|Ploughing of grasslands in Bulgaria
Bulgaria became a member of the EU in 2007 and immediately afterwards a wide-scale destruction of grasslands took place. The implemented Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) with its Single Farm Payments (SFP) led to ploughing of grasslands even in protected Natura 2000 sites. The problem of extensive ploughing of natural habitats has become wide spread in protected grassland habitats, particularly in low altitude areas. Due to the lack of coordination, effective legislation and control, the national authorities have not been able to stop the destruction of habitats of globally threatened species such as Imperial eagle, Saker and European souslik.
The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB/BirdLife in Bulgaria) initiated an investigation of land use change in the Natura 2000 site “Bessaparski hills” (Special Protection Area, SPA, under the EU Birds Directive, BG 0002057, and pSCI under EU Habitats Directive BG0000254).
The investigation is part of the activities under the project „Save the raptors” LIFE07 NAT/BG/000068 financed by LIFE + of the EU and the project „Protection of globally important biodiversity in high nature value grasslands through support for the local traditional economy“, financed by GEF through UNDP.
The reduction of grassland between 2007 and 2011 was analysed as well as the effects on the species for which the SPA was deisgnated –Long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus) and Imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca).The results show that in a period of 4 years the grasslands in the SPA have been reduced by nearly 10% (based on the total territory of the site) or 19% (based on the area of open habitats of the site). Corresponding to this issue is an increase of arable land of nearly 10%. The loss of grasslands is one of the main reasons for the decrease of the European souslik (Spermophilus citellus) in the area. 56% of the area of investigated transect lanes have been found destroyed through ploughing of the grasslands. (Коshev, 2011). Other species that are directly affected by the grasslands reduction are birds of prey. The investigation shows that the number of Long-legged buzzards decreased from 16 pairs in 2007 to 7 pairs in 2011. (Demerdzhiev, 2011). The reduction of grasslands and the loss of feeding habitats are the main reasons for the decrease of the Long-legged Buzzard in the zone.
BSPB has alerted the Regional Inspectorates of Environment and Waters, Ministry of Environment and Waters and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in Bulgaria numerous times about the alarming destruction of pastures. The BSPB has also recently informed the European Commission about the problem.
Koshev, Y. (2011): Research on the distribution, density and numbers of the European souslik (Spermophilus citellusL.) in the IBA Ponor and IBA Besaparski hills in the period 2008-2011. Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds. Report for the project Protection of globally important biodiversity in high nature value grasslands through support for the local traditional economy“, financed by GEF through UNDP. 33 p.
Demerdzhiev, D. (2011): Status of the ornithofauna in SPA Besaparski hills (BG 0002057), Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds. Report for the project Protection of globally important biodiversity in high nature value grasslands through support for the local traditional economy“, financed by GEF through UNDP. 58 p.
BSPB, Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife partner in Bulgaria)
Stoycho Stoychev, Stoycho.Stoychev(at)bspb.org