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Project LIFE08 NAT/BG/000281
© Zhivko Bogdanov

Conservation and restoration of 11 Natura 2000 riparian and wetland habitats in 10 sites in Bulgarian forests

Project objectives

The diversity, quantity and quality of the areas make them sites of considerable national and European significance
About 21,000 hectares will be preserved or restored. The preservation of the area will be ensured through placement of specialized facilities (fences, grilles, bridges, tourist spots) on surface totaling 240.6 ha to limit the human pressure (human access and vehicles passing) and through removal of anthropogenic waste from 97.5 ha.

As a result of the restoration activities under the project, the alien species on an area of 76.5 ha will be removed and 80 ha will be restored by planting local trees and shrubs. In addition, approximately 1.4 ha will be restored by planting characteristic plants.

In Bulgaria there is very limited experience in management and restoration of riparian and wetland natural habitat types. The current project is a pilot one and will give an opportunity for creating, demonstrating and promoting good practices on conservation and restoration of such Natura 2000 habitat types in the country. The project will create conditions for passing over the lessons learned and multiplication of the good practice in the rest of the sites managed by the SFA and in the country as a whole.

Another important objective is creating awareness and better understanding of Natura 2000 among specialized audience and broader public, as well as improving expert capacity. This will create better information and awareness among the main stakeholders (institutions, local authorities and communities in the project areas) of Natura 2000 as an instrument for nature conservation.

The ten sites targeted by the project are managed by the State Forestry Agency (SFA) and the activities on conservation and restoration of favourable conservation status of habitats and their characteristic species will continue to be implemented by the staff of SFA after the project completion.

The project budget is 1 236 834 Euros, including 615 199 Euros LIFE + co-financing.

Project results

Bulgaria has limited experience in management and restoration of riverine and wetland habitats. The project goal was to improve the conservation status of 10 Sites of Community Importance (Natura 2000 sites), managed by the Executive Forestry Agency (EFA) through conservation and restoration of 11 riparian and wetland habitats in forests. The 10 project sites are also nature parks under the national protected areas legislation.

The main project results include:

  • 5 forest habitat types restored through planting saplings from local species on an area of 80.6 ha in 7 nature parks;

  • 59.38 ha cleaned from alien species in 4 parks;

  • a newly created gene bank of Black Poplar and White Willow on an area of 2 ha;

  • 13 rare plant species, characteristic of 4 habitat types, restored in 4 parks on an area of 1.38 ha;

  • 144.1 ha of young forests, of the rare habitat type 91S0* and other habitats, cultivated under the so called Saarland method in Strandzha Nature Park, which secures production of high quality timber in parallel with observing the highest environmental standards;

  • 11 habitat types protected through constructing specialized infrastructure on a total area of 303.9 ha;

  • а one-day event “Clean-up Nature Park Day” carried out in 3 consecutive years with 9400 volunteers and 36 tons of anthropogenic waste removed;

  • photographing the nature parks from the air in 3 consecutive years;

  • laboratory equipment provided for izoenzyme analysis; tractor provided with attached equipment for the gene bank;

  • educational, communication work, added to direct conservation activities, have had a synergic effect and contributed to the conservation of the total area of target habitats in the 10 sites, which is about 21 000 ha;

  • over 10 trainings events for state and  non-state  forest owners on sustainable forest management;

  • a national tour in 10 towns of a travelling exhibition presenting project activities and Natura 2000;

  • 3 journalist trips to Bulgarka, Vitosha and Strandzha Nature Parks;

  • a brochure describing project activities and lessons learnt: wwf.bg/lessons_learnt_broshure;

  • a multimedia presentation of the lessons learnt:  wwf.bg/multimedia_presentation; 

  • three press conferences and 5 press-releases to media in Sofia;

  • 20 meetings with journalists organised regionally by the ten nature park directorates;

  • Layman’s report.

