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The wealth of riparian forests
© WWF

The forests restored by WWF and partners are in excellent condition

17.05.2019
In the period between 8th and 10th of May 2019 was carried out external monitoring of Life Riparian Forests project, financed by the LIFE Programme and implemented by WWF Bulgaria together with the Executive Forestry Agency and the Regional Forestry Directorates ‘Plovdiv’ and ‘Ruse’.

The project was successfully completed on 28.02 leaving tree new forests – on Aleko island (Marten-Ryahovo protected site) and in Merich orman and Gushterova odaya localities (Reka Maritsa protected site). 481 daa riparian forests were restored within the project. They were planted in 2015-2016 using different tree species with local origin. That’s why the restored forests have structure close to the one of the natural mixed forest. Since then, they are diligently cultivated by RFD Plovdiv and RFD Russe, the State Forestry Unit Assenovgrad and the State Hunting Unit Dunav-Ruse

And this care is evident - the monitoring showed that the forests are in excellent condition. Let's protect them in the future and take care of them as they care for us!
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The forest that protects the river
© WWF

WWF presents "The forest that protects the river"

18.02 2019
Within the project WWF created an animation that presents the wealth of riparian forests in an accessible language
 
Author: Asparuh Petrov
 
 
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An information spot on riparian forests
© WWF

WWF has opened an information spot on riparian forests

26.02.2019
Closing event was held on 21.02.2019 in Murtvitsata protected area, near the village of Popovitsa, under the project Riparian forests of the conservation organization WWF. Its main objective was to present the project results and to talk about their sustainability.
 
481 dca riparian forests were restored within the project in two protected sites of the Natura 2000 network. Different tree species of local origin were used for this purpose and the restored forest is as close as possible to the natural riparian forests with mixed structure. In addition to the direct restoration of forests of 91E0* type, thanks to the efforts of all the project partners (EFA, RFD Plovdiv, RFD Ruse and WWF Bulgaria), we achieved wide publicity of the activities and inclusion of many stakeholders.
 
One of the last achievements of the project is the restoration of the shelter in Murtvitsata protected area and its transformation to information center for riparian forests and the biodiversity hidden there. Everybody can get acquainted with species from the region of the Maritsa River behind the walls and to learn interesting facts for the undervalued but critically important ecosystems along the rivers.
 
Representatives of the project partners, State Forestry Unit Asenovgrad, South Central State Forest Enterprise, Forestry protection station Plovdiv, teachers and students from the local school in Popovitsa, the mayor of Sadovo municipality and the mayor of Popovitsa village participated in the closing event.
 
The ambassador of Montenegro, Snezhana Radovich, as well as the winner of the competition ‘Ambassador for a day’ in the ‘environment’ category, the 15-years old Elena Mladenova, also took part in the initiative. 
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Afforestation of Gushterova odaya
© WWF

The afforestation of Gushterova odaya locality began

12.12.2018
After many efforts and enhanced preparation on December 11th the long-awaited afforestation of the riparian forest in the Gushterova odaya locality, near Popovitsa village began.
 
A group of 12-15 persons participated in the initiative. They were planting actively under the watchful eye of specialists of the State Forestry Unit Asenovgrad (SFU Asenovgrad). More than 4000 saplings of different local species are provided for this purpose – pedunculate oak, black alder, field elm, narrow-leafed ash.

For several years the environmental organization WWF Bulgaria, in partnership with Asenovgrad SFU, makes active efforts to restore the riparian forest in Gushterova odaya locality. The area of 14 dca was planted with typical local species as far back as 2015. Unfortunately, a part of the saplings couldn’t survive the unfavourable weather conditions

Experts from WWF remind that the riparian habitats are fragile and relatively vulnerable ecosystems. They are highly sensitive to changes in water regime as well as to human impacts.
 
We, from WWF, believe that the new forest, where many efforts, attention and care are being invested, will be in favour of the local biodiversity. We hope that as a result of the efforts of all of us, the riparian forest in the region of Asenovgrad will develop well and will make happy not only us but the next generations too.
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Partner's meeting
© WWF

WWF exchanged experience with the partners under the ‘Riaparian Forests’ project

21.11.2018
At the beginning of November a partners’ meeting was held in Plovdiv under the project ‘Riparian Forests’. The forum took place four months before the project end as its main purpose was the experience exchange between the partners, identification of the challenges and making of specific recommendations.

From 2014 on WWF works jointly with the Executive Forests Agency and the Regional Forests Directorates Ruse and Plovdiv for the restoration and conservation of the natural riparian forests of local species along Danube and Maritsa Rivers.
 
Additionally to the meeting two field visits were made within the event – in Gushterova odaya locality, near Popovitsa village and in Merich Orman locality, near Manole village, which were afforested with riparian forests of local species in 2015.

The visits showed that the new forests are growing well, being carefully cultivated by the State Forestry Unit (Asenovgrad) and the Regional Forests Directorate (Plovdiv). Supplementary planting and cultivation of the plantations are needed though.

Important conclusions of the meeting:
  • The general public does not recognize the key significance of the riparian forests because of the lack of enough information. In this respect this is important in such projects to attract as many stakeholders as possible. It’s also significant for the projects to have educational aspect, i.e. to provide opportunity for participation of children and teenagers in some of the activities.
  • To guarantee the good growth of the new forest it’s appropriate to carefully develop technological plans and specifications of the species;
  • Regular partners’ meetings are necessary to be planned. This gives opportunity for sharing lessons learnt and avoiding mistakes, for planning jointly activities and mainly – for increasing the motivation of the participants in the project.
The riparian forests are so rich in biodiversity that they resemble equatorial jungles. Besides being home for hundreds of plant and animal species, they are extremely important for the prevention of floods and landslides while at the same time purifying naturally the water in the river. During torrential rains, the high waters can spill in the riparian forests and to slow down their destructive speed. Thanks to the riparian forests part of the water returns again to the rivers.
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Riparian forest on Danube
© Michael Gunther

How should we manage the riparian forests?

