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[10] Iskar Gorge

Vratsa, Sofia District
NATURA 2000: Lycaena dispar

Coordinates: 23° 29’ 49’’ E, 43° 1’ 43’’ N — Altitude: 750 m — Area: 22693 ha

Description: The region starts north of the town of Svoge and ends at Lyutibrod, comprising the right hand side part of the gorge of the Iskar River. From the very beginning there are very narrow sections and clearly defined curves surrounded by stone walls of white and red sandstone and snow-white limestone particularly prominent at Lakatnishki Skali. The vegetation consists mainly of Quercus dalechampii and Carpinus betulus or Q. cerris forests mixed with Carpinus orientalis and bushes dominated by Fraxinus ornus, Corylus avellana, Cornus mas, Crataegus monogyna, etc. The banks of the Iskar River are grown over with willows. The human presence has affected the region, which has been invaded by species like Robinia pseudoacacia and Ailanthus. The region is poorly populated and not characterised by intensive agriculture, cattle breeding, and industry.

The butterflies of the region are investigated very well. Regional investigation results were published by Slivov (1968). The reasons for including the region is the presence of important populations of 7 of the target species [see a list below], especially Zerynthia polyxena and Neptis sappho.

Target species: Zerynthia polyxena, Parnassius mnemosyne, P. apollo, Lycaena dispar, Scolitantides orion, Neptis sappho, Brenthis hecate.

River banks in Iskar Gorge; habitat of Lycaena dispar (Photo B. Petrov).
River banks in Iskar Gorge

Protection & threats: A main problem in the past few years has been the building of the places for recreation and tourism in the best parts of the region (around railway stations and stops or near villages and neighbourhoods), where there are whole holiday villages. In close proximity are some of the most popular sites, especially those used for specialised cave and alpine tourism. There is a busy automobile road and a railway, both of which contribute to the strong pollution of the surrounding territories.

Other remarks: The River Iskar is used for water sports (rafting and fishing). This fact, together with the cave and alpine tourism sites, makes the region very attractive to visitors. Its proximity to the capital and the road and railway accessibility are prerequisites for the future development of ecotourism. The moths used to be well investigated in the past, but this is no longer so. The following more interesting moth species of conservation importance have been established from there: Lemonia balcanica, Saturnia spini, Perisomena caecigena, Schrankia taenialis, Deltote uncula, Calocucullia celsiae, Antitype suda shimae, Polymixis xanthomista (the only known locality in Bulgaria), Apamea unanimis, Luperina testacea, Gortyna moesiaca, Gortyna borelii, Hadula stigmosa atlantica, Conisania renati meszarosi, Euplagia quadripunctaria. The last species was included in Annex II of the Habitats Directive of the European Union.

Map of Iskar Gorge area
Map of Iskar Gorge area.