Religion and the Management of the Commons. The Sacred Forests of Epirus

  • Kalliopi StaraEmail author
  • Rigas Tsiakiris
  • Vasilis Nitsiakos
  • John M. Halley
Part of the Environmental History book series (ENVHIS, volume 5)


Sacred natural sites (SNS), and especially forests, constitute almost certainly the world’s oldest conservation systems. The reasons for their maintenance are related very often with concrete ways of managing local resources and ecosystems, through religious rules. In Zagori and Konitsa, NW Greece sacred forests exist in most villages. Their vegetation and forest structure variety along with cultural elements, such as identities of the communities who had established them, the purpose of their establishing, the different rituals implemented for their transformation from profane to sacred, associated taboos, and their particular history create their unique character. Accepted uses in sacred forests are depended to the purpose of their establishment. More often hunting, grazing, collection of plants, mushrooms, and dead branches are allowed, while taboos are mainly connected with the trees themselves. Sacred forests display nowadays a newly emerged value for biodiversity conservation and they can serve as a locally adapted exemplar of successful historical conservation systems.


Sacred Natural Sites Old growth forests Northern Pindos National Park Greece Mediterranean mountains Biocultural diversity 



This research has been co-financed by the European Union (European Social Fund—ESF) and Greek national funds through the Operational Program “Education and Lifelong Learning” of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF)—Research Funding Program: THALIS. Investing in knowledge society through the European Social Fund. We would like to thank our colleagues Alkis Betsis for the creation of the map and GIS work, Vaggelis Roumpas, Dr Giorgos Korakis, Dr Vasilis Dalkavoukis, Grigoris Manopoulos, Aris Kyparissis and Valentino Marini Govigli for data exchange, Dr Jenny Wong and professor Oliver Rackham for their support and professor Mauro Agnoletti for giving us the opportunity to contribute to this volume. Moreover, we would like to thank the Forestry Services of Ioannina, Konitsa, and Metsovo for the permission to study their archives. Lastly, we would like to thank all local participants to the study for time and hospitality during field work. Without them this research will be never been accomplished and the sacred forests will be never protected.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kalliopi Stara
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rigas Tsiakiris
    • 2
  • Vasilis Nitsiakos
    • 3
  • John M. Halley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological Applications and TechnologyUniversity of IoanninaIoanninaGreece
  2. 2.Forestry Service of IoanninaIoanninaGreece
  3. 3.Department of History and ArcheologyUniversity of IoanninaIoanninaGreece

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