26.10.2018
WWF published Guidelines for restoration and management of riparian forest habitats
in Bulgaria. The main purpose of this book is to focus the attention of the owners and the managers of these territories on their specific significance and role. In order to do this description of the typical riparian forest habitats as well as specific problems which can occur there are included in the publication. Considerable attention is paid to the restoration activities in specific forest habitat types.   

The Guidelines has been developed by a large team of specialists on the topic who provided useful information and practical advice on the restoration and management of the riparian forests.
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Gushterova odaya
© WWF

Preparing saplings for autumn afforestation in Gushterova odaya locality

13.09.2018
In November we will make autumn afforestation with saplings in Gushterova odaya locality. With great care and attention in one of the nurseries of Asenovgrad State Forestry Unit the new trees which will be planted (from species with proven resistance in the site) are grown.
 
Back in 2016 WWF Bulgaria, in partnership with State Forestry Unit Asenovgrad, planted 14 decars with saplings of typical local species – poplar, alder, ash, oak in Gushterova odaya locality. Unfortunately, the unfavourable weather conditions did not allow a part of the saplings to develop. Being aware of the importance of the riparian forests’ role for biodiversity, we, WWF Bulgaria and SFU Asenovgrad, have put a lot of effort in maintenance of the survived saplings and in forest restoration. Volunteers from different parts of Bulgaria and with different professional interests supported us. With their help we earthed up around the saplings, removed the unwanted branches and the weeds earlier this year.
 
We believe that as a result of everyone’s efforts, the riparian forest near Asenovgrad will grow well and will make happy not only us but also the next generations.  
 
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River dikes
© WWF (C)

The riparian habitats – benefits and threats

29.08.2018 г.
The riparian habitats are fragile and comparatively vulnerable ecosystems. They are very sensitive to the changes in the water regime as well as to human impact in or near them.

Unfortunately, a significant part of the riparian habitats in Bulgaria doesn’t exist anymore and part of the existing are under stress which poses their future survival under question. The threats have different nature and are connected mainly with urbanization, human activity and the unfavourable climate changes leading to droughts and reducing the water flow. The complex of all these reasons leads the plant communities of the riverbanks and in the river beds to condition where they can’t perform their numerous beneficial functions. That’s why WWF calls for urgent actions for their restoration and conservation – of the ones which still exist.

In this relation until the end of September a Manual for restoration and management of riverine forests will be published under the project Life Riparian Forests of WWF, implemented in partnership with RFD Plovdiv, RFD Ruse and EFA.

The guidelines will direct the attention of the owners and of the managers of these areas to their special status and features. It will also support the specialists in their future work for management and restoration of the riparian forests.

Cleaning the riparian forest on Aleko island

08.06.2018

On 2nd of June a group of brave volunteers entered the Danube River with kayaks with an important mission – to clean the banks of Aleko island near Ruse. We organized this event on the occasion of the Forest and River Day to engage the young people with the protection of the rivers and the riparian forests. Aleko island falls within Marten-Ryahovo SCI, where WWF together with the Regional Forestry Directorate – Ruse restores the riparian forests. Partners of the event were also Tourist Society Prista. And the result was not late - with joint efforts we managed to fill 11 full bags with wastes.
 
Besides the action for wastes collection we organized an exploratory tour. We visited the riparian forest, specially planted by the Regional Forestry Directorate – Ruse and State Hunting Unit Dunav-Ruse. A part of Aleko island is afforested with more than 8400 saplings of black poplar, and with white willow in the depressions, which are sometimes being filled with water. The trees grow very well, in spite of the damages made by the game – mainly red deer and wild boar. We can notice with joy that even broken saplings and such with wounded bark continue their lives.
 
‘The riparian forests are so rich in biodiversity that they resemble equatorial jungles. Besides being home of hundreds of species of plants and animals they are exclusively important for flood and landslides protection and naturally purify water in the river at the same time. In torrential rains, high waters can spill into riparian forests and thus slow down their destructive speed. Thanks to the riparian forests, part of the water returns again to the rivers,’ said Diana Andreeva from WWF to the curious participants.
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The camera inside
© HESOFF

The drones – the future in the environmental protection

31.07.2018
Hubert Skoneczny from the Institute of Aviation, Warsaw visited Bulgaria at the invitation of WWF. On 17.07.2018 in the office of the organization he made a presentation on the topic ‘Evaluation of the health state of forests by remote capture by unmanned aerial vehicle‘. The lecture, which prompted a growing interest among nature conservationists and experts, was based on the results of the HESOFF project, focusing on the integration of innovative techniques aiming to protect and improve the state of forests. The project is financed by the LIFE Programme, which is the single financial instrument of the European Union dedicated entirely to the environment, the nature protection and the combating climatic changes.

It is well known that remote monitoring can provide valuable data on the state of forests, showing each tree in detail. Unfortunatelly, effective cooperation between small research institutions and satellite service providers is extremely difficult. That’s what provoked the need of the implementation of unmanned aerial vehicleс in the efforts to conserve forests. Using them the researchers’ and the environmental organizations would not only improve, but would also harmonize their international activities in all the regions of the European Union. In this connection WWF has interest in the developing of wider cooperation with the Institute of aviation in Warsaw in the name of nature conservation.

