 2)||Ecosystem Type for Mapping and Assessment in Greece (Level 3)||Habitat Type Codes|
|Terrestrial||Urban||Dense to medium dense Urban Fabric (IM.D. 30%–100% + industrial, commercial, public, military and private units)||-|
|Low-density Urban Fabric (IM.D. 0%–30%)||-|
|Heterogeneous agricultural areas||-|
|Natural grasslands prevailingly without trees and scrubs (T.C.D. < 30%)||6110 *, 6170, 6220 *, 6230 *, 6290, 62A0, 62D0, 6420, 6430, 6510, 651A, G628, G645|
|Natural grasslands with trees and scrubs (T.C.D. > 30%)||6110 *, 6170, 6220 *, 6230 *, 6290, 62A0, 62D0, 6420, 6430, 6510, 651A, G628, G645|
|Woodland and forest||Temperate deciduous forests||9110, 9130, 9140, 9150, 9180, G91K, G91L|
|Mediterranean deciduous forests||91M0, 9280, 9250, 9310, 9350, 9260, 925A|
|Floodplain forests (Riparian forest/Fluvial forest)||92A0, 92C0, 92D0, 91E0 *, 91F0|
|Temperate mountainous coniferous forests||9530 *, 951B, 91ΒA, 91CA, 9410, 95A0|
|Mediterranean coniferous forests||2270, 9540, 9560, 9290|
|Mediterranean sclerophyllous forests||9340, 934A, 9320, 9370|
|Heathland and shrub||Moors and heathland||4060, 4090, 5360, 5420, 5430|
|Sclerophyllous vegetation||2250 *, 5110, 5150, 5160, 5210, 5230, 5310, 5330, 5340, 5350|
|Sparsely vegetated land||Sparsely vegetated areas||8130, 8140, 8210, 8220, 8230, 8310, 8320, 8330, 2240, 2260, 9620|
|Beaches, dunes, sands||1210, 1240, 1410, 2110, 2120, 2220, 2230, 2210|
|Glaciers and perpetual snow||-|
|Mines, dumps, land without current use||-|
|Wetlands||Inland freshwater marshes||72A0, 72Β0, 2190|
|Inland saline marshes||1310, 1410, 1420, 1430, 1510, 1440|
|Peat bogs||7140, 7210, 7220, 7230|
|Marine wetlands||1110, 1120, 1130, 1150, 1160, 1170, 1180, 1310|
|Freshwater||Rivers and lakes||Rivers||3240, 3250, 3260, 3280, 3290|
|Lakes||3130, 3140, 3150, 3170 *|
|Indicator Group||Indicator Name||CICES Section||CICES Code||ES Indicator||EC Indicator||MAES Framework Requirements (See Table 1)|
|Biodiversity||Diversity of agro-ecosystems with natural ecosystems (IB1)||Regulating and Maintenance||188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206, 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 8, 9|
|Floristic diversity (IB2)||22.214.171.124||Yes||Yes||1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Micro-refugia of floristic and endemic diversity (IB3)||126.96.36.199||Yes||Yes||1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9|
|Network of crop limits with natural vegetation (IB4)||188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206, 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 8, 9|
|Total biodiversity (IB5)||22.214.171.124||Yes||Yes||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Environmental quality||Change of upper forest limits (IE1)||Regulating and Maintenance||-||No||Yes||1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9|
|Conservation status at various scales (IE2)||-||No||Yes||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9|
|Forest fires (density) (IE3)||-||No||Yes||1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9|
|Forest fires (frequency) (IE4)||-||No||Yes||1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9|
|Fractional vegetation cover (IE5)||Yes||1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9|
|Natural regeneration (for woodland and forest) (IE6)||126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206, 220.127.116.11||Yes||Yes||1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Riparian area alteration (IE7)||18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206, 220.127.116.11||Yes||Yes||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Soil corrosivity (IE8)||18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206||Yes||Yes||1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9|
|Urban green space (IE9)||220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206, 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Urban temperature (IE10)||22.214.171.124||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 7, 8, 9|
|Food, material and energy||Cropland area (IM1)||Provisioning||126.96.36.199||Yes||No||1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Cropland efficiency (IM2)||188.8.131.52||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Firewood energy value (IM3)||184.108.40.206||Yes||No||1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Solar energy (IM4)||220.127.116.11||Yes||No||1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Water for energy production (IM5)||18.104.22.168||Yes||No||1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Wind energy (IM6)||22.214.171.124||Yes||No||1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Forestry||Available firewood (IF1)||Provisioning||126.96.36.199||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Pasture productivity (IF2)||188.8.131.52||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Standing volume (IF3)||184.108.40.206||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Technical wood (IF4)||220.127.116.11||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Total annual increment (IF5)||18.104.22.168||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Wood harvest (IF6)||22.214.171.124||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Recreation||National forests (IR1)||Cultural||126.96.36.199||Yes||No||1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Inland waters rafting and boating (IR2)||188.8.131.52||Yes||No||1, 3, 6, 7, 8|
|Organized beaches (IR3)||184.108.40.206||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8|
|Thermal springs (IR4)||220.127.116.11||Yes||No||1, 3, 6, 7, 8|
|Trial walking systems (IR5)||18.104.22.168||Yes||No||1, 3, 6, 7, 8|
|Visitors’ preferences (IR6)||22.214.171.124||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8|
|Water resources||Ability to satisfy demand by water use (IW1)||Provisioning||126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8|
|Chemical condition of surface water (for rivers and lakes) (IW2)||Regulating and Maintenance||184.108.40.206, 220.127.116.11||Yes||Yes||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Chemical condition of underground water (IW3)||Regulating and Maintenance||18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124||Yes||Yes||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Demand (total use) (IW4)||Provisioning||126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8|
|Ecological condition of surface water (for rivers and lakes) (IW5)||Regulating and Maintenance||184.108.40.206_W1||Yes||Yes||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Quantity of underground water (IW6)||Provisioning||220.127.116.11_W2||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Water exploitation index—WEI (IW7)||Provisioning||18.104.22.168_W3||Yes||Yes||1, 3, 6, 7, 8|
|Number of MAES-Related Datasets||Number of Corresponding Cells||% of Total Cell Number|
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