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[30] Rilski Manastir

Blagoevgrad, Kyustendil, Sofia District
NATURA 2000: Polyommatus eroides, Euphydryas aurinia

Coordinates: 23° 21’ 48’’ E, 42° 7’ 29’’ N — Altitude: 2249 m — Area: 25834 ha

Description: The region comprises the valley of the Rilska Reka. It is not very varied geologically. The greater part of the rocks are old metamorphous and intrusive (south Bulgarian granites). The lower parts are composed of sediments (Palaeogene, Pliocene, and Quaternary deposits). It is covered mainly by forests and high mountainous habitats. There are more than 1000 higher plant species recorded. The alpine zone is occupied by a great number of meadow communities. The sub-alpine zone is largely grown with mountain pine (Pinus mugo), juniper (Juniperus communis nana), European blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), the Balkan endemic Chamaecytisus absinthioides, and mat-grass (Nardus stricta). The coniferous belt is covered by spruce (Picea abies), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), and silver fir (Abies alba) communities. The deciduous forests are dominated by beech (Fagus sylvatica). There are mixed beech-coniferous forests with some participation of Acer heldreichii, Sorbus, etc. The bush vegetation in and around the forests consists mainly of hazel (Corylus avellana) and red raspberry (Rubus idaeus). The lower parts of the Rilska Reka banks are covered by willow (Salix) and specked alder (Alnus incana) galleries; the higher parts — by green alder (Alnus viridis).

The butterflies of the region are investigated very well. A lot of results were published by Drenowski (1909b, 1909c) Buresch & Tuleschkow (1929, 1930). The reasons for including the region is the presence of important populations of 30 of the target species [see a list below], making it the richest region in the country. Of special importance are the mountainous species Parnassius apollo, Colias caucasica, Erebia orientalis, E. rhodopensis, E. pronoe, E. melas and Euphydryas cynthia.

Target species: Thymelicus acteon, Carterocephalus palaemon, Pyrgus cacaliae, Zerynthia polyxena, Parnassius mnemosyne, P. apollo, Colias caucasica, Pieris ergane, Pseudophilotes vicrama, Scolitantides orion, Glaucopsyche alexis, Maculinea alcon, M. arion, Polyommatus eroides, Coenonympha rhodopensis, Erebia orientalis, E. medusa, E. rhodopensis, E. pronoe, E. melas, E. oeme, Apatura iris, Limenitis populi, Neptis rivularis, Nymphalis xanthomelas, Euphydryas cynthia, E. aurinia, Melitaea trivia, M. aurelia, Brenthis hecate.

Granite rocky slopes in the valley of Rilska Reka, 1700 m. Typical habitat of Parnassius apollo (Photo S. Beshkov, August 2006).
Granite rocky slopes in the valley of Rilska Reka, 1700 m

Bush and grass communities with predominance of Chamaecytisus absinthioides and Juniperus in the vicinity of coniferous forests in Tiha Rila, 2000 m. Habitat of Colias caucasica, Polyommatus eroides, Erebia orientalis, E. oeme and Euphydryas aurinia (Photo S. Beshkov, August 2006).
Bush and grass communities with predominance of Chamaecytisus absinthioides and Juniperus in the vicinity of coniferous forests in Tiha Rila, 2000 m

Pinus mugo communities in the Ribni Ezera Circus, 2300 m. Habitat of Erebia rhodopensis and Euphydryas cynthia (Photo S. Beshkov, August 2006).
Pinus mugo communities in the Ribni Ezera Circus, 2300 m

Protection & threats: A great part of the territory is protected by law under the national conservation legislation. Since 2000 the former Rilomanastirska Gora Reserve (category I under IUCN) has been renamed and transformed into the Rilski Manastir (Rila Monastery) Natural Park with an area of 25,020 hectares of forests, high mountainous meadows, and rock complexes. Part of the waters of the Rilska Reka were caught and now the riverbed bears the marks of the damages caused by the construction activities. The habitats are mainly affected by human activities connected with forestry, tourism development, and water exploitation. Tourism and medicinal plant, herb, and wild fruit picking have a considerable effect on the high mountainous meadows. The increased number of camping sites and human presence lead to more organic waste and the replacement of the natural vegetation by ruderal. As preservation measures we recommend the setting of a barrier above Kirilova Polyana and the introduction of a special vehicle permission regime.

Other remarks: The region is part of a CORINE area (declared as such in 1998) because of its European importance for the preservation of rare and endangered habitats, plants and animals. In 2005 it was proclaimed an area of ornithological importance by BirdLife International. There are 130 nesting bird species, 20 of which are included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria. The moths are not sufficiently investigated. The following more interesting moth species have been established up to now: Lemonia taraxaci, Rhopalognophos glaucinaria peruni, Nebula nebulata pirinica, Entephria flavicinctata, Euchalcia variabilis fuscolivacea, Autographa bractea, Caradrina suscianja, Caradrina gilva, Pseudoxestia apfelbecki, Apamea maillardi, Apamea zeta, Apamea rubrirena, Apamea illyria, Griposia wegneri, Hadena caesia bulgarica, Mythimna andereggii pseudocomma, Xestia speciosa, Xestia ochreago, Euplagia quadripunctaria. Other conservationally important species are expected to be found. The species Euplagia quadripunctaria was included in Annex II of the Habitats Directive of the European Union. The following butterfly species are not included as target species, but are nevertheless interesting: Boloria graeca balcanica, Boloria selene, etc.

Map of Rilski Manastir area
Map of Rilski Manastir area.