The forests are typically categorized by different properties such as age, species, density and so on. These properties can be obtained very quickly and easily through analysis of the images, taken by the unmanned aerial systems. Moreover, flying 800 m high and developing speed of 110 km/h the drones can deliver information for the existing infrastructure of the forest roads, as well as for the demarcation lines. Thanks to their function ‘autopilot’ they are able, if necessary, to take off and land automatically. During the flight the drones make multispectral images and provide telemetric data as well.

Specifically, for the purposes of the project a multispectral camera QUERCUS.6 is created. It has 6 lenses, each of them can be controlled separately and its weight is only 1690 g. Thanks to the solar sensor incorporated in it the camera works with very low energy consumption. Furthermore, it is equipped with GPS and with on-board computer with software for data gathering of remote sensors. The images with various spectral compositions can be used to monitor the forests, the biodiversity, crops, as well as the level of air and water pollution.

The next ambitious objective is the development of software for automatic segmentation of the obtained forest data which will minimize the manual intervention during the analysis.  

The visit of the polish colleagues was in the framework of the networking under the Life Riparian Forests project of WWF, which is also financed by the LIFE Programme. Its purpose is restoration and conservation of riparian forests in two protected sites – Reka Maritsa and Marten-Ryahovo. The cooperation between WWF and the Institute of aviation in Warsaw would contribute to the inclusion of innovative methods in the assessment of the status of the forests and identifying measures for their restoration and status improvement.

WWF joins forces with the Organization of Bulgarian Scouts for the conservation of the riparian forests

3.06.2018

On 3th of June about 50 children from the Organization of Bulgarian Scouts cleaned the region of Prista hut near Ruse. The initiative is a part of the WWF’s efforts to restore the riparian forests and to engage the youth with their protection. We dedicated it to the Day of Natura 2000 and to the River and Forest Day.

The day began with a story of Diana Andreeva from WWF about the importance of the riparian forests and how everyone can help for their conservation. ‘We should keep the forest clean to have plants. If there are no plants – there is no life.’ shared his opinion the scout Slav. After this the participants were divided into teams to clean the Danube riverbank. They collected a big amount of waste. When the heat became unbearable they hid in the shade for an interesting lecture. Krasimir Kirov from Ruse Eco Museum told the scouts about the biodiversity of the region – what animals can be seen, which of them are endangered, how the water is being naturally self purified. To check what they remembered during the day, Diana Andreeva organized a short quiz where everyone was struggling to take part. At the end everyone left pleased of the well done job, the time shared together and the new knowledge.
 
We’re grateful to the Organization of Bulgarian Scouts for supporting us in the mission of protecting our common home.

The exhibition ‘Riparian Forests’ is in Business park Sofia

15 December 2017

Another place where the photo exhibition ‘Riparian Forests of Bulgaria’ was presented was Business park Sofia. The boards with the photographs were presented there from 11 to 15 December during the annual Christmas bazar of WWF.

Collection of infructescences for restoration of riparian forest

27 October 2017

In October WWF experts collected infructescences of black elder from a seeds bank along the Iskar river.

The female and male inflorescences are on one individuals. The infructescences formed from the female inflorescences resemble small cones. The fruits are about 2 mm and has membranous wings which allows them to be dispersed by wind and water. The collected fallen seeds are studied for germination.  They will be sowed in the spring by the partners from SFU Asenovgrad in order to grow saplings. The trees will be planted in the autumn on the territory of SFU Asenovgrad for restoration of riparian forest – habitat type *91Е0.

These type of forests is rare – it takes only half per cent of the forest area in Bulgaria and is vulnerable – its category in the Red Data Book of the Republic of Bulgaria is ‘endangered’, and it is priority habitat for conservation according to the European Habitats Directive and the Bulgarian Biodiversity Act.

The forest and the people

Volunteer activity, 15.05.2018
The saplings we planted in Gusherova Odaya (Reka Maritza SCI) needed a good care in order to turn into a riparian forest. We organized a volunteer activity in which people from different parts of the country and even from abroad (Ukraine and USA) took part, as well as the teams of Asenovgrad SFU and of WWF Bulgaria.

The volunteers have done a wonderful work – they removed the weeds and the unwanted branches so that the trees can be watered and earthed up around them. The sun was smiling, the earth – rubicund by poppies, stork and European roller flew over, hoopoes could be heard around. A small hare had found shelter in the future forest. 

We are grateful to the people with good will!
 
 

A meeting for experience exchange was held in Ruse

26 October 2017

Between 24 and 26 October RFD Ruse and WWF hosted a meeting for experience exchange with Hungarian colleagues working on the project ‘LIFEinFORESTS - Improved communication, cooperation and capacity building for preserving biodiversity in Natura 2000 forests’ LIFE13 INF/HU/001163. The objective of the LIFEinFORESTS project is to identify, develop and implement a set of tools to support the development of skills, active communication and cooperation among key stakeholders in the management and conservation of Natura 2000 network forests. The project aims to create a common viewpoint on the implementation of the Natura 2000 objectives.

The experts from RFD Ruse and WWF Bulgaria presented the progress under the Life Riparian Forests project and the way of stakeholder engagement in the process of conservation. A field trip of the target sites in Marten-Ryahovo Natura 2000 site was organized for this purpose.

Life Riparian Forests participated in a meeting of the Life projects implemented in Bulgaria

6 October 2017

The traditional annual meeting of representatives of projects implemented in Bulgaria under the Life Programme of the European Union was held in Blagoevgrad on 5 and 6 October. The projects which are being currently implemented were presented. In addition to the experience exchange between the various projects at the meeting, there were representatives of the Life Programme, who provided guidance for work.

The hosts of the meeting were from the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna. They organized the field trip in the Kresna gorge where they presented the achieved under Тhe Project ‘Bright Future for Black Vulture’ (LIFE14 NAT/BG/649).

25th Anniversary of the LIFE programme

WWF Bulgaria has joined the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the LIFE programme and the Habitats Directive which was held under the slogan EUnited for a better life – 25 years good care of Nature.
 
The event was organized by the National conact department of LIFE Programme, to the Ministry of environment and water. The coordinator of a Bulgarian project Restoration and conservation of the riparian forests presented to the participants the results and challenges of its implementation.
 
We shared the lessons learned, the best practises and opportunities for the NGOs and government insitutions  of successful implemening mutual projects  in the scope of the programme.
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Narrow-leafed ash
© WWF Bulgaria

The new forest in Gushterova Odaya began to grew green

18.04.2018
The new forest in Gushterova Odaya began to grew green. It is a result of the efforts of WWF Bulgaria for restoration of the riparian forests. In 2016 we planted saplings typical for the riparian forests in this area - narrow-leafed ash, white willow, wild pear, poplar and pedunculate oak.

During the field visit on 11th of April, a part of the WWF Bulgaria team met representatives of the Asenovgrad forestry unit and of the company which accomplished the soil preparation and the afforestation in the protected site. Together we specified the necessary following steps for the restoration of the forest in Gushterova Odaya – watering, monitoring, providing the necessary additional saplings for the plantation.

The riparian forests are only 0,5% of the area of the forest territories in Bulgaria. At the same time, they are so rich in biodiversity that they resemble equatorial jungles. Besides being home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, they are extremely important for the prevention of floods and landslides while at the same time naturally purifying the water in the river. Because of their great importance to humans and the environment, riparian forests are a priority for conservation according to the European Habitats Directive and the Bulgarian Biodiversity Act.

Monitoring of project activities in protected area Marten-Ryahovo

31.03.2017

WWF's partners of the project from the Regional Forestry Directorates in Rousse and Plovdiv together with the representative from the Forest Executive Agency and a monitoring person from LIFE+ visited Marten-Ryahovo protected area - one of the two project zones for implementing the restoration activities.



Our aim was to find out how the newly aforested from RSF Rousse saplings are developing and what is the effect of applying some elements of the Saarland method for removing of the invasive species.



Survival rate of the saplings in the two areas is extremely high – over 85%, and we expect a successful further cultivation. As for the effect of the Saarland method - it is too early to make assessments. One of the conclusions by far is that it will require multiple executions over a 5-years period.
 
	© WWF-България
The young forest on Aleko island, Danube river
© WWF-България

Expert meeting for discussing the guidelines for riparian forests restoration

6 June 2017

On 5th of June 2017 WWF-Bulgaria has organized a meeting to discuss the first draft of the guide of riparian forests restoration, written as part of the project Restoration and conservation of riparian forests in Natura 2000 protected areas and model areas in Bulgaria. The meeting was held in hall 500 in the building of the Executive forest agency in Sofia.

The meeing was organized in partnership with the EFA and experts from Ministry of environment and water, regional forestries, basin directorates, regional inspections of environment and NGOs with experience in planting and managing of riparian forests participated in it.

The draft guide is non-obligatory and justifies the necessity of common vision about the restoraion of the riparian forests in Bulgaria. It aims at giving practical advices for implementing of the future projects in restoring and managing of riparian forest habitats with a focus on fresh water resources conservation, river conductivity provision and flood prevention.

Particular issues were discussed at the meeting as well as suggestions about the content and scope of the guide, such as:
- including the experience in restoring of riparian forests in Turkey, Hungary and Ukraine
- including of the ecosystem services
- using the self-planting saplings and growing of the new forest cultures

It was proposed lists with sources of saplings to be included in the guide and a national register to be created. Other proposals, made during the discussion were, inventory of the all natural riparian forests to be made and unified guide for their management to be published; maps of the wetlands or particular habitats, described int he duie, to be included in it as well.
 
	© WWF
Participants in the meeting
© WWF

Mechanical weeding out between the rows

29.11 – 02.12.2016

Mechanical weeding out between the rows was made at the end of november – beginning of December  near village of Manole, afforested as part of the activities of the project Conservation and restoration of riparian forest.

The high grass was uprooted with a tractor and then with the help of volunteers the grass was removed and the space around the saplings was freed to allow their growing. 
 
	© РДГ Пловдив
Weeding out with a tractor
© РДГ Пловдив

International Forest Day in Gusterova odaia

21.03.2017

Our experts visited Gusterova odaia site on the International Forest Day. Last year we have planted there, near Maritsa river, saplings of local species. Together with the forester from Regional state foretry Asenovgrad we have monitored the condition of the saplings after the winter and planned the acitivites for supporting their survival.

Given the stable trend of warmer summers and higher temperatures, combined with the prolonged periods of draught we expect that at the end of the spring and during the summer there will be necessary to water the saplings manually.

We will need your help! Stay tuned for the volunteers call, when we know the exact time of our acitivities – here or on our facebook page!
 
 
	© WWF-България
Monitoring of Gusterova odaia, March 2017
© WWF-България

17 volunteers pulled weeds from the saplings in Mercih Orman

Despite the hot day 17 volunteers along with our colleagues from Regional Forest Directorate Plovdiv and WWF have pulled the weeds from the young saplings in the Merich orman site on 18 June.


