2020 May 09 - The additional 70 hectares of old-growth are the property of the Sevlievo municipality, located in the central part of the country on the northern slope of Balkan Mountain. Sevlievo Municipality is now the second municipality in Bulgaria to take explicit measures for old-growth forest protection. This new success is thanks to two-years of scientific study by WWF-Bulgaria, as well as the good will of the municipal administration to ensure protection of their most valuable forests. Less than 320,000 ha of old-growth forests are now thought to remain in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).
The new area includes 150-year-old beech trees as well as hornbeam, sessile oak and small-leaved linden. Some individual beech trees have a trunk diameter of over 90 cm and are approximately 200 years-old. These forests have a large stock of deadwood, which is a prerequisite for maintaining a high degree of biodiversity. These particular forests are also very important for their watershed function, drought and climate mitigation.
Mapping of municipal old-growth forests
Thirteen percent of Bulgarian forests (523 thousand ha) are managed by municipalities, but only 9% of the municipal forests are over 100 years old. These forests are mainly concentrated in water supply areas and in steep terrain. WWF-Bulgaria began in-depth identification and mapping of old-growth forests in 2018. So far, 38 municipalities have been surveyed, on which 4,600 ha of old-growth forests have been identified; mostly in mountainous areas in Stara Planina, Rila and some parts of the Rhodopes. The research is ongoing in other regions of Bulgaria.
"WWF provided the results of the survey to the municipalities and invited them to take concrete action to protect these forests, which are most valuable for nature and people. The first to respond were the municipalities of Botevgrad (100 hectares), and Sevlievo (70 hectares). We hope that other municipalities will soon follow this example. In this way, they would meet the expectations and needs of society for nature protection and saving the invaluable ecosystem services old-growth forests provide," commented Neli Doncheva, Chief Forest Expert, WWF-Bulgaria.
In addition to being home to amazing biodiversity, old-growth forests protect water, prevent erosion and flooding, purify the air and enrich soils. Furthermore, their broad array of ecosystem services makes them of great importance to humans - especially for maintaining the environment in the face of climate change. However, in order to continue to provide these vital services, urgent measures need to be taken to protect the forests.
Which forests are old-growth?
Old-growth forests are some of the last corners of wilderness untouched by human impact. They still preserve examples of biodiversity typical of the virgin forests that once existed throughout Bulgaria. European trees only reach their peak age and size in protected old-growth forests; often between 300 and 400 years-old, and over 40-50 m in height and 1-2 m in thickness. Today, the old-growth forests in Bulgaria are concentrated mainly in places where access is still limited due to lack of roads or steep terrain.
A new forest vision
Coordinated regional action defined by trans-border cooperation is a central component for effective conservation work. WWF-CEE calls on the European Commission, in consultation with Member States, Western Balkan and European Neighbourhood countries, to develop an ambitious forest ecosystem restoration plan by 2021, and to allocate adequate resources for its complete implementation by 2030. Efforts should aim to enhance forest resilience to climate change; a move which would also represent an integral element in boosting the EU’s efforts to achieve its climate ambitions. Simultaneously, actions should also be taken to restore the EU´s priority forest habitats and increase the capacity of forests to sequester and store carbon. This can be achieved by promoting the natural regeneration of forests involving a diversity of native European tree species best adapted to the current and future climate of the region. Therefore, we call for the protection of the remaining 320,000 ha of old-growth forest in the region by 2022. We also call for the implementation of responsible forest management practices according to the FSC© standard on at least 12 million ha of forests in the CEE Region by 2025.
For more information:
Chief Forest Expert,
Tel: +359885 510 014
Bulgarian old-growth forest public GIS platform
70 more Hectares of Old-growth Forests have Received Protection in Bulgaria
This success is thanks to WWF-Bulgaria’s field research identifying and mapping municipal-owned old-growth forests
We call for the protection of the remaining 320,000 ha of old-growth forest in the region by 2022
These forests have a large stock of deadwood, which is a prerequisite for maintaining a high degree of biodiversity.