Riparian forests are as rich in biodiversity as equatorial jungles. Home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, they are extremely important for the prevention of floods and landslides, while also naturally purifying water in the river. In torrential rain, high water floods riparian forests thus delaying its destructive speed. Riparian forests retain the water and then slowly return some in the riverbeds.
Riparian forests (habitat type 91E0*) are forests in the lowlands and plains which develop on rich soils, flooded periodically by the river. They are one of the most vulnerable and rare habitats. Although they occur all over the country, they occupy only half a percent of the area of the forest territories in Bulgaria
WWF, in partnership with the Executive Forest Agency and the Regional Forest Directorates Ruse and Plovdiv, implemented a project for restoration and conservation of natural riparian forests of native species along the rivers Danube and Maritsa.
Over a period of four years and a half we restored 48.1 hectares (481 acres) of natural riparian forests (habitat type 91E0*). In addition to afforestation, WWF implemented the innovative Saarland method for forest restoration. It allows identifying "trees of the future" of typical native species and removal of aggressive "competitive trees" of foreign species which impede their development by using environmentally friendly methods.
We restored 160 decares of riparian forests along The Maritsa River. Trees of local species such as poplar, field elm, oak, white and grey alder and narrow-leafed ash were planted.
In Marten-Ryahovo protected site, near Rousse we restored 321 decares. White willows and black poplars were planted.
A guide for restoration and management of riparian forests was developed. Its main purpose was to draw the attention of the owners and managers of these territories to their special status and specifics and to assist the professionals in their future work in managing and restoring them.
The project actively engaged volunteers, and in particular high school students, who helped with planting and growing trees. Young people's participation is very important because it is most appropriate to build the culture to conserve and restore natural resources and biodiversity from an early age.