The 'emerald isle' of Thásos is extensively forested and in the early 1980s (prior to the recent series of devastating summer fires) conifers were reported as covering 44% of the land surface. The forests are owned by the municipal authorities and the Greek Forest Service, with timber production amounting to some 25,000 cubic metres per year (although this has presumably declined in recent years). The summer fires of 1985 & 1989 were a disaster for the forestry industry as well as wildlife and in response conspicuous firebreaks were bulldozed throughout the forests in an attempt to control future outbreaks.
Large areas of the western half of the island, from Rachoni to Potos, are now substantially devoid of woodland. 17,400 hectares of forest were destroyed in the two major fires and it is now estimated that only 2024 ha of mature pine forest survives in the lowlands. However, regeneration is rapid and several studies (Gitas et al 2000, Spanos 1994, Spanos & Spanos 1996, Spanos et al 2000, Spanos et al 2001) have shown the rapid establishment of typical scrub species and high germination rates for conifer seedlings. "Most burned sites on Thásos have been restored by post-fire natural regeneration, with a rich vegetation cover and high species abundance" (Spanos et al 2001) and, given protection from further fires, conifer forests will once again cover much of the lowland landscape of Thásos.
In the lowlands, extending up to c. 450 metres a.s.l., Calabrian pine Pinus halepensis spp. brutia forms the forest cover. This subspecies (sometimes considered to be a separate species Pinus brutia) is restricted to Turkey, Crete and eastern Greece, but it closely resembles the nominate form, Aleppo pine Pinus h. halepensis, with a similar growth form and understorey communities. Characteristically, the shrub layer consists of Cistus phrygana (see: Scrub) in which pink cistus Cistus creticus and tree heath Erica manipuliflora are abundant. This type of forest is widely distributed on Thásos and can be readily seen in the north of the island, for instance, along the roadside between Cape Pachys and Skala Rachoni. A walk through the forest around the Temple of Athena, between Thassos Town and Makriammos, gives a good introduction to this type of habitat. Taller shrub layers, known as maquis (see: Scrub), represent successional development from the woodland phrygana, but grazing pressure (Makedos 1987), fire and timber production often prevent maquis from establishing. Examples of the latter are found throughout the forested areas on the island and the species component varies according to soil moisture and geology.
Gitas, I., Radoglou, K., Devereux, B. & Spanos, I. 2000. Comparative study of post-fire ecosystem recovery by using field plots and geographical information sysytems. Ed. V. Tsihrintzis. Proceedings of the International Conference on the Protection and Restoration of the Environment, V: pp: 651-658. University of Thrace.
Makedos, I. 1987. The Pinus brutia forests of Thasos. Ed. V. Papanastasis. Proceedings of the Conference on Pinus halepensis and Pinus brutia forests - ecology, management and development, . pp: 153-160. Hellenic Association of Foresters. [in Greek]
Spanos, I. 1994. Natural regeneration of Pinus brutia on the burnt areas in the northwestern areas of the island of Thasos. Geotech. Sci., 4: 33-39. [in Greek]
Spanos, I.A., Daskalakou, E.N. & Thanos, C.A. 2000. Postfire, natural regeneration of Pinus brutia forests in Thasos Island, Greece. Acta Oecologica, 21: 13-20.
Spanos, I. & Spanos, K. 1996. Postfire establishment and survival of Pinus brutia on the island of Thasos. pp: 163-168. Proceedings of the Second Balkan Scientific Conference, June 3-5, 1996, 1996. Sofia.
Spanos, I.A., Radoglou, K.M. & Raftoyannis, Y. 2001. Site quality effects on post-fire regeneration of Pinus brutia forest on a Greek island. Applied Vegetation Science, 4: 229-236.