What is the climate and biodiversity of Mount Olympus?

Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and one of the most famous mountains in the world. According to Greek mythology, it was the home of the twelve Olympian gods and goddesses. It is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a National Park, with rich natural and cultural heritage. In this blog post, we will explore the climate and biodiversity of Mount Olympus, and learn why it is a unique and valuable ecosystem.


Mount Olympus has a Mediterranean climate, with warm and dry summers and wet and mild winters. However, the climate varies significantly with elevation, as the mountain rises from sea level to 2,914 meters above sea level. The higher regions are covered with snow for about seven months of the year, from November to May. The temperature also decreases with altitude, by about 0.5 degrees Celsius for every 100 meters of ascent .

The mountain is influenced by both continental and maritime air masses, which create different weather conditions on its slopes. The northern and eastern slopes are more humid and cloudy, while the southern and western slopes are drier and sunnier. The mountain also creates its own microclimate, as the air rises and cools over its peaks, forming clouds and precipitation. The average annual rainfall on Mount Olympus ranges from 800 mm at the foothills to 2,000 mm at the summit .


Mount Olympus is a hotspot of biodiversity, hosting more than 1,700 plant species and hundreds of animal species. The diversity of life is due to the complex topography, the varied climate, and the long history of human influence on the landscape. The mountain has six main biotic communities, each with its own characteristics and species composition :

  • Coastal forests: These are found along the 73 km of coastline that surround the mountain. They are dominated by deciduous trees and shrubs, such as Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), and ferns (Blechnum spicant and Polystichum munitum). These forests provide habitat for many birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
  • Lowland forests: These are also known as old-growth forests, because they contain trees that are over 200 years old. They are characterized by tall and wide trees, such as Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), western red cedar (Thuja plicata), bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), and red alder (Alnus rubra). They also have a multi-layered canopy, abundant downed wood, and snags (standing dead trees). These forests are home to many rare and endangered species, such as the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), and the Pacific fisher (Pekania pennanti).
  • Temperate rain forest: These are found in the wettest areas of the mountain, where rainfall exceeds 3,000 mm per year. They are composed of evergreen coniferous trees, such as Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), western red cedar (Thuja plicata), and yellow cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis). They also have a dense understory of mosses, ferns, lichens, and herbs. These forests are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth, storing large amounts of carbon and supporting a high diversity of life.
  • Montane forests: These are found between 500 m and 1,700 m of elevation. They are dominated by coniferous trees, such as black pine (Pinus nigra), silver fir (Abies alba), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), and Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii). These forests have a lower diversity of species than lower elevation forests, but they still provide habitat for many animals, such as chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), wild boar (Sus scrofa), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and brown bear (Ursus arctos).
  • Subalpine: These are found between 1,700 m and 2,500 m of elevation. They are characterized by open woodlands, shrublands, and grasslands. The main plant species are juniper (Juniperus communis), mountain pine (Pinus mugo), rhododendron (Rhododendron ferrugineum), and alpine rose (Rosa pendulina). These habitats are important for many birds, such as the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbar