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[46] Western Rhodopi

Blagoevgrad, Pazardzhik, Plovdiv, Smolyan District
NATURA 2000: Polyommatus eroides, Euphydryas aurinia

Coordinates: 24° 18’ 10’’ E, 41° 47’ 4’’ N — Altitude: 1260 m — Area: 522363 ha

Description: The region comprises the high parts of the Western Rhodopi, north of the Velingrad — Rakitovo — Batak — Peshtera line. The largest part of the area is occupied by Pinus sylvestris forests, followed by Picea abies forests. The subforest is composed of Rubus idaea, Pteridiun aquilinum, Vaccinium, etc. There are also forests of Pinus nigra and sprout forests of Quercus dalechampii, as well as mixed forests of Quercus cerris and Q. frainetto, or of Populus tremula and Q. sessiliflora. In some places the rivers are covered by galleries of Alnus glutinosa and Salix, mixed with Petasitis and ferns. The lower parts are covered by deciduous communities of Sambucus, Corylus avellana, Crataegus monogyna, Tilia, Carpinus, Acer, Fraxinus, Sorbus and other species. A small part of the region comprises open areas (pastures and meadows mostly grown with the usual Agrostis capillaris and Nardus stricta or bush communities. The region comprises three big dams (Dospat, Shiroka Polyana, and Golyam Beglik) and many small turfs, damp meadows, and swampy places.

The butterflies of the region are well investigated. The results were published by Markowitsch (1910, 1923), Buresch & Tuleschkow (1929, 1930). The reason for including the region is the presence of important populations of 24 of the target species [see a list below], especially Carterocephalus palaemon, Parnassius apollo and Erebia oeme.

Target species: Thymelicus acteon, Carterocephalus palaemon, Pyrgus cinarae, 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 medusa, E. oeme, Apatura iris, Limenitis populi, Neptis rivularis, Nymphalis xanthomelas, Euphydryas aurinia, Melitaea trivia, M. aurelia.

Rocky formations near Kayaliyski Skali in the Western Rhodopes (Photo: S. Beshkov, July 2006).
Rocky formations near Kayaliyski Skali in the Western Rhodopes

The meanders near Chehlyovo in the Western Rhodopes. Habitat of Lycaena candens (Photo: S. Beshkov, July 2006).
The meanders near Chehlyovo in the Western Rhodopes

Protection & threats: A small part of the region is protected by law. There are 32 protected areas, comprising 4 reserves, declared as such for the purpose of protecting rare and endangered animal species and characteristic forest ecosystems including 1 sustainable reserve, 22 protected areas, and 4 natural sights. The natural forests are threatened by the excessive exploitation of forest resources outside the few protected areas or by the ubiquitous illegal cutting. This ruins the qualities of the forest ecosystems, disrupts the natural water balance in the whole region, and brings about erosion and landslide processes. The implementation of investment projects for the construction of small hydropower plants along the beds of the mountain rivers will additionally increase the negative effect on the water balance. The advance of ski tourism is the most serious threat both for the forests and the subalpine habitats. Construction activities, connected with the development of the tourist infrastructure, have disturbed or destroyed valuable habitats in easily accessible parts. Such process is already observed in the area around Dospat Dam. As measures for the protection of the region we recommend that the Western Rhodopi are proclaimed a transboundary park (as was proposed some years ago) and that a strategy for the sustainable development of the region is accepted.

Other remarks: In 1998 part of the territory was declared a CORINE area due to its European importance for the preservation of rare and endangered localities, plants and animals. In 2005 the territory was proclaimed an area of ornithological importance by BirdLife International. There have been established 130 bird species (mainly nesting), 21 of which are included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria. The region abounds in conservationally important moths like: Zygaena nevadensis, Proserpinus proserpina, Plemyria rubiginaria, Plusia putnami gracilis, Palaeographa interrogationis, Hyppa rectilinea, Apamea maillardi, Apamea rubrirena, Phothedes captiuncula, Hydraecia ultima, Archanara algae, Chortodes fluxa, Polia hepatica, Callimorpha dominula. Single specimens of Zygaena nevadensis and Plemyria rubiginaria have been established only from this region in Bulgaria.

Map of Western Rhodopi area
Map of Western Rhodopi area.