Prespa Lakes

- Albania -

Photo: © RAPA Korçë

Albanian Prespa
© RAPA Korçë


Albanian Prespa Lakes was designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) under the Ramsar Convention on 13-06-2013.

More about the site

The Prespa region is located in the southeastern Balkan Peninsula. It is a high-altitude basin which includes two inter-linked lakes, Macro Prespa and Micro Prespa, and the surrounding mountains. Prespa comprises both terrestrial and aquatic components, and its boundaries partly correspond to the watershed of the Prespa Lakes. The terrestrial ecosystem is dominated by the Mali i Thate (Dry Mountain), a calcareous massif that extends south from the Albanian-Macedonian border and represents an extension of the Galicica Mountain range immediately to the north. In the south it borders on the Prespa National Park in Greece. The aquatic component includes all Albanian waters in Lakes Macro Prespa and Micro Prespa and the island Malin Grad. Prespa National Park’s 27,750 ha include agricultural lands dedicated to the production of field crops, vineyards and orchards (2,100 ha), forests (13,500 ha), pastures and meadows (1,828 ha), settlements, roads, rocky and otherwise unproductive areas (5,372 ha), and the entire Albanian aquatic component of the two Prespa Lakes (5235.45 ha). The NP Prespa-Albania still possesses a great diversity of fauna and flora amongst which many are of European and global importance.

The Prespa National Park is a mixed but unified ecosystem, formed of both terrestrial (mountains) and aquatic (Lakes Mikri and Megali Prespa) areas preserving a large number and variety of ecological, geomorphological, and cultural elements.

Its geomorphological variety, hydrological, territorial and climatological conditions, annual geopolitical isolation, and modest and mainly traditional human activities, have resulted in the evolution of the special natural and cultural values of Prespa. Some examples are:

– The stand of ancient Juniper trees, unmixed and mixed with Quercus trojana (habitat type 9250, 9562, 9563) in Agios Georgios in Psarades village and in Agios Athanasios in Vrondero village. These areas are protected by legislation and are designated “Protected Natural Formations or Landscape Elements”.

– Wet meadows. These are among the most important breeding habitats for fish and also for the feeding habitats for many aquatic birds. The preservation of the wet meadows is connected with modest human activities and sustainable management practices. Fishing exists only as a traditional activity and livestock farming is used for reed-bed management.

The vegetation of the terrestrial ecosystem is composed by forests and anthropogenically formed grasslands. The studies indicate that the entire Prespa region hosts unique biotopes which are important from a European conservation perspective. Extensive deciduous evergreen forests of Ostryo-Carpinion orientalis, evergreen box-juniper shrub lands, and beech and beech-fir forests are found on the eastern and southern slopes of the catchment basin. The evergreen conifer forests along the Albanian and Greek parts of Prespa are significant for conservation and consist of 12m high and straight trees of Juniperus foetidissima and J. excelsa. The extensive beech and beech–fir forests of the Republic of North Macedonia are also considered important for conservation. As far as the wetland ecosystems are concerned, the littoral zone of Lesser (Mikri) Prespa is covered with extensive reedbeds (Ass. Phragmitetum predominates) with several open water areas covered by aquatic vegetation. The morphology and structure of wetland ecosystems favour the breeding and feeding of rare water bird species. With about 270 bird species, the avifauna of the Prespa lakes basin is highly diverse. Recent surveys have revealed 132 breeding birds within the boundaries of the Prespa National Park. Additionally, during the winter season, more than 20 bird species spend the cold season on the lake. During the summer season, the lakes are inhabited by the global Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus), with about 700 breeding pairs, a colony which is part of the biggest breeding colony in the world. They are associated with white pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) and are currently breeding only on the Greek side but forage on all parts of the lakes.

The aquatic ecosystems of the region are rich in endemic species such as the Prespa barbel (Barbus prespensis), the Prespa nose (Chondrostoma nasus prespensis), Prespa roach (Rutilus prespensis), Prespa trout (Salo persitericus), Pelasgus prespensis, and others. Of the 12 indigenous fish taxa identified, 6 of them are considered as vulnerable or threatened (endangered or critically endangered).

According to the IUCN register, Pisidium maasseni is small freshwater bivalve that is restricted to Lake Prespa, where the range of distribution is less than 500 km2 and where there is a continuing decline in the habitat quality in relation with eutrophication and macrophyte growth affecting the oxygen availability for this species. The extent of the habitat is also shrinking, in particular on the eastern shore, and the ecology of the species makes it more sensitive to habitat changes. It is therefore considered as Endangered (EN).


Provisioning Services:

  • Food for humans
  • Fresh water
  • Wetland non-food products

Regulating Services:

  • Maintenance of hydrological regimes
  • Climate regulation
  • Biological control of pests and disease

Cultural Services:

  • Recreation and tourism
  • Scientific and educational

Supporting Services:

  • Biodiversity
  • Soil formation
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Pollination

There are 2,000-3,000 inhabitants of the surrounding villages, with particularities of the local culture that are still preserved and mainly relate to the relationship between man and nature (e.g., special fishing methods, cooking recipes and food production, conservation methods, legends and traditions, dances, music and songs, agricultural and stock-rearing practices). The local old varieties of breeding animals and cultivated plants are well maintained. There is great scientific interest both in the natural environment but also in all aspects of the man-nature relationship, in view of the fact that the area has almost always been isolated.

Within the site there are some important cultural objects which represent a rich historical civilization, starting from 5,000 to 7,000-year BC to the 13-14th century, the Ottoman period, the Communist period, to our own days. We can mention an archaeological site (the Tumineci site), which is very close to the lake, and unexpected natural changes on the lake may affect this site.

A group of 15 nature guides provides nature education and cultural interpretation and guiding services for visitors to the Prespa National Park. All of them are ladies and gentlemen, residents of Prespa, who have been offered a suitable training program that is considered unique for Albania in this field in terms of its inclusion and intensity. This training program, according to international standards, has been part of the project “Prespa Transboundary Biosphere Reserve – Support for the Prespa National Park in Albania”, funded by the KfW Development Bank, on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, for the Ministry of Environment in Albania. After passing the exam, the 15 guides have been officially licensed as National Park Nature Guides.

In the Prespa National Park various activities are available for visitors: nature walks, bird watching, boating, cycling, and sport fishing. Different local traditional celebrations are also realized during the year.


  • Legal protection: implemented
  • Catchment management initiatives/controls | Improvement of water quality: partly implemented / Proposed
  • Threatened/rare species management programmes | Reintroductions | Control of invasive alien plants | Control of invasive alien animals: partially implemented
  • Regulation/management of wastes | Livestock management/exclusion (excluding fisheries) | Fisheries management/regulation | Harvest controls/poaching enforcement | Regulation/management of recreational activities | Communication, education, and participation and awareness activities | Research: Under implementations.
    Pusteci and Devolli municipalities have already approved their respective urban plans.

Factors adversely affecting site

Actual threat

Potential threat

Housing and urban areas

Tourism and recreation areas

Medium impact


Water releases

| High impact | (Micro Prespa Lake)


Livestock farming and ranching | Marine and freshwater aquaculture |

Annual and perennial non-timber crops | Wood and pulp plantations

Medium impact



Medium impact


Gathering terrestrial plants | Logging and wood harvesting | Fishing and harvesting aquatic resources |

Medium impact


Alien species

The presence of Ailantus Alttisima and some invasive fish species




Habitat shifting and alteration



Yes, the Albanian Prespa Lakes have a management plan, approved in 2014 and valid to 2024.

Latest updates: February 2022


Albanian Prespa_3
© RAPA Korçë