Restoration of forest habitats

The most extensive work in terms of time and resources was the restoration of 4 forest habitat types (91E0*, 9180*, 92D0*, 91F0) in 7 sites through planting of typical tree species. The sites are Bulgarka, Vitosha, Vrachanski Balkan, Zlatni Pyasatsi, Persina, Lomovete and Sinite Kamani. The composition of species varied from park to park, but generally the species were: Black Alder, White Willow, Common Ash, Black Poplar, European White Elm, Pedunculate Oak (91E0), Beech, Sessile Oak, Silver Lime, Sycamore, Turkey oak, Field Elm (9180*), Dwarf Mountain Pine (92D0*) Caucasian Ash (91F0). Restoration took place on a total area of 80.6 ha. In Strandzha the Saarland method is aimed at longterm conservation and enhancement of the forest ecological functions, while the interventions allow for the production of high quality expensive wood and fewer expenses compared to currently used conventional methods.  Its main tasks are biodiversity conservation, giving priority to natural regeneration and to local species, the use of natural succession processes taking place in the ecosystem.  The method was applied on a total area of 144.1 ha targeting habitats 91S0*.
13 rare and protected plant species were restored in 4 sites as elements of the target habitat types. These were White Waterlily, Yellow Waterlily, Water Chestnut, European Waterclover, Water Soldier for Persina (habitat 3150); Pancic’s Angelica, Rubarp (habitat 6430) , Rila Primrose (habitat 7140) for Rilski Manastir; common sundew and buckbean (habitat 7140) for Vitosha; common yew, Caucasian Whortleberry and Black Sea Holly (habitat 91S0) for Strandzha. This action achieved two types of results – on the one hand strengthening populations of rare plants and on the other hand – improved structure of the target habitat types. The highlights in this conservation action include the return of the Buckbean in Vitosha after being extinct from the site for decades; the establishment of the second locality in the country of the Water Soldier; production for the first time of Caucasian Whortleberry and Black Sea Holly under controlled conditions – this is a purely pilot action as there was no prior experience of working with these two species.

Национален ден на природните паркове - Сините камъни
Removal of alien species

The target alien species for removal were the Black Locust in Lomovete and Zlatni Pyasatsi (30.6 ha), Indigo Bush in Persina (27 ha) and Japanese Knotweed in Bulgarka (12.2 ha). Traditional methods used for removal of Black Locust and Indigo Bush were used by cutting and/ or heavy machines, ploughing, then planting the saplings of local tree species followed by cultivation for 3 consecutive years. Their removal made space for the following habitat restoration.  A Japanese method for removal was tested for the removal of the Japanese Knotweed including 24 mowing on the same area annually, which has stopped the distribution of the plant up the stream of the Sivyak River in the Bulgarka site.

Национален ден на природните паркове - парк Персина
Protection of target habitats

Another important conservation action was the protection of 11 target habitats through specialised infrastructure. Damage and degradation was prevented by constructing specialized infrastructure or adapting the existing one on a total area of 303.9 ha. The impact of specialized infrastructure is three types: (1) with direct impact – facilities providing direct protection, (2) with indirect impact – concentrating the tourist flow and (3) indirect educational. The infrastructure includes: 1795,32 m of constructed wooden fences, 621,9 m of constructed wooden grates on the tourist tracks, 28 new wooden bridges and 13 reconstructed ones, 32 new and 11 refurbished tourist rest and information spots, 24 stone fireplaces, 17 rehabilitated fountains, 149 information and 269 redirection boards placed on site, 245 signs, 40 prohibition signs.
Clean – up activities included the organisation of one-day event  “Clean-up Nature Park Day” with volunteer work in parks in three consecutive years and professional cleaning with heavy machines. Total area of natural habitat types cleaned is 447.9 ha. In addition 10 waste management info boards were placed in each of the 10 parks in 2011.
A number of activities were implemented to involve and educate stakeholders, activities for communication and dissemination of project work and results. Training events and meeting with state and private forest managers were organised on the topic of sustainable forest management compatible with biodiversity conservation. Regional meetings with stakeholders were organised by every nature park administration to present project work to gain support and raise awareness on Natura 2000 and nature conservation. A travelling exhibition presenting the project activities, progress and the values of Natura 2000, was produced and visited 10 towns in the country and  was exhibited in key locations in the capital Sofia including the Sofia airport during the holiday season when 195 000 passengers, potential viewers, passed. 3 trips were organised for journalists in Bulgarka, Strandzha and Vitosha to present activities which received coverage on national television. For a specialised audience the lessons learned were presented in a brochure distributed among foresters, biologists, students. The same information was presented in a multimedia presentation. Both products are accessible on-line and were distributed to professionals. For the wider public were prepared: a Layman’s report, 9 short flash presentations on various activities of the project.