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[16] Kresna Gorge

Blagoevgrad District
NATURA 2000: Lycaena dispar

Coordinates: 23° 9’ 21’’ E, 41° 46’ 58’’ N — Altitude: 661 m — Area: 10826 ha

Description: The Kresna Gorge is situated along the Struma River, which passes there between the Pirin, Vlahina and Maleshevska mountains. The gorge starts at the Simitli Kettle and ends at the town of Kresna, going deep into crystalline shists and granites. Key habitats include temperate and mediterraneo-montane scrub habitats, broadleaved deciduous woodlands, screes. There is a great diversity of plant communities (more than 450 plants recorded, including a number of endemic or relict species): at the southern part evergreen Mediterranean forests of Juniperus excelsa, bush communities of Paliurus spina-christi, Pistacia terebinthus, Phyllirea latifolia and Colutea arborescens, in the North prevail Quercus and Tilia forests, along the riverbanks arise gorgeous riparian forests of Alnus glutinosa, Platanus orientalis, Populus alba and Salix, at high altitudes — venerable Fagus sylvatica forests.

The area is very well-studied. The butterfly exploration started in the beginning of the last century; the first publications include that of Buresch (1918) and the more or less comprehensive treatise of Iltschew (1921). The reasons for the area inclusion comprise: (1) presence of important populations of 14 of the target species [listed below], (2) presence of important populations of several other rare species, like Erynnis marloyi, Zerynthia cerisy, Pieris krueperi, Tarucus balkanicus, Hyponephele lupina, Hipparchia syriaca, H. fatua, Pseudochazara anthelea, Polygonia egea, and (3) its extremelly rich butterfly fauna (a total number of 120 species, forming 56% of all the Bulgarian butterflies).

Target species: Pyrgus cinarae, Parnassius mnemosyne, Pieris ergane, Lycaena dispar, L. ottomanus, Pseudophilotes vicrama, Scolitantides orion, Glaucopsyche alexis, Maculinea arion, Hipparchia senthes, Apatura metis, Neptis rivularis, Nymphalis xanthomelas, Melitaea trivia.

Arid rocky slopes of the gorge covered with evergreen Mediterranean communities of Juniperus excelsa. Typical habitat of Erynnis marloyi, Pieris krueperi, Pseudophilotes vicrama, Hipparchia senthes, Melitaea trivia (Photo S. Abadjiev, 12 May 2006).
Arid rocky slopes of the gorge covered with evergreen Mediterranean communities of Juniperus excelsa

Stony ground in the vicinity of riparian forest of Alnus, Platanus orientalis, Populus nigra, Salix. Habitat of Zerynthia cerisy, Scolitantides orion, Glaucopsyche alexis, Apatura metis, Neptis rivularis (Photo S. Abadjiev, 12 May 2006).
Stony ground in the vicinity of riparian forest of Alnus, Platanus orientalis, Populus nigra, Salix

Protection & threats: Part of the territory of the gorge is under the protection of the Tisata Reserve and its buffer zone. According to the Bern Convention it is declared a CORINE site and will be part of the European Union NATURA 2000 Network. There is a veto by the Minister of the Environment and Waters on future construction works and mining investigations. Major threats include the Bulgarian government plan to build the Struma Motorway, part of the Trans European Corridor 4 Sofia — Athens, directly through the gorge (following the current construction plans the project has not considered that the motorway will destroy habitats of numerous butterfly species) and the current building of numerous small hydroelectric power plants. Additionally, it is a place of great interest to butterfly collectors, being for example a well-known place for Rethera komarovi (Sphingidae) seekers.

Other remarks: The gorge is of worldwide importance for the preservation of the arboreal juniper forests and the oriental plane tree forests. It is also a biological corridor for the migration of large mammals between the mountain ranges of the Balkan Peninsula as well as a very important bird migration route (Via Aristotelis); part of its territory defined as ornithologically important place according to BirdLife International criteria. The moths are well studied with more then 830 species recorded. The most interesting are: Triodia adriaticus, Eochorica balcanica, Zygaena laeta, Bembecia pavicevici, Bembecia sanguinolenta (the only known locality in the country), Stygia mosulensis, Trichiura verenae, Eriogaster catax, Lasiocampa grandis, Pachypasa otus, Phyllodesma ilicifolia, Saturnia spini, Perisomena caecigena, Lemonia taraxaci strigata, Lemonia balcanica, Hemaris croatica, Proserpinus proserpina, Rethera komarovi drilon, Hyles vespertilio, Theretra alecto, Neognopharmia stevenaria, Dasycorsa modesta, Lycia graecarius, Agriopis beschkovi (the only known locality in the country), Erannis declinans, Nychiodes dalmatina, Nychiodes amigdalaria, Charissa obscurata, Xanthorhoe oxybiata, Aplocera dervenaria, Oulobophora internata, Rhegmatophila alpina osmana, Peridea korbi, Acronicta orientalis, Craniophora pontica, Simyra dentinosa, Cryphia burgeffi, Cryphia petrea contristans (the only known locality in the country), Catocala separata, Dysgonia torrida, Autophila ligaminosa, Thysanoplusia orichalcea (the only known locality in the country), Pseudozarba bipartita (the only known locality in the country), Calocucullia celsiae, Teinoptera lunaki, Cleonymia opposita, Amephana dalmatica, Amphipyra micans, Asteroscopus syriaca decipulae, Valerietta niphopasta, Panemeria tenebromorpha, Janthinea friwaldskii, Pyrrhia treitschkei, Aedophron rhodites, Caradrina vicina, Caradrina pertinax, Pseudoxestia apfelbecki, Agrochola gratiosa, Agrochola thurneri, Agrochola wolfschlaegeri, Agrochola rupicapra, Agrochola osthelderi, Dasypolia templi macedonica (local endemic), Lithophane ledereri, Lithophane lapidea, Xylena lunifera, Griposia pinkeri (the only known locality in the country), Dryobotodes servadeii, Antitype suda schimae, Gortyna borelii, Hadula mendax occidentalis, Hadena vulcanica urumovi, Divaena haywardi, Eugnorisma pontica, Meganola gigantula, Euplagia quadripunctaria, Ocneria ledereri and many others. The species Eriogaster catax and Euplagia quadripunctaria are listed in Annex II of the Habitats Directive 92/43 of the European Union. The species Perisomena caecigena is from Annex 2 of the Biological Diversity Act of Bulgaria.

Map of Kresna Gorge area
Map of Kresna Gorge area.