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Natura 2000 site Byala Reka


Surface – 44 627 hectares.

The area covers the Byala Reka watershed in the most south-eastern part of the Eastern Rhodopes, immediately next to the state border with Greece. It includes the Byala Reka valley and the surrounding mountain hills from the village of Chernichevo on the west to the spot where the river crosses the state border to the east. The region’s vegetation is quite diverse and heavily influenced by the Mediterranean climate. Because of the region’s low population density and border regime old forests of Mixed oak forests of Q. dalechampii, Q. virgiliana, Q. frainetto and Q. pubescens, interspersed at places with Carpinus orientalis, are also widely distributed. The region supports also xerothermal shrub formations of Mediterranean type with considerable species diversity, dominated by Phyllirea latifolia and Juniperus oxycedrus, with the participation of Paliurus spina-christi, Fraxinus ornus, etc. The river is comparatively deep and its waters are not polluted. The riverbed is sandy-stony. Its banks are overgrown with willows Salix spp. and shrubs. At certain places in the region there are single low cliffs. The farmlands occupy a comparatively small part of the total area, mainly around the settlements.

The area of Byala Reka supports 167 bird species. Of the birds occurring there 67 species are of European conservation concern (SPEC), 2 of them being listed in category SPEC 1 as globally threatened, 22 in SPEC 2 and 43 in SPEC 3 as species threatened in Europe. Byala Reka is a site with global importance as a representative area for the Mediterranean biome. Five of the 9 biome-restricted species, established in the country, that are typical for this biome, occur there: Olive-tree Warbler, Sub-alpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Masked Shrike and Black-headed Bunting. The region is of global importance as a permanent roosting and feeding site for the European Black Vulture. Byala Reka is one of the most important for the breeding of the Black Stork, Honey Buzzard, Booted eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Nightjar, Olive-tree Warbler and Masked Shrike. Significant population on European scale of Woodlark breeds in Byala Reka.

About 4% of the area is under legal protection in protected sites. In 1998 a big part of the area was appointed as CORINE Site with the same name because of its European value for habitats, rare and threatened plant and animal species, including birds. In 1997 the area was designated as Important Bird Area by BirdLife International. The IBA is approved as SPA under Bird Directive.

Forest habitats are threatened by burning and natural fires, afforestation with nonnative species. One of the potential threats both to the habitats and to the birds in the area is the development of wind turbine farms. Such wind turbine farms are already built in Greece close to the Bulgarian border and cause disturbed movement and fragmentation of the habitats used by vultures of the two big colonies in the region – the one along the Arda River in Bulgaria and the one in Dadya, Greece. The fishery with nets and detonations. Investment projects related to gold mining industry are potential threat for the area, which could cause destruction and fragmentation of habitats at large scale, as well as pollution of the soils and rivers.


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