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[22] Melnik

Blagoevgrad District

Coordinates: 23° 24’ 4’’ E, 41° 31’ 57’’ N — Altitude: 484 m — Area: 4078 ha

Description: The region comprises the area around the town of Melnik. The soil is made up clayey sands. The territory is largely characterised by hilly, highly fragmented relief, well-defined and variously oriented slanting short slopes, assisting active erosion processes. The main part is covered by pastures, bushes, and vineyards, as well as some deciduous forests consisting of Quercus pubescens, Q. frainetto, Q. cerris and Carpinus orientalis. Carpinus orientalis is the prevailing species, often forming independent forests and bushes with Mediterranean elements such as Juniperus oxycedris, Paliurus spina-christi, etc. Characteristic of the region are the evergreen bush communities of Phyllirea latifolia combined with xerothermic vegetation. The river banks are grown with river forests consisting of Platanus orientalis and Alnus glutinosa.

The butterflies are investigated sufficiently well. A great number of data were published by Buresch & Iltschew (1921), Krzywicki (1981), Lehmann (1990). The main reason for including the area is the presence of important populations of 11 of the target species [see a list below], especially Pyrgus cinarae and Hipparchia senthes.

Target species: Thymelicus acteon, Pyrgus cinarae, Pseudophilotes vicrama, Scolitantides orion, Glaucopsyche alexis, Plebejus sephirus, Hipparchia senthes, Apatura iris, A. metis, Nymphalis xanthomelas, Melitaea trivia.

Clayey sands of the Melnishki Piramidi with xerothermic vegetation. Habitat of Hipparchia senthes (Photo S. Beshkov, June 2006).
Clayey sands of the Melnishki Piramidi with xerothermic vegetation (1)
Clayey sands of the Melnishki Piramidi with xerothermic vegetation (2)

Protection & threats: The region comprises the landmark of the Melnishki Piramidi, declared as a protected area in 1978 for the purpose of preserving the uniqueness of these earth formations. The localities are influenced by the human activities, connected mainly with agriculture, forestry, water usage, and infrastructure development. Some of the most awful negative effects, connected with agriculture, are the destruction of the natural vegetation and the turning of the pastures and the bush localities into arable lands. The deforestation and afforestation with such alien species as Robinia pseudoacacia has been the main reason for the changes in the forest localities. A main energy source for heating and household needs is the burning of timber, obtained from deforestation. As conservation measures for the natural forests we would recommend the financial stimulation of cutting Robinia pseudoacacia as heating timber. Other aggressively introduced species are Ailanthus and Amorfa fruticosa. There are investment plans for the construction of small hydropower plants along the rivers Melnishka and Pirinska Bistitsa and their tributaries, which are an additional threat for both the existence of the riverbank localities and for the general water balance of the region.

Other remarks: Melnik is a museum town with unique architecture. It is a tourist and vineyard centre full of small family hotels, pubs, and restaurants. Because of its European importance for the preservation of rare and endangered habitats, plants and animals, the place of Melnishki Piramidi was declared a CORINE area in 1998. In 2005 this territory was declared a place of ornithological importance by BirdLife International. There have been found 113 birds species, 12 of which were included in Red Data Book of Bulgaria. Also, the region is extremely rich in reptiles. Some butterfly and moth species of conservation importance from other groups established in the region, are: Eochorica balcanica, Hemaris croatica, Eriogaster catax (a species listed in Annex II of the Habitats Directive of the European Union), Saturnia pyri, Zerynthia cerisyi ferdinandi, Gegenes nostrodamus, Chemelina caliginearia, Aplocera dervenaria, Hypenodes anatolica, Dysgonia torrida, Autophila ligaminosa, Eutelia adoratrix, Metachrostis velox, Calophasia barthae, Amphipyra stix, Agrochola gratiosa, Agrochola wolfschlaegeri, Episema lederi, Lithophane ledereri, Dryobotodes servadeii, Dryobotodes tenebrosa, Hadula mendax occidentalis, Eugnorisma pontica, Xestia cohaesa, Euxoa glabella balcanica, Meganola gigantula, Euplagia quadripunctaria; the last from the Annex II of the Habitats Directive of the EU.

Map of Melnik area
Map of Melnik area.