 
Their task was to free the area of 30 cm around each of the small oaks, ashes and elms and then to put the weeds around them to provide the necessary dampness for their growth. This process and the vegetation used in it is called mulch.
The goal of this is to provide free area to growth of the saplings and more nutrition and water, and to make rows more visible for the machinery when and if it is necessary to be used.
 
Thank you! Your participation will help the riparian forest to grow and thrive!
 
	© WWF-България
Volunteers after the long hot day
© WWF-България

Annual European Union’s LIFE Programme Project Organization in Bulgaria, 2016

18.10.2017

Annual European Union’s LIFE Programme Project Organization in Bulgaria took place in 12 and 13 October in Bozhura, Strandzha mountain. The traditional initiative was held for the sixth time, and this year the meeting was held in the “Bojura” area in Strandzha mountain. NGO’s, state agencies, as well as private companies, reported on the development of their projects.

The host of the event was the “Forests of the Eagle” project coordinated by the Executive Forest Agency.

WWF-Bulgaria presented its project Restoration and conservation of riparian forests LIFE13 NAT/BG/000801, in partnership with the Executive Forestry Agency and Regional Forestry Directorates in Rousse and Plovdiv. This year the partners have finished with the main afforestation activities in the two project areas – protected area Maritza river and protected areas Marten-Ryahovo, and prepared for the future cultivation of the young riparian forests there.



Photograph: Eagle nest in Strandzha mountain
 
	© WWF-България
Annual European Union’s LIFE Programme Project Organization, 2016
© WWF-България

Inventory of the afforested area in Gusterova Odaia

10.10.2016

Experts of the project visited Gusterova Odaia area to make inventory and to check the condition of the saplings before the winter.

We found out that the different afforested species have a very different survival rate. Black poplars, fraxinus and oaks are the champions and the alders and willows are the most fastidious.



During our field visit we have discussed the necessary care for helping the saplings to grow and become a beautiful forest in the coming years: mechanically cleaning the rows and taking out the weeds; loosening the soil and in spring – planting more saplings where it is necessary.
 
 
	© WWF-България
Inventory in Gushterova Odaia
© WWF-България

Monitoring of the results of applying the Saarland method

Our experts monitored the results of the applying the Saarland method near Maritza river. We wanted to check if the applied measures of removal of invasive species (such as Fraxinus pennsylvanica, Acer negundo, Amorpha fruticosa and Acacia) were successful. We found out that the method has created enough growing space for the native species and we expect in the years to come they to oppress the growth of the invasive species in the fight for space and nutrition.

The main goal of applying the method is to restore an area of the riparian forest and this particular experience to serve as an example in the future restorations and in the support and improving the existing forests or in restoration of previously destroyed riparian forests.
 
	© WWF-България
Applying an element of the Saarland method
© WWF-България

Project's partners made a field visit in Hungary

WWF experts along with their projects partners from Regional Forest Directorate Rousse and Plovdiv and Executive Forest Agency spent two days on the field in the national park Danube-Drava. Forest experts from the Executive Forest Agency and the coordinator of the programme Protected areas and Nature 2000 from WWF-Bulgaria exchange experience on the topic of riparian forests restoration with their colleagues from the national park, the Hungarian forest agency and the coordinator of the forest programme in WWF-Hungary.

The third most important habitat for the fish breeding in the Lower Danube is situated in the national park Danube-Drava (except the Danube Delta and Kopachki Rid). This is the largest continuous area in Europe with floodplain forests, which defines its high natural value. Fish-rich waters along with the old-growth oaks and poplars, suitable for nesting are the reasons why one of the highest populations of the black stork has chosen the park for its habitat.

Corrections and dike have been made on the Danube river in 19 century. Territories outside the dike parched and become agricultural land, and most of the forests on the other side of the dike has been cut out. To “replace” the cut forest it was necessary compensatory afforestation to be made. But the compensatory afforestations in the floodplain area between the dike and the river have followed only the economic interest – the have been made with non-native fast-growing species, and forests have become homogenous structure. Thus the almost natural habitats have been significantly damaged.

National park Danube-Drava has been found in 1996. Its main goal is to provide long-term protection and restoration of the vast areas of riparian habitats. Harmonization of the nature protection with the economic interests continues even today. Plantations of the market species has been replaced with the native species’ forests and thus the percentage of the foreign species decreases every year. Initial conflict of interest decreases because of the improved relationships between the interested parties in the field of the environment and the forestry. For example for preservation of the protected species such as black stork and sea eagle there has been designated special areas around their nests with limited logging and other activities.
 
	© WWF-България
Field visit, Liberty Island
© WWF-България

The Riparian forests exhibition will be placed in Rousse for the International Danube River Day

The International Danube River Day has seen the opening of the Riparian forests in Bulgaria exhibition in Rousse. Our host from the Eco-museum with aquarium gave us the space to present one of the unique features of the Danube river – the preserved pristine riparian forests on its lower part.

We restored riparian forest of Populus nigra and Salix alba in the protected area of Marten-Ryahovo as part of the activities in the project in partnership with Executive Forest Agency and regional forest directorates in Rouse and Plovdiv. The young trees are growing well and we hope that in the near future citizens of Rouse will have the opportunity to enjoy their new forest. But beside the aesthetic value of the riparian forest they have another more important functions: protecting the river banks from erosion, mitigating the effect of floods and providing home for many animal and plant species.

The exhibition will stay open until 1 of august.
 
