Pomorie Lake – Conservation, Restoration, and Sustainable Management
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Urgent Measures for Restoration and Conservation of Species and Habitats of European Significance within Pomorie Lake Complex of Protected Natural Areas
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Environmental Management and Conservation in Mediterranean Saltworks and Coastal Lagoons


LIFE19 NAT/BG/000804

Life for Pomorie Lagoon

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About the lake The Pomorie Lake is a natural hyper saline lagoon situated along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast north of Pomorie. In the past, Pomorie used to be an island, which was later connected to the land through two sand strips – westwards and northwards.
Today, the lake is separated from the sea by the northern sand strip, which is about 5 km long and 50 m wide. Sand dunes covered with specific vegetation have formed along this sand strip. The black color of the sand strip is due to the high concentration of ferrous oxide.

Since antiquity, the high salinity of the lake water, combined with the mild climate, has been a precondition for salt production through evaporation. These activities have more than 20 centuries’ history in the region of Pomorie. Therefore, parts of the lake banks have been transformed into saltpans.
In the late 20th C serious reconstruction of the Pomorie saltpans resulted in the establishment of a system of embankments, dividing the lake in one big and several smaller basins. The Adata River (Kamenarska River) used to flow into the western part of the lake, which, with a view to securing the salt production, was diverted from the lake through a drainage canal.
The bottom of the lake is covered with black mud rich in minerals and microelements, possessing curative qualities and used for medicinal purposes. Mud therapy is a long established tradition in Pomorie, applied mainly for skin diseases and problems with the locomotor system. Recently, the medicinal mud has been used in cosmetics, SPA, and wellness procedures. The medicinal mud is a product resulting from decomposition and subsequent mineralization of dead organic matter (phyto- and zoo-plankton) under specific high salinity.

The high salinity (more than twice higher than that of the Black Sea) has created a unique environment maintaining various animal and plant species such as Artemia and Salicornia europaea. The location of the lake on the western Black Sea coast, along which Via Pontica – the second biggest bird migration route runs, determines the high diversity of species found in this region.

Biodiversity A total of 71 seaweed taxa (8 of which macrophyte green seaweed) are found in the lake and its protected areas, including also 87 higher plant species, 200 invertebrate taxa (of which 16 zooplankton and 25 zoo-benthos organisms), 7 fish species, 17 amphibian and reptile species, 268 bird species, and 31 mammal species. In addition, 27 mappable units (habitats) are also described under the Classification of Palearctic Habitats.

To secure the protection of rare and threatened species and habitats, the Pomorie Lake and the adjacent territories are designated as Protected Site according to the Bulgarian legislation (2001) and Ramsar site (2004) under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat, being one of Bulgaria’s ten sites listed in the Ramsar List (registered under No 1229). In 1998 the lake was designated as an Important Bird Area, and in 2007 it was officially included into NATURA 2000 Ecological Network as a site subject to protection under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.
A total of 71 seaweed species are found in the Pomorie Lake water, as only 8 of them are macrophytes. The rest are part of the phyto-plankton. The macrophytes include 8 green seaweed species of class Ulvophyceae of Chlorophyta. The most spread species in all basins is Ulva intestinalis, forming thick “carpets” at the bottom of the basins. Ulva flexuosa, listed as “vulnerable” in the Red Data List of Bulgarian macrophyte seaweeds, grows on underwater rocks and submerged objects or amidst U. intestinalis.

The higher plants are presented by 87 species in total. Of these, 11 species are subject to protection under the Biological Diversity Act and 13 species are listed in Bulgaria’s Red Data Book (including 3 threatened and 10 rare species). Corispermum nitidum is listed among Europe’s Rare, Threatened, and Endemic Plants. The sand strip separating the lake from the sea is notable for the sand dunes and the specific vegetation (Euphorbia peplis, Eryngium maritimum, Amophylla arenaria, Trachomitum venetum, etc.). The banks of the lake are overgrown with a narrow strip of reed, including bulrush in some places. The saline basins and the saltpans provide conditions suitable for the development of Salicornia europaea – specific for salt lakes. The sand dunes around the lake hold Bulgaria’s most significant population of the threatened Trachomitum venetum.

Bulgaria’s Red Data Book and the Biological Diversity Act classify the following species as rare: Centaurea arenaria, Centaurea gracilenta, Eryngium maritimum, Euphorbia peplis, Erodium hoefftianum, Limonium latifolium, Trachomitum venetum, etc.

The invertebrate fauna is represented by a total of 200 species, including 16 zoo-plankton and 25 zoo-benthos organisms. The wetland is of crucial significance for the protection of the critically endangered damselfly species Lestes macrostigma. Brine shrimp (genus Artemia) is a typical species fit for living in hyper saline lake water.
The high salinity of the lake water does not allow for great diversity of fish species. There is only one resident species – Caucasian Goby (Knipowitschia caucasica), while migrating species include: Mullet (Mugil cephalus), Little Mullet (Liza saliens), Golden Grey Mullet (Liza aurata), and Boyer’s Sand Smelt (Atherina boyeri). The existence of a sea-lake connection is of crucial importance for their migration. In the past, before the protective stone embankment was built on the sand strip, this connection had been provided through the sand strip itself. There is a canal built in the southern part of the lake, which is now the only open connection between the lake and the sea, as well as the only place allowing for fish migration.

The area of the lake and the adjacent territories harbor a total of 17 amphibian and reptile species, many of which rare and globally threatened, such as Iberian Tortoise (Testudo graeca), Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni), European Pond Tortoise (Emys orbicularis), Three-lined Lizard (Lacerta trilineata), Crimean Lizard (Podarcis taurica), Spotted Newt (Triturus karelinii), European Tree-frog (Hyla arborea), etc.
Among all resources of the Pomorie Lake, birds are of greatest diversity. So far, a total of 268 species (breeding, wintering, migrating) have been found in this region, as many of them are rare and threatened, such as Pygmy Cormorant, White-headed Duck, Red-breasted Goose, Dalmatian Pelican, Ferruginous Duck, Sandwich Tern, Avocet, etc. The lagoon is situated on Europe’s second biggest migration route - Via Pontica, and annually thousands of Storks, Pelicans, Geese, and Raptors migrate above the lake on their way to Africa and back. In terms of total number of bird species, the Pomorie Lake ranks third among the Black Sea coastal wetlands. Fifty-seven bird species breed in the area of the lake, which is one of Bulgaria’s most important breeding sites for the following species: Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis), Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Common Tern (Sterna hirrundo), Little Tern (Sterna albifrons), and Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna). The Sandwich Tern colony breeding on the artificial islands built and maintained by Green Balkans’ volunteers has been numbering 1,500 pairs, being the biggest Sandwich Tern colony on the Balkan Peninsula.

Mammals are represented by a total of 31 species, including the world’s smallest mammal – Etruscan Shrew (Suncus etruscus). The nine bat species found in the area are subject to protection under the Bulgarian and the international legislation.

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