The Prespa–Ohrid ecoregion

The Prespa-Ohrid ecoregion lies at the heart of the Balkans. Covering parts of Albania, Greece, and North Macedonia, the lakes are among Europe’s oldest and recognized as one of the most ecologically valuable regions in Europe. This widely recognised transboundary area houses multiple protected areas, internationally recognised wetland areas (Ramsar sites),  a transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a transboundary mixed Natural and Cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The work of PONT initially focused on the Prespa Lakes and their surrounding environment, including the entire Galicica National Park and Pelister National Park in North Macedonia which extend outside the watershed of the Prespa Lakes. PONT is expanding its work beyond the wider Prespa region by adding the wider Ohrid region and other transboundary conservation areas in both North Macedonia and Albania. The wider Prespa-Ohrid region also includes Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park in Albania which sits outside the watershed of Lake Ohrid.

The following existing protected areas are included for financial support by PONT in the “Wider Prespa-Ohrid region and beyond”, the focus area of PONT: Ezerani Nature Park; Galicica National Park; Lake Prespa Monument of Nature; Pelister National Park; Prespa National Park; Pogradec Terrestrial/Aquatic Territory Protected Landscape; Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park; Vevchanski Springs Monument of Nature; Koritnik Nature Park; Lumi i Gashit Strict Nature Reserve; Lugina e Valbonës National Park; Thethi National Park; Mavrovo National; and Shara National Park.

Grants to environmental actors are for qualified NGOs, municipalities, and research institutes with a local presence in the Wider Prespa-Ohrid region and beyond and with a strategy in conservation, developing society, improving communities, and promoting citizen participation in conservation. PONT funding priorities identified for environmental actors are mainly focused on (transboundary) conservation activities and some important specialised conservation activities.


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Prespa refers to two freshwater lakes—the Great Prespa, shared by Albania, Greece and North Macedonia and the Lesser Prespa divided by Greece and Albania.

Together with their surrounding mountains the two Prespa lakes constitute an area which is one of the most biodiverse areas in Europe.

Prespa Biodiversity 

Some numbers below illustrate the wealth and the diversity of the area:

  • The Prespa basin has a very high level of endemism score with endemic forms of lacustrine organisms, mainly gastropods, diatoms, oligochaeta, leeches, poriferans, tricladids, ostracods.
  • With 23 species of freshwater fish, 9 of which are endemic to the Prespa region makes Prespa one of the 10 most important wetlands in the Mediterranean and one of the 12 most important wetlands in Europe in terms of fish endemism.
  • The Prespa lakes are a wetland of international importance (Ramsar wetland). Over 272 species of birds, including 143 breeding are found in the area. Lesser Prespa is the home of the largest breeding population of Dalmatian pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) in the world with 1150-1530 pairs, (20% of its global population) and an isolated colony, the westernmost in the Palearctic, of great white pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus, 300-500 p.).

There is also an important population of pygmy cormorants (Phalacrocoraxpygmaeus), one of the four isolated genetically distinct populations in Europe of goosander (Mergus merganser), relicts of glacial eras, and other important water-bird species, such as the glossy ibis and 6 species of herons.

  • With 172 species of diurnal butterflies the Prespa catchment basin is one of the 10 most diverse places for Lepidoptera diversity in Europe.
  • 62 mammal species, including the threatened species of wolf, brown bear and otter all finding refuge within the basin. Prespa also hosts one of the highest bat diversities in Europe
  • Exceptional floristic diversity with over 2,200 species of plants.
  • Great variety of habitat types: 53 habitat types listed in the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), including 9 priority terrestrial habitats.


Lake Ohrid and Ohrid town

Lake Ohrid is located on the central Balkan with approximately two-third of its surface area belonging to North Macedonia and about one-third belonging to Albania. It is an ancient lake that exists continuously following its formation during the Pliocene, and is one of the oldest lakes in the world. It is also the deepest lake in the entire Balkan Peninsula, with a maximum depth of 289 m.

Lake Ohrid is a renowned centre of biodiversity for freshwater aquatic species due to its exceptionally high level of endemism. It is much smaller than lakes such as Baikal, Tanganyika and Victoria but hosts a high number of endemic species and is possibly the most diverse lake per surface area in the world. Lake Ohrid represents a refuge for numerous freshwater organisms from the Tertiary Period, whose close relatives can be found only as fossil remains; this is the reason the lake is sometimes called a “museum of living fossils”. Among them the freshwater sponge (Ochridospongia rotunda).

Ohrid Biodiversity

The significant biodiversity values of Lake Ohrid, indicatively include:

  • Approximately 1,200 native species are known from the lake, including 586 animals.
  • 212 known endemic species including 182 animals in a lake with a surface area of 358 km2 and mean water depth of 155 m. Εndemism is high in invertebrates with benthic and semi-benthic taxa being particularly diverse. Indicatively:
    • Amphipoda 90%, Infusoria 88%, Rhabdocoela 44%, Tricladida 71%, Isopoda 76%, Gastropoda 78%, Ostracoda 63%.
  • Ohrid is one of the 12 most important wetlands in Europe in terms of fish endemism, with the presence of 17 species of freshwater fish, including the famous Ohrid Trout (Salmo letnica) as well as 9-11 local or regional endemics.
  • The lakeshore reed beds and wetlands provide critical habitat for tens of thousands of wintering water birds, including rare and threatened species such as the ferruginous duck (Aythya ferina), and velvet scooter (Melanitta fusca). As the number of overwintering birds regularly exceeds 20,000 birds, Lake Ohrid has been added to the Ramsar list in 2021.
REGION - Prespa Ohrid Nature Trust
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