	© WWF-България
Opening of the exhibition
© WWF-България

WWF needs volunteers for field work

We need help for removing the weeds around the young saplings
This spring WWF along with its partners from regional forestry Plovdiv planted 47 960 saplings of native species in protected area Maritsa River as part of the project Restoration and conservation of riparian forests.
 
Summer rains nourished the weeds around the saplings and if we don’t remove them, we could possibly lose this valuable plantation and we will have to start from the scratch.
That’s why we welcome every help. We need 50 persons to remove the weeds. The more we gather, the faster we’ll do the work.
 
Day: 18 July 2016
 
WWF covers the free transportation with a bus from Sofia to Manole village and back. If there is a larger group from Plovdiv the bus will stop there before continuing to Manole. There will be water and fruits for everyone, but if you want you can bring food with you, because there will be no stores nearby. You need to choose carefully what to wear, if possible bring rubber boots or shoes you won’t regret staining with mud, hat, sunglasses, and sun-protecting crème.

Important: If you want to come with your children, please have in mind that the work will continue at least several hours and this could be tiresome for them.
 
Programme for the day (18 June, Saturday)
7:00 Departure from Sofia
9:00 Stop in Plovdiv (if the group is bigger than 10)
10:15 Stop in front of the Manole municipality – meeting with the people, chosen to travel alone
10:30 Merich orman – removing the weeds, feeding, rest
16:00 Departure to Sofia
 
We hope you’ll help us protect the young forest. Tell your colleagues and friends and participate together as our volunteer. Sing in as soon as possible. The deadline for signing in is 15th of June.

Field control of afforested areas in Rousse

The team of the regional forestry Rousse made a field control of afforested areas at the end of May – beginning of June.

The survival rate of the saplings from Populus nigra and Salix alba is almost 80% – with growing leaves and new branches, without visible damage. There are small number of Salix alba saplings, broken by the wild animals, but they have been grown since and the prospects of their survival are good.

We are planning three rounds of culturing: manual earthing up, afforestation of new saplings (optional) and applying chemical products only if necessary, which is not the case at the moment.

In conclusion, there are no need of applying urgent measures in this plantation.
 
	© РДГ Русе
Field control in Rousse
© РДГ Русе

Monitoring of project activities in protected areas Maritsa River

Monitoring of the project activities in protected area Maritsa River was held at the end of May.

The survival rate of the saplings is almost 90%. We have to take additional care for some of them though, because they become targets for deers and rabbits, biting their bark.

We have found out that the grass around the saplings is so lush that they will need weeds to be removed. Most of the saplings are so small that this will have to be done manually by volunteers.

 
	© WWF-България
Monitoring in Maritsa River protected area
© WWF-България

Riparian forest exhibition was presented in Brussels

During the conference Beyond Wood, dedicated to the various products and services provided by the European forests, we presented our exhibition “Riparian forests of Bulgaria”. Over 200 representatives of European institutions, member states, regional and local authorities, ecological organizations, commerce and logging companies, etc. took part in the conference.

Beyond Wood was held on 23th of May in Brussels and beside the presentation its participants had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful sights of this rare type of forests.

 
	© WWF
Beyond Wood - Katerina Rakovska presenting Life + Riparian forests project
© WWF

Field trip to the riparian forest along the Danube river

Together with its partners from Regional forestries in Plovdiv and Rousse and EFA WWF-Bulgaria took part in the field trip to the riparian forest along Danube river. This was part of the F5 activities of the project Restoration and conservation of the riparian forests.

We visited the Danube islands Kovachev, Kozloduy, Goliam and Malak Vardim, and our colleagues from the forestry in Lom, Oriahovo and Svistov told us about their activities on protection and restoration of different types of forests, including forests of native to Vardim type of oak, poplars and elms.


Photo: Project’s partners on Skomen Island


Photo: In front of the monument of forester Dimitar Kirov in Svistov
 
 
	© WWF-България
Riparian forest near Danube river
© WWF-България

Regional forestry Plovdiv afforested 128 decares of riparian forest in protected area Martisa river

Afforestation with saplings of 7 native species in the site of Meritch orman near Plovdiv. Regional forestry in Plovdiv afforested 47 960 saplings of Quercus robur, Ulmus minor, Fraxinus angustifolia, Alnus glutinosa, Polulus nigra, Alnus incana as part of the project activities.
 
Amongst the follow-up care of the new forest are all the appropriate power and manual activities for the forest, including watering.
 
Afforestation with native tree species is an essential element of the project because it contributes to the restoration of the habitats of other typical plant communities, as well as different animal species typical for the riparian forests. 
 
	© РДГ Пловдив
Afforestation in Meritch orman
© РДГ Пловдив

Taking care of the riparian forest in protected area Maritsa River

1st of April – we visited the site of Gushterova odaia in protected are Maritsa River with the students of the 5th grade from “Hristo Botev” primary school to take care of the newly afforested riparian forest.

 
The expectant spring rousing of the greenery could make spotting of the new saplings very hard – that`s why we needed to insert stakes, marked with bright colour. This would make our future activities such as removing the weeds and watering much easier.
 
The students, their teachers and our colleagues from the State forestry Asenovgrad inserted the stakes in the soil and painted them, and afterwards participated in the fun games, organized by our experts. As we worked and played we learned different things about riparian forests and hopefully set a good ground for future care and interest in the future of this disappearing type of forests.
 
Children and experts was supported by the giant panda – WWF’s symbol.
 
	© Тихомира Методиева
WWF's Panda in the riparian forest
© Тихомира Методиева

7000 saplings were afforested in Gushterova odaia

14 decares of riparian forest were restored on the territory of State forestry Asenovgrad, in protected area Maritsa River.
 

