Wetlands along Kamchia river


Posted on May 16, 2014

BG0002045 – a Special Protected Area (SPA) under the Birds Directive 79/409/EEC and the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC

The Kamchiya river complex is located about 25 km south of Varna. It comprises of tidal forests, known as “Bulgarian longoz” around the mouth and lower reaches of the Kamchiya River, extensive sand dunes and beaches, shrubs and grasslands, freshwater marshes and marine area. Very typical are the swampy forest areas – remnants of old river branches naturally connected with the river. The complex includes the former Starooryahovsko swamp southwest of the reserve, now converted into arable land. In winter and spring large spills that attract big numbers of waterbirds are formed there.

The complex core is the Kamchia Reserve – dense flooded forest of field ash (Fraxinus oxycarpa), eastern oak (Quercus pedunculiflora), field elm (Ulmus minor), field maple (Acer campestre) and black alder (Alnus glutinosa), with undergrowth mainly of common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), dogwood (Cornus mas) and son dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), often combined with mesophyteand hygrophyte grass vegetation. Lianas and climbing plants entangled in the trees – clematis (Clematis vitalba), beard (Smilax exelsa), garbach (Periploca graeca), etc. give the impression of a tropical forest, while summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) and several species of squill (Scilla sp.) make the spring view even more enchanting. The Kamchia complex includes also a former swamp southwest of the reserve, now converted into farmland. In winter and spring large spills that attract big numbers of waterfowl are formed there.

Flooded forests are amongst the most complex and dynamic ecosystems in Europe, supporting an exceptional diversity of wildlife. This type of forest ecosystem is spread only on the Balkans, and the Kamchia forest is the biggest and most preserved one. The nature complex currently supports 237 bird species, 101 of which are of European Conservation Concern (SPEC, BirdLife International) and 7 of them are listed in category SPEC 1 as globally threatened. Among the breeding birds rare in Bulgaria and Europe are the Black Stork (Ciconia nigra), Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina), Hobby (Falco subbuteo), Goshawk (Acipiter gentilis), Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) and 7 of the 9 European woodpecker species. The Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus), Pied Wheatear (Oenante pleshanka) and Semi-collared Flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata) breed in the complex in considerable numbers and therefore it is one of the important sites for these species in Europe. Due to its location on the Western Black Sea Migratory Route, the Via Pontica, the Kamchiya area is essential for thousands of soaring birds – storks, pelicans and raptors.

The complex includes also the Kamchia Sands Protected Area, covering the most extensive sand dunes along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. The sand dunes are partially overgrown with psamophyte grass vegetation, dominated by mammoth wild rye (Leymus racemosus), European marram grass (Ammophila arenaria), and the endemic Alyssum borseanum. This habitat at the periphery of the flooded forest gives refuge to the rare Balkan Spadefoot toad (Pelobates syriacus balcanicus) and the European Otter (Lutra lutra). The conservation value of the natural complex, preserving a unique combination of sand dunes and flooded forest, has been recognized internationally and it has been included in the European ecological network “Natura 2000” and the Ramsar Convention list of wetlands of global importance.


The problems we address:

The site’s Management Plan is elapsing and new ecological research is needed to update it or draft a new plan. Much of what has been planned in terms of conservation, bio-monitoring, awareness raising and tourist interpretation programmes has not been done due to restrictions of state and municipal budgets. Besides, the state control on the observance of the site’s conservation regime is almost absent and there are a lot of violations.

kamchia-beach-bulgaria-5Kamchia river and kamchia biosphere reserve near Varna, BulgariaPeople walking on the beach  at the mouth of Kamchia River at Black sea; Kamchia biosphere reserve near Varna, Bulgaria


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