The decline of some of the ash forest shelter belts in North-eastern Bulgaria is irreversible and their rehabilitation and replacement with more resistant species should be undertaken. This conclusion was reached by experts from the Forest Research Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), Regional Forest Directorate – Varna, Forest Protection Station, Northeast State Company and State Hunting Enterprise – Balchik. Since last year, scientists and foresters have been monitoring and sampling the damaged belts. According to the experts, the cause of the decline is complex, and it is time for more effective measures. Clearing of dead trees is simply not enough.

“The climatic conditions in Dobrudzha are very harsh. In previous years there were severe droughts, which negatively affected the forest belts. While sampling, we found two types of bark beetles and other pests that damage the conductive tissue of the plants after which they weaken and die out quickly”, explained Prof. Georgiev from the Forest Research Institute. He stated that in two weeks the results from the last samples will be ready and then the scientists will finally announce all the pathogens and pests that are destroying some of the most important field protection structures in the Northeast. Some of the samples will be sent to laboratories abroad for analysis to check the hypothesis that extremely aggressive invasive pathogens have attacked ash trees in this part of the country.

After the final announcement of the results, BAS scientists will categorise the belts according to their conditions. The most severely affected ones should be felled because their damage is irreversible. After the affected areas have been cleared, they will be reforested with species that are adapted to the conditions in Dobrudzha – red oak, Turkey oak and downy oak, while silver lime and sycamore can be used as companion species. According to Prof. Georgi Georgiev, foresters have encountered drought periods before, which have led to significant damage in sessile oak, black pine, Turkey oak, etc. Thanks to the measures implemented, the forestry community has always dealt with the problems successfully. Now, it is necessary to start containing the damage and restoring the affected belts as soon as possible.

It is expected that this month Prof. Georgi Georgiev will brief the management body of the Executive Forest Agency on the results of the surveyed belts and suggest measures to be taken so that the foresters from the enterprises in Balchik, General Toshevo and Dobrich can restore the affected areas.

Part of the belts will be restored with funds from the “Life for Eagles’ habitats” and the “Forests of the North-East” projects. Both projects are LIFE co-funded.