Photo: Power drilling of the holes for saplings
 
We afforested 7000 saplings from native for the region species: Salix alba, Populus nigra, Alnus glutinosa, Quercus robur, Fraxinus and Ulmus.
 

After finishing this stage we are planning to take care of the saplings with removing the weeds and crumbling the soil (3 times during first year) and watering (6 times during first year).
 
The goal of this afforestation is restoration of priority habitat 91E0.
 
	© WWF
Afforestation near Maritsa river
© WWF

Connectivity analysis of Maritsa river with 4 Natura 2000 sites are ready

 
Apart from its anti-erosion and water protection functions riparian rivers have an important role as green corridors – bridges between habitats isolated by the human activities. One of the project’s activities of the project for restoration of riparian forests is completing a connectivity analysis of sites, chosen along the river, with other site from the Natura 2000 network.


Objects and species of the analysis

The analysis examines the connectivity of Maritsa river with four other protected areas – Tschirpanski vazvishenia, Reka Mechka, Orizitsa and Tschinar dere. We have chosen four animal species, protected in Maritsa river, for whom this connectivity is of vital importance during times of migration, dispersion, search for new habitats and adapting to the climate change. We have analyzed their requirements to the connecting territories (bio-corridors) in order for them to move from one protected area to another.
 
The chosen species are: Barbus cyclolepis, Triturus karelinii, (Bombina bombina, Elaphe sauromates, Testudo graeca, Testudo hermanni, Emys orbicularis, Lutra lutra, Vormela peregusna, Spermophilus citellus.

Based on this with the help of GIS system we mapped the bio-corridors and then reviewed the respective planning documents.
 

The analysis results

The territory scope and status of the protected areas from Natura 2000 network is present in most of the plans, but without paying attention to the connecting elements of the landscape in the territories without special status.
 

Main threats to connecting bio-corridors

The main identified threats are: cutting the riparian trees, constructing dams and hydropower, fragmentation from the road infrastructure, draining, forest fires, change of the way of permanent using, urbanization, pollution, construction of the solar parks and quarries for inert materials in the river streams.

Follow-up activities

Every expert report makes recommendations about protection of bio-corridors – set as principle in the Biodiversity act. We are going to prepare resumes for the municipalities how to use this recommendations for developing their own projects for protection of bio-corridors. Ecological network and connecting territories are more known as green infrastructure.
 
 
	© WWF
Connectivity analysis
© WWF

Black Poplar in Marten-Ryahovo

The black poplar (Populus nigra) is deciduous dioecious tree specie. This means that female and male reproductive organs are located on two different and not on just one tree.



Black poplar (male)



Black poplar (female)
 
	© József Hamar
Populus nigra female tree
© József Hamar

Annual meeting of the partners of Life + Riparian Forests Project

The annual meeting of the partners of Life + Riparian Forests Project (LIFE 13 NAT/BG/000801) was held on 14th December 2015 in Sofia. The project is dedicated to conservation and restoration of riparian forests in habitat type *91EO in Nature 2000 and two model territories in Bulgaria. The participants in the meeting were members of State Forestry Agency, RDF Plovdiv, RDF Rouse and WWF.
They reviewed the implemented activities in the model territories, the problems in the work and the forthcoming activities.
The partners recognized the things achieved up to this moment and expressed their satisfaction of the good cooperation.

 
	© WWF
Life + Riparian forests meeting
© WWF

The preparation of the soil for afforestation in “River Maritza” Protected Area

The preparation of the soil, necessary for the succesful implementation of afforestation activities on 12.8 ha in the "River Maritza" Protected Area has been completed in December.

Instead of the hybrid poplars RDF Plovdiv and the local forestry will plant the typical for the area species of Alnus glutinosa and Alnus incana, Populus nigra, Quercus robur and Fraxinus angustifola.
 

 
	© Nora Bekefi
Quercus robur
© Nora Bekefi

Removing of invasive species in Marten-Ryahovo protected area

Our experts have begun applying the elements of the Saarland method on 22.3 ha in protected area Marten-Ryahovo. They have walked around the area and have applied the method on the invasive species of Fraxinus pennsylvanica and Acer negundo.

 

You can see on the photographs removing a ring-shaped stripe of the tree bark. This breaks the flow of the sap, feeding the tree and the tree dies in a few years time.

 

Here you can see the breaking of the tip-grafting of competitive trees. The result is the same – after a while these trees will wither and die thus allowing the local species to take their places.

Riparian forests of Bulgaria's second exhibition in Plovdiv

Exhibition 'Riparian forests of Bulgaria' will be shown in Plovdiv for the second time.
Project's coordinator Neli Doncheva opened the exhibition in House of Science and Technnology, where it will stay from 12 till 27 November 2015.



The 25 photographs with texts explain the features, biodiversity, significance and threats of the riparian forest in the country.

 
	© WWF
Riparian forests exhibition/House of Science and Technology, Plovdiv
© WWF

Fifth Annual Meeting of the Life Programme Projects

WWF Bulgaria and the Free Fish project hosted the fifth annual meeting of the Life Programme projects in Nature component. The meeting was held on 7th and 8th of October in Koshov village near Rouse.
The Free Fish project is governed in partnership with NP Rousenski Lom Directorate.
 
