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[44] Vitosha

Pernik, Sofia District
NATURA 2000: Lycaena dispar, Maculinea nausithous, Polyommatus eroides, Euphydryas aurinia

Coordinates: 23° 15’ 16’’ E, 42° 32’ 48’’ N — Altitude: 1158 m — Area: 27205 ha

Description: The region is situated to the south of Sofia field and comprises almost the whole mountain bearing the same name. Its boundaries coincide with the boundaries of Vitosha Natural Park. To the west the region borders Vladaya, Marchaevo, Rudartsi, Kladnitsa, Studena Dam, and Bosnek. To the east the boundary passes immediately after the villages of Knyazhevo, Bistritsa, Zheleznitsa, and Yarema villa zone. To the south it goes up to Palakariya and Mount Verila. The northern boundary is just behind the Sofia housing estates of Boyana, Dragalevtsi, and Simeonovo. Vitosha is part of the Plana-Zavala range and is the only mountain of volcanic origin in Bulgaria. Because of its comparatively high altitude, the vegetation cover has well expressed vertical belts of mixed deciduous forests, oak forests, coniferous forests, and sub-alpine vegetation with an island distribution of alpine habitats. The coniferous forests are mainly composed of Picea abies, here and there mixed with Pinus mugo. The subalpine zone is grown with derivative xeromesophytic, mesophytic, and hygrophytic vegetation, composed of Juniperus sibiricae formations together with derivative bush (Vaccinieta myrtilli and Vaccinieta vitisidaeae) and grass (Nardeta strictae, Festuceta validate, Agrostideta capillaris) formations as well as acidophytic grass (Cariceta curvulae, Festuceta riloensis, Junceta trifidi) and bush (Saliceta herbaceae, Empetrera nigrae, Vaccinieta uliginosi) formations. Vitosha is composed of syenites. There are karst terrains in the Bosnek area. Characteristic for the high parts of the region are the ‘stone’ rivers, miscalled moraines. Another characteristic feature of the region is the high mountainous turfs and the lack of lakes.

The butterflies of the region are investigated well enough. The first official data were published by Drenowski (1907b); There are some more up-to-date investigations (Nestorova, 1974). The reasons for including the region is the presence of important populations of 27 of the target species [see a list below], especially Maculinea nausithous, Erebia pronoe and Neptis sappho.

Target species: Thymelicus acteon, Carterocephalus palaemon, Pyrgus cacaliae, Pyrgus cinarae, Parnassius mnemosyne, P. apollo, Colias caucasica, Lycaena dispar, Pseudophilotes vicrama, Scolitantides orion, Glaucopsyche alexis, Maculinea alcon, M. arion, M. nausithous, Plebejus sephirus, Polyommatus eroides, Erebia medusa, E. pronoe, Apatura iris, A. ilia, Limenitis populi, Neptis sappho, N. rivularis, Nymphalis xanthomelas, Euphydryas aurinia, Melitaea trivia, M. aurelia, Brenthis hecate.

Damp meadows in Platoto, Vitosha, 2000 m. Habitat of Erebia pronoe (Photo E. Abadjieva, 12 August 2006).
Damp meadows in Platoto, Vitosha, 2000 m

The stone river in Zlatnite Mostove. Habitat of Parnassius apollo in the past. The species is now considered extinct in Vitosha (Photo E. Abadjieva, 12 August 2006).
The stone river in Zlatnite Mostove

Protection & threats: Almost the whole area of the region was proclaimed Natural Park in 1934 in view of preserving its remarkable ecosystems, characteristic for the region. The Park comprises two reserves — Bistrishko Branishte and Torfeno Branishte. The reserve Bistrishko Branishte was declared as such in 1934 for the purpose of preserving the primary spruce ecosystems. In 1977 it was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. The north part of the region is occupied by densely populated areas such as the capital of Sofia and the town of Pernik. Despite the fact that the region is legally protected as a natural park, its nature is very vulnerable and affected by all human activities, connected with urbanisation and the development of infrastructure, tourism, forestry, and the using of the meadows and the pastures. The rapid expansion of the capital city has led to a quick construction of buildings on the areas near its northern boundaries and within the Park, thus transforming it into a city park. The increase of the size of ski facilities has also disrupted the habitats. The plans for further large-scale enlargement of the existing ski areas shall have a disastrous effect on the grass and forest habitats. The cutting of forests has grown considerably in the past few years, which has changed the structure and ruined the qualities of the forest habitats. The pastures and meadows of the lower parts of the mountain are not maintained after the land restitution.

Other remarks: In 1998 the region was declared a CORINE area because of its European importance for the preservation of rare and endangered habitats, plants and animals. In 2005 the territory was proclaimed an area of ornithological importance by BirdLife International. There have been established 114 bird species, 18 of which are included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria. The only example of a butterfly species that has disappeared from a certain region in Bulgaria as a result of too rigorous collection is the liquidation of Parnassius apollo from Vitosha. Its reintroduction should be done very carefully. There have been established a number of rare and conservationally important species like: Malacosoma franconica, Eriogaster catax, Perisomena caecigena, Saturnia spini, Lemonia balcanica, Eumera regina, Erannis declinans, Charissa certhiatus, Idaea spissilimbaria, Aplocera columbata, Acronicta orientalis, Cryphia burgeffi, Simplicia rectalis, Autophila ligaminosa, Cucullia lucifuga, Schargacucullia prenanthis, Valerietta niphopasta, Paradrina wullschlegeli schwingenschussi, Pseudoxestia apfelbecki, Dasypolia templi vecchimontium, Apamea maillardi, Apamea zeta, Apamea rubrirena, Photedes minima, Hydraecia micacea, Hydraecia petasitis, Conisania renati meszarosi, Divaena haywardi, Chesotis elegans, Paradiarsia punicea, Eugraphe sigma, Euplagia quadripunctaria, Phragmatobia placida. The species Eriogaster catax and Euplagia quadripunctaria are included in Annex II of the Habitats Directive of the European Union.

Map of Vitosha area
Map of Vitosha area.