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[02] Belasitsa

Blagoevgrad District
NATURA 2000: Lycaena dispar, Polyommatus eroides

Coordinates: 23° 5’ 47’’ E, 41° 20’ 56’’ N — Altitude: 798 m — Area: 11934 ha

Description: In the north the region occupies part of the Belasitsa Mountain up to the valley of Strumeshnitsa River. In the south it lies as far as the Bulgarian border with Greece. The mountain ridge is narrow, sharp, and rocky or covered by pastures at some parts. The slopes are steep, woody, cut by very deep hollows and streams with small waterfalls. The flora comprises about 1200 species, which is one third of the Bulgarian flora. Characteristic for Belasitsa is the complete lack of coniferous forests. The lower parts of the mountain are dominated by forests consisting of beech (Fagus moesiaca) with hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), Acer campestre, Tilia tomentosa, and several oak species (Quercus cerris, Q. tomentosa, Q. dalechampii). The subforest consists of bulb plants. In the lower parts the river banks are grown with river forests consisting of Platanus orientalis. Very common along the roads and urbanised areas is Robinia pseudoacacia. The oak-hornbeam belt is followed by hundred-year-old dense Castanea sativa forests mixed with beech and sycamore, which gradually turn into pure beech forests of Fagus sylvatica. The pseudosubalpine zone is covered by derivative xeromesophytic, mesophytic, and hygrophytic vegetation, consisting of Juniperus sibiricae formations joined by derivative bush (Vaccinieta myrtilli, Vaccinieta vitisidaeae) and grass (Nardeta strictae, Festuceta validate, Agrostideta capillaris) formations.

The butterflies of the region are investigated sufficiently well. Results from regional investigations were published some 20 years ago by Slivov & Nestorova (1988). The main reason for including the area is the presence of important populations of 20 of the target species [see a list below], especially Pieris ergane, Lycaena dispar and Maculinea arion.

Target species: Thymelicus acteon, Zerynthia polyxena, Parnassius mnemosyne, Pieris ergane, Pontia chloridice, Lycaena dispar, L. ottomanus, Pseudophilotes vicrama, Scolitantides orion, Glaucopsyche alexis, Maculinea arion, Plebejus sephirus, Polyommatus eroides, Erebia medusa, Apatura iris, A. ilia, Neptis rivularis, Melitaea trivia, M. aurelia, Brenthis hecate.

Bush and grass communities in the pseudosubalpine zone of Belasitsa. Habitat of Melitaea trivia (Photo S. Abadjiev, 10 July 2006).
Belasitsa, bush and grass communities in the psedosubalpine zone

Dense forest of Fagus sylvatica in Kongura Reserve (Photo S. Beshkov, 10 July 2006).
Belasitsa, dense forest of Fagus sylvatica in Kongura Reserve

Protection & threats: The region comprises the Kongura Reserve, in which a number of beech, chestnut, and grass natural ecosystems have been preserved. For years on end the natural localities have been well protected and not easily accessible because of the border character of the region. A main problem during the last years is the development of areas for recreation and tourism and increased human flow. The forest localities are highly threatened by cutting in those parts where there are mountain roads. The only way to stop the cutting is by mounting cameras for constant control at the exit places, which must be observed by several institutions. We recommend sanitary cutting as a measure against the invasion of Robinia pseudoacacia.

Other remarks: The Bulgarian part of the mountain comprises 102 plant species of high conservation importance, 24 of which are protected by the Biodiversity Law, 25 are Balkan endemics, and 38 are included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria. It is interesting to note that apart form the montane types of insects, the ridge of the mountain is inhabited by many species connected with the oak belt, which have flown across the mountain by the help of air currents. Some moth species of conservation importance from other groups established in the region, are: Moma alpium, Acronicta orientalis, Cryphia petricolor (the only locality for the species in Bulgaria), Eutelia adoratrix, Eublemma minutata, Eublemma viridula (the only locality of the species in Bulgaria), Eublemma rosea, Cucullia lactucae, Shargacucullia prenanthis, Omphalophana anatolica, Amephana dalmatica, Xylena lunifera, Caradrina suscianja, Caradrina gilva, Pseudoxestia apfelbecki, Lithophane ledereri, Coranarta cordigera, Hadena drenowskii, Mythimna andereggii pseudocomma, Noctua janthe, Standfussiana lucernea illyrica, Chersotis anatolica, Euxoa conspicua, Meganola kolbi, Euplagia quadripunctaria, etc. The last species was included in Annex II of the Habitats Directive of the European Union. A great part of the species found on the ridge of the mountain are xeromontane.

Map of Belasitsa area
Map of Belasitsa area.