	© WWF
Life team meeting/October 2015
© WWF

Premiere of 'Riparian forests of Bulgaria' exhibition in Plovdiv

Photo exhibition will be a part of One Architecture Week – Plovdiv, September 19 – 26
Everyone can see the 25 photographs of beautiful and rare Bulgarian forest, from 19th till 26th  September on the second floor of Tobacco Warehouse, 14 Ekzarh Yosif Str. The exhibition's opening will be on Friday, 18:00.
 
	© WWF
Riparian forests exhibition
© WWF

The preparation of the soil for afforestation in “Marten-Ryahovo” Protected Area

The preparation of the soil, necessary for the succesful implementation of afforestation activities in the “Marten-Ryahovo” Protected Area has been completed.
Not long ago the area  was covered by plantations of hybrid poplars used for quick timber production. The territory of the former plantation will be used by RDF Ruse for restoration of the typical for the area riparian forest. This will be done in cooperation with the local forestry. Currently the terrain has been subject of the following preparation activities – the stumps were removed, the sprouts – cleaned and the upper soil layer was made loose.
Within the framework of the project Life + Riparian forests 9,8 ha of riparian forests within the Marten-Ryahovo Protected area will be afforested with local tree species typical for the region: Salix alba and Populus nigra, both of which are highly adapted towards the effects of adjacent river branches’ flood regime.
 
	© РДГ Русе/Живко Тодоров
Preparation of the soil in "Marten-Ryahovo"
© РДГ Русе/Живко Тодоров

Monthly updates for Project implementation

March 2015

The ToR for the work under Act A5 was developed and agreed, external experts identified. Contracts will be signed in April 2015.

A tender procedure for selecting a subcontractor to carry out the soil preparation activities for afforestation (Act. C.2) is completed. Subcontractor has been selected and the contract will be signed in April 2015.

A meeting with the Regional Governor of Plovdiv district was held to inform about project activities on the territory of the district and to consider signing of Agreement for cooperation between WWF BG and Plovdiv Governor for part of activities under Action C.3 (the reason behind is that Gradina Island (one of the project areas of intervention is a state public property under Governor’s jurisdiction).

Work related to internal project reporting for the second 3 months of the project implementation was conducted, e.g. collection and review of documents, timesheets, etc . Preparation work for developing the inception report (due 30 April 2015).


February 2015

Agreements for cooperation between WWF and relevant forest authorities (North Central Forest Enterprise and South Central Forest Enterprise) were developed and the one with the South Central Forest Enterprise is signed. These agreements are needed for the purpose of implementing Act. A3.
The work under Act. A4 has started, the expert team is established with clear tasks and time-frame.
The ToR for the work under Act A5 is being developed.

The procedures for assigning the afforestation activities in “Marten Riahovo”and “Reka Maritza” SCIs as per Act. C1 and C2 is in process.

An auditing company was selected (Act. F6).


January 2015

The first monitoring visit of took place on 08 January (Thursday), 2015.
The internal project reporting for the first 3 months was conducted, e.g. collection and review of documents, timesheets, etc . from the project partners.

Technological afforestation plans (under Act. A1 and A2) – approved by the relevant authorities.
The procedures for assigning the afforestation activities in “Marten Riahovo”and “Reka Maritza” SCIs as per Act. C1 and C2 is in process.

Working group of experts to work on developing the Manual for restoration and management of riparian forests (Act. 4) is established.

The steering committee as per Act. F1 is established.
The documents needed for the procedure for selecting an auditing company to carry out Act. F6 are prepared.


December  2014

A field visit to “Reka Maritza” site carried out as part of Act. A3: field work and collection of information and data in terms of Saarland method application.

Technological afforestation plans (under Act. A1, A2 and A3) - developed and submitted to the relevant authorities for approval.

Preparation for assigning the afforestation activities in “Marten Riahovo”and “Reka Maritza” sites has started (e.g. documental procedures).


November 2014

The Partnership Agreements between the Coordinating Beneficiary and the Associated beneficiaries were signed.

Meetings to present the project activities to other relevant stakeholders (e.g. state forestry units, state forest enterprises, etc.) were initiated by Ruse and Plovdiv RFDs and took place.
Plovdiv RFD has started the implementation of Activity A1: field visits to project sites have taken place, technological afforestation plans are in process of development.
WWF has started the implementation of Act. A3, e.g. field visits to “Marten Riahovo”and “Reka Maritza” sites have taken place.


October 2014

Project staff of RFD Plovdiv and RFD Ruse – assigned. On 31 October in WWF office in Sofia was held a meeting among project partners with a focus on financial and accounting issues.  The project work plan has been also discussed, as well as the partnership agreements (to be signed November 2014).

Ruse RFD has started the implementation of Activity A2: field trip to project sites has taken place, technological afforestation plans were developed. The procedure for agreeing the plans with relevant authorities has started.  

The basic project web-site section is developed and available at:
http://www.wwf.bg/what_we_do/forests/riparian_forests/.


September 2014

The first project meeting with participation of all project partners took place on 23 Sept. 2014. WWF DCP Bulgaria hosted the meeting. The main goal was to bring together all project partners and to have a common understanding of the project activities, time-frame, communication channels among project partners, to discuss first steps in the project implementation and potential issues. Internal rules to facilitate the administrative aspects of the project implementation as well as the communication among project partners have been developed. The project staff of the coordinating beneficiary (Executive Forest Agency) and WWF DCP Bulgaria (assoc. beneficiary) is assigned.  Preparation of the contracts for assigning the staff of Ruse and Plovdiv RFDs (assoc. beneficiaries) is in process.


In this section you can monitor what is happening with the project and to join in with comments or volunteer for the planting of trees.
 
	© WWF
Field studies around Maritsa
© WWF