Habitat conservation

Wetlands conservation

Wetlands (lakes, swamps, rivers, etc.) are some of the most productive ecosystems on Earth, preserving unique biodiversity.
At the same time they are a source of irreplaceable resources, securing the livelihood of billions of people.
However, they are among the most threatened habitats on the planet. In Bulgaria, for example, almost 90% of the natural wetlands have been destroyed for the past one and a half century.

The conservation, restoration and sustainable management of wetlands are of significant priority for our work.

The work of Green Balkans is focused on:
- improving the national legislation and policies related to wetland management;
- ensuring the observance of the international commitments undertaken by our country for wetland preservation;
- researching the biodiversity and significance of wetlands;
- monitoring the threats and degree of human impact on wetlands;
- implementing conservation programs of wetlands related species and habitats (flood plain forests, waterfowl, etc.);
- restoring wetlands;
- expanding the network of protected areas, preserving wetlands of national and international significance;
- including the most significant wetlands in the NATURA 2000 European Ecological Network;
- preventing and combating poaching in wetlands and shooting at rare species;
- purchasing areas of international nature conservation significance in order to secure an integrated approach for their long-term conservation and management;
- carrying out information campaigns and publications aimed at attracting public attention to the wetlands conservation issues.

Activities and results:
  • Green Balkans in partnership with and financially supported by WWF-International, GEF/World Bank, UNDP, WWF-Austria, WWF-Greece, WWF-Denmark, EURONATUR, REC, and others has carried out 22 projects for the conservation of wetlands;
  • Green Balkans, in partnership with WWF-Austria, has initiated the Bulgarian activities along the greatest trans-national initiative for wetlands restoration – the Lower Danube Green Corridor Program;
  • Green Balkans has developed a strategy for conservation and restoration of the flood-plain forests along the Bulgarian Danube islands. Together with the Ministry of Environment and Waters and the Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture Green Balkans has prepared an Action Plan for the restoration of the natural flood-plain forests on the Bulgarian Danube islands;
  • The organization has implemented a Program for the restoration of the Danube marshes of Kalimok and Kaykusha. 640 ha of land and wetlands have been purchased in the area of Kalimok (the Bulgarian Danube bank) in order to preserve the habitats of Ferruginous Duck. Project amounting to USD 12 million funded by the World Bank/GEF for the conservation and restoration of the Kalimok and Belene wetlands was launched in 1999;
  • Over 15 new protected areas in the area of the Danube, the Upper-Thracian Lowland and the Black Sea Coast have been designated for the preservation of wetlands and their biodiversity as a result of Green Balkans’ proposals.
  • 7 protected areas have been designated along the Danube, including the Persina Nature Park (on the island of Belene), covering an area of over 22 000 ha – the first ever protected area designated after an NGO proposal;
  • 5 protected areas along the Maritsa River have been designated for the protection of riparian habitats, Heron colonies and Cormorant roosting sites;
  • Green Balkans’ experts have been participating in the field inventories for identifying the potential sites to be included into the NATURA 2000 International Network. Only in 2004 the field teams inventoried and prepared the documents of 85 wetlands, covering an overall area of 63 208 ha, 63 of which micro-reservoirs in the Thracian Valley. In addition, 40 river-beds in the Rhodopes have been studied within the Rhodope Project funded by GEF/UNDP.
  • The organization implements a program for the conservation and sustainable management of the Pomorie Lake.
  • Following a proposal of Green Balkans and other NGOs, the Ramsar Convention Bureau included the lake in its list of wetlands of international importance for waterfowl. The organization has won a project of GEF and the World Bank aimed at the long-term conservation of the biodiversity of the lake and its sustainable use. More about the project could be found HERE.
  • International conservation holidays for improving the nesting habitats of rare species are being organized here every year. 400 m2 of wooden and gravel artificial islands for improving the nesting habitats of the Sandwich Tern have been built until now. Thanks to these new nesting habitats, the Sandwich Tern colony has increased from 6 pairs back in 1996 to more than 1300 pairs in 2004. This is the biggest colony of Sandwich Terns in the Balkans at present;
  • Green Balkans together with AMECO (Netherlands) is elaborating the first management plan for a protected site of the NATURA 2000 European Network of protected areas (the Pozharevo-Garvan Protected Site);
  • Various projects and activities aimed at the conservation of rare and globally threatened species inhabiting wetlands – the Pygmy Cormorant, the Red-breasted Goose, Herons, Terns, etc. The organization secures annual warden of the greatest roosting site of Pygmy Cormorants near the town of Plovdiv, and warden and monitoring of heron colonies in the Upper-Thracian Lowland, installs dummies and restores nesting sites, etc.;
  • Expeditions to research the biodiversity of the Danube and the Maritsa Rivers are being implemented;
  • Green Balkans is actively involved in the annual International Waterfowl Census, organized by Wetlands International;
  • Various information materials (posters, brochures, stickers, etc.), designed to attract the public attention to the issues related to wetlands conservation have also been published;
  • Combating poaching – since 1995 the team has been implementing a Program to control poaching in wetlands. Tens of inspections for illegal hunting and fishing in the dams of Ovcharitsa, Rozov Kladenets, the river-beds of Maritsa, Tundja, and the Danube (in the area of Kalimok), the Shabla and Durankulak lakes, the Tuzla, the Atanasovsko and Pomorie Lakes, etc, have been carried out.
  • Green Balkans is running a campaign to protect the Bulgarian rivers against uncontrolled extraction of inert materials, river-bed corrections and destruction of riparian forests.
Strategy for the Protection and Restoration of Floodplain Forests on the Bulgarian Danube Islands 1 Mb (pdf) download
Action Plan for the Protection and Restoration of Floodplain Forests on the Bulgarian Danube Islands 421 Kb (pdf) download