Protected area "Strandzha"
The site covers parts of the Strandzha mountain massif, located in the most south-eastern end of Bulgaria. To the south and south-west, it follows the state border with Turkey and to the east the Black Sea coast between Tsarevo and Rezovo. To the north the area follows the Bosna ridge, which is the main watershed between the Veleka and the rivers Ropotamo, Fakiiska, Izvorska, Djavolska and Karaagach. The main river flowing through the area is the Veleka and its tributaries. The border river Rezovska passes through a smaller part of the territory. The Veleka river valley is surrounded by low mountain hills, covered mainly by old forests.
The region is sparsely populated and comparatively weakly influenced by human presence. The Strandzha is characterized with great diversity of habitats, the dominating one being the broadleaved deciduous forest with undergrowth of evergreen shrubs and Mediterranean species.The higher parts are covered with oak forests Quercus polycarpa, Q. frainetto, Q. cerris, at placesmixed with Oriental Beech and other tree species. The natural forests of Fagus orientalis withrich undergrowth of evergreen shrubs occupy the ravines and the slope declinations. The undergrowth of the oak and beech forests include some Tertiary relict species, likeRhododendron ponticum, Vaccinium arctostaphylos, Daphne pontica, Mespilus germanica, etc.
The open terrain is covered by mesothermal grasslands, pastures, forest meadows and clearings, mixed with steppe plant associations of Lolium perenne, Cynоsurus cristatus, Poa sylvicola, withconsiderable participation of annual bean and cereal grasses of Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean type. The abandoned arable land covers big part of the open terrain. The river valleys are overgrownwith riverine shrubs and woodlands composed mainly of Salix alba, S. triandra and Alnusglutinosa and periodically flooded sections with hygrophyte and hydrophyte vegetation.
The riverine forests of longoze type, dominated by Fraxinus oxycarpa, are quite typical for themouths of the Veleka and the Rezovska rivers. The relative share of the coastal cliffs and sandbeaches with psamophyte vegetation, as well as that of the farmlands, is comparatively small.
The birds in the protected area
The territory of Strandzha supports 260 bird species, 108 of which are listed in the Red DataBook of Bulgaria. The area provides suitable habitats for 96 species, included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act, which need special conservation measures. They are listed also in Annex I ofthe Birds Directive.
The SPA Strandzha is identified as one of most important sites in the country on a European Union scale for the breeding of Lesser Spotted Eagle. The results of the survey of breeding statusof LSE in the period 2013–2017 (according LIFE12 NAT/BG/001218 project) shows that Strandzha hold appr. 12-15 breeding pairs of the species. The Strandzha SPA is also one of themost valuable sites in the country on a European and European Union scale for the Lesser Spotted Eagle as a ‘bottleneck’ site where over 6000 individuals regularly pass on migration.
The Strandzha is also one of the most important sites in Bulgaria on a European Union scale for a complex of other 14 threatened species Black Stork, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Woodlark, Olive-tree Warbler, Ortolan Bunting, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Kingfisher, Spotted Crake and for the Mediterranean Shearwater.
On migration four globally threatened species occur in the region – Dalmatian Pelican, Ferruginous Duck, Corncrake and Aquatic Warbler. The lower stream of the Veleka is a bottleneck migration site for the soaring birds. Almost all the flyway population of storks and raptors on the coastal Via Pontica migration route passes the Strandzha Mountain, where raptors often overnight.
Threats to the protected area
The area is sensitive to forest management, as well as general development of the area. The intensive forestry activities in the vicinity of the raptors and black stork nests during the breeding season cause disturbance andbreeding failure. Illegal cutting as well as afforestation with non-indigenous species decrease the quality of forest habitats.
Loss of habitats
Coastal areas are subject to intensive urbanization causes deterioration and loss of coastal habitats. A decrease in grazing following by succession of forests causes loss of grassland habitats for birds. A potential threat to the area is the reconstruction of pastures toarable lands.
The dry grasslands are particularly vulnerable to both natural and artificial fires.