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[09] Eastern Rhodopi

Haskovo, Kardzhali District
NATURA 2000: Euphydryas aurinia

Coordinates: 25° 48’ 30’’ E, 41° 35’ 3’’ N — Altitude: 449 m — Area: 180831 ha

Description: The region comprises a large part of the Eastern Rhodopi on both sides of the valley of the Arda River and the area north of the Byala Reka area. A great part of the territory is covered by mixed xerothermic forests consisting of Quercus cerris and Q. frainetto with Medditeranean elements. There are also Carpinus orientalis forests mixed with Acer monspessulanum and Fraxinus ornus. The region is largely grown with bushes of Paliurus spina-christi and Syringa vulgaris mixed with Jasminum fruticans in combination with xerothermic grass formations and Juniperus oxycedrus with Medditeranean elements. A great part of the area is covered by xerothermic bush (Paliurus spina-christi) and xeromesophytic grass formations. All over the region there are open areas, occupied by agricultural lands and meadows, grown with xerothermic grass communities dominated by Dichantium ischaemum, Poa bulbosa, etc. There are also single Pyrus amygdaliformis, Pistacia terebinthus, Amygdalus communis, and Ulmus trees. In some parts there are rocky river gorges and single rock formations, mainly of volcanic origin. A small part of the region is occupied by karst areas. The river valleys are grown with Salix and bushes, and in some places — with galleries of Alnus glutinosa.

The butterflies of the region are well investigated. The first results were published by Beshkov (1994, 1995). The reason for including the area is the presence of important populations of 12 of the target species [see a list below], especially Pyrgus cinarae and Euphydryas aurinia.

Target species: Thymelicus acteon, Pyrgus cinarae, Zerynthia polyxena, Parnassius mnemosyne, Pieris ergane, Lycaena ottomanus, Pseudophilotes vicrama, Glaucopsyche alexis, Plebejus sephirus, Euphydryas aurinia, Melitaea trivia, Brenthis hecate.

Hilly terrain with typical forests in the Eastern Rhodopi. Habitat of Glaucopsyche alexis, Melitaea trivia (Photo S. Beshkov, May 2006).
Hilly terrain with typical forests in the Eastern Rhodopi

Forest area in the Eastern Rhodopi (Photo S. Beshkov, May 2006).
Forest area in the Eastern Rhodopi

Protection & threats: The region is affected by human activities, mainly connected with forestry and cattle breeding. The wood habitats are threatened by natural fires or fires set by men, afforestation with alien forest species, and illegal forestation. In the last years the region is characterised by intensive development of tourism which can have some negative consequences. But the most serious threat comes from the investment plans for gold production and the cyanide technique in ore processing. Tens of hectares of valuable habitats have been destroyed only as a result of the research work connected with these plans. The prohibition of using cyanides in the region should become a priority of national importance. The borderline municipalities in Greece are also involved in this process. As a preservation measure we recommend that the Eastern Rhodopi be proclaimed a Natural Park as it was proposed some time ago.

Other remarks: There is a great number of landmarks and cultural monuments of world importance in the region. The biodiversity is also very rich. The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds and the Bulgarian Swiss Biodiversity Conservation Program have developed a proposal for proclaiming Eastern Rhodopi a Natural Park in two variants — a large variant from 1999 and a smaller one from 2001. The Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW) had obliged the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) to prepare the necessary documents for the proposal. In January 2001 the documents were submitted in MoEW and a number of public discussions were carried out. In addition to this, ten letters requesting the inclusion in the Park of places threatened to be used for ore production using the cyanide technique and the prohibition of using such technique have been submitted in the Ministry. For some reasons MoEW and the Rhodopi project have given no answer. Many species of conservation importance from the butterflies and moths of the region have been established, such as: Triodia amasinus dobrogensis, Saturnia pyri, Perisomena caecigena, Lemonia balcanica, Trichiura verenae, Eriogaster catax, Zerynthia cerisy ferdinandi, Leptidea duponcheli, Colias erate, Tarucus balkanicus, Hipparchia syriaca, Hipparchia fatua, Cilix asiatica, Erannis declinans, Nychiodes waltheri, Thaumetopoea solitaria, Paradrymonia vittata bulgarica, Peridea korbi, Rhegmatophila alpina osmana, Craniophora pontica, Simyra dentinosa, Cryphia burgeffi, Cryphia tephrocharis, Praestilbia armeniaca, Amphipyra tetra, Amphipyra stix, Asteroscopus syriaca decipulae, Episema lederi, Tiliacea cypreago christiani, Agrochola gratiosa, Conistra ragusae macedonica, Polymixis trisignata, Gortyna moesiaca, Orthosia schmidti pinkeri, Hadula mendax occidentalis, Ocneria ledereri, Euplagia quadripunctaria, Ocnogyna parasita lianea. The species Eriogaster catax and Euplagia quadripunctaria were included in Annex II of the Habitats Directive of the European Union.

Map of Eastern Rhodopi area
Map of Eastern Rhodopi area.