The “heart” of the Lefka Ori mountain range is the Gorge of Samaria. Due to the biogeorgaphic location of Crete, its geographic isolation, its geographic position between three continents, its landscape diversity, the presence of large scale climatic and micro-environmental condition, the distinctive diversity of geo- and bio – topes, the continuous geological processes and the long-lasting interaction of people with the natural environment, the area hosts a rich number of fauna and flora with high degrees of endemism. 174 Greek endemic taxa are referenced, from which 24 are present only in the Lefka Ori (steno-endemic) or in the wider area of Lefka Ori, 97 are endemic to Crete, 12 are endemic to Crete-Karpathos and 41 out of 174 are endemic with a wider dispersion to Greece. It is estimated that even though Crete is 50 times smaller than Great Britain, it hosts the same number of flora species. This statement alone signifies the diversity of this island.
The richness of fauna species is also significant. Terrestrial molluscs resemble increased endemism which in the area of southwest Lefka Ori reaches almost 33% of species. From the group of arthropods, the orthopterous insects and coleopteran insects resemble endemism reaching 35% and 40% respectively in the Lefka Ori area. Also 3 species of amphibian and 11 species of reptiles have been documented as well as approximately 200 species of birds, either documented or considered to be present in western Crete due to the similar ecological demands that can be met from the habitat types present in the area. This number does not include species that are rarely met in Crete (such as the Egyptian vulture).
Also, the Lefka Ori area hosts 32 species of mammals with the Cretan goat (Capra aegagrus cretica) as the most distinctive one whose population has been confined during the last decades to the Lefka Ori range and within the National Park in an area of app. 72 sq.km.
Human presence is also significant and evident in the area. Small villages at the foothills of the mountains and implementation of traditional activities in agriculture and live stock farming are combined with the protection and preservation of an emblematic natural and traditional landscape.