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The wetland of Alykes (meaning “salt pans”) is located in the eastern part of the island of Samos, at a very close distance from the coast of Asia Minor (Turkey). The total area of the wetland biotope is 420,000 sq. m., consisting of 350,000 sq. m. of salt pans and 70,000 sq. m. of swampland. In the past, the salt pans of Alykes yielded the best quality of salt in Greece, but their operation stopped in 1965. Later, the area was designated a protected biotope for its beautiful landscape and its ecological significance as an ecotope, which is uncommon in the Aegean islands. The importance of the area consists in the fact that a large number of birds migrate and reproduce there every year.
The wetland of Alykes is closely related to the big biotopes in the deltas of the Maeander River and the Cayster River (Kucuk Menderes in Turkish) on the coast of Asia Minor, both of which are important bird biotopes, protected by law in neighbouring Turkey. For that reason, the biotope of Alykes is one the most significant stopover sites for migrating birds in the Aegean Sea.
The area of Alykes is a protected by law and has been designated a biotope in the list published by the Greek Biotope/Wetland Centre, as well as in the CORINE Biotopes Sites Database of the European Union and in NATURA 2000, which is a European network of protected sites.Mammals living in the wetland of Alykes include hedgehogs, black rats, jackals and badgers. Amphibians and reptiles include green toads, marsh frogs, European pond terrapins, Greek turtles, chameleons, water snakes, vipers, lizards, etc. A total of 127 species of birds have been recorded in Alykes, including little egrets (small white herons), Caribbean flamingoes, glossy ibises, ruddy shelducks, common shelducks, chukars, short-toed Eagles, long-legged buzzards, black-winged stilts, whickered terns, etc., most of which are rare or threatened with extinction.