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[47] Western Stara Planina

Montana, Vidin, Vratsa, Sofia District
NATURA 2000: Lycaena dispar, Polyommatus eroides

Coordinates: 22° 54’ 39’’ E, 43° 19’ 14’’ N — Altitude: 1298 m — Area: 253153 ha

Description: The boundaries of the region coincide with the orographic range of the western part of Stara Planina and Ponor Planina in the south. It is occupied predominantly by montane and semi-montane forest habitats. The largest part is covered by deciduous forests, half of which consist of Fagus sylvatica and F. moesiaca. The forests consisting of Quercus frainetto, Q. cerris, Q. dalechampii and Carpinus betulus are sprout forests. The coniferous forests consist mainly of Picea abies. The open areas are covered by pastures, arable lands, rock, etc. Ponor Planina, formed of limestone and dolomites, is one of the biggest karst regions in Bulgaria. In part of the region the rocks are composed of red sandstone. There are turfs and marshy meadows in the area of the Petrohan Pass. The highest parts of the region are covered by pseudosubalpine meadows grown with Juniperus nana and Vaccinium. Characteristic for the region are the heap-like karst hills, called glami, and the rock sculptures near Belogradchik.

The butterflies of the region are well investigated. Regional investigation results were published by Tuleschkow (1932). The reason for including the region is the presence of important populations of 20 of the target species [see a list below], especially Pieris ergane, Erebia orientalis, E. alberganus, E. oeme and Neptis sappho.

Target species: Zerynthia polyxena, Parnassius mnemosyne, Pieris ergane, Lycaena dispar, Pseudophilotes vicrama, Scolitantides orion, Glaucopsyche alexis, Plebejus sephirus, Polyommatus eroides, Coenonympha rhodopensis, Erebia orientalis, E. medusa, E. alberganus, E. oeme, Apatura iris, A. ilia, A. metis, Neptis sappho, N. rivularis, Brenthis hecate.

The rocks of red sandstone near Belogradchik (Photo: S. Beshkov, 30 April 2007).
The rocks of red sandstone near Belogradchik

A limestone rock formation; Varbovska Glama (Photo: S. Beshkov, 30 April 2007).
A limestone rock formation, Varbovska Glama

Rocky slope of the Chepan Ridge. Habitat of Muschampia cribrellum, Pieris ergane, Polyommatus eroides and many other interesting species (Photo: S. Beshkov, 16 May 2007).
Rocky slope of the Chepan Ridg

Protection & threats: Part of the region is protected by law under the national nature conservation legislation. Chuprene and Gornata Koria were declared reserves for the purpose of protecting the only compact coniferous forests in the Western Stara Planina. The region is affected mainly by human activities, connected with the traditional usage of the land. The catchment of the underground waters in the karst region and the catchment of waters for Petrohan Hydropower Plant has already brought about drying of the region and ruining the quality of the damp meadows. Other activities exercising negative impact on the habitats are the irregular management of the forests, practising forms of tourism incompatible with the biological merit of the region, sport and recreation activities, and investment plans for the construction of windpower parks. The number of stone quarries is growing. There are vast investment projects for the construction of ski resorts. As measures for the protection of the region we recommend that the Western Stara Planina 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: Because of its European importance for the preservation of rare and endangered localities, plants and animals, the territory was declared a CORINE area in 1998. In 2005 it was declared an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International. There have been found 160 birds species, 62 of which are considered to be of European conservation importance. In 2003 a huge part of the territory was also designated for an important botanic site primarily on behalf of its forest, meadow, and rock habitats. Many conservationally important moths have been established in the region, some of which are: Korscheltellus lupulinus dacicus, Dyspessa salicicola, Poecilocampa alpina, Eriogaster catax, Endromis versicolora, Perisomena caecigena, Lemonia balcanica, Hyles galii, Ochropacha duplaris, Neognopharmia stevenaria, Elophos dilucidaria, Aplocera columbata, Drymonia velitaris, Paradrymonia vittata streckfussi, Moma alpium, Cryphia fraudatricula, Orectis proboscidata, Hypena palpalis, Polychrysia moneta, Autographa bractea, Calocucullia celsiae, Epimecia ustula, Amphipyra micans, Cleoceris scoriacea, Dasypolia templi vecchimontium, Xylena lunifera, Apamea maillardi, Lacanobia blenna, Conisania renati meszarosi, Mythimna alopecuri, Perigrapha i-cinctum, Standfussiana lucernea illyrica, Eugnorisma pontica, Cerastis leucographa, Euxoa glabella balcanica, Euxoa vitta hercegovinensis, Euplagia quadripunctaria, Meganola kolbi, Tyria jacobaeae. The species Cerastis leucographa is known in Bulgaria only from this locality. The species Eriogaster catax and Euplagia quadripunctaria were included in Annex II of the Habitats Directive of the European Union.

Map of Western Stara Planina area
Map of Western Stara Planina area.