HNV Farming & Biodiversity

Bessaparski Hills (Bulgaria)

Bessaparski Hills

Natura site name: Bessaparski Hills
Natura Code: BG 057

Characterisation: A chain of karst hills situated in the northern fringes of Western Rodopi Mts. surrounded by extensive and semi-intensive arable land and forested mountains. The extensive grazing on the hills’ low productive pastures as well as on abandoned former arable lands creates rich plant diversity and a good feeding base for birds of prey.

Text: Y. Kazakova & V. Stafanova
© Photos: G. Popgeorgiev

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Area’s rich pastures

Area’s rich pastures

These are the area’s rich pastures used by sheep and/or cattle in the period December-June.

Pastures in the area

Pastures in the area

The dominating pastures in the area are of very low productivity but are still very important for livestock farmers. They are used for sheep grazing only in the period January to 15 May.

Old extensive vineyards and orchards

Old extensive vineyards and orchards

Many of the old extensive vineyards and orchards are being abandoned. A habitat of a local endemic species Gypsophila tekire which is only found on the territories of 3 villages – Ognyanovo, Sinitovo and Tri Vodici.

Arable fields in the plain areas

Old extensive vineyards and orchards

The arable fields in the plain areas are either used by smallholdings in a mosaic of vegetable gardens and orchards or in larger, semi-intensive crop production of cereals (oats, wheat, etc) for animal feed.

Decrease in livestock numbers

During the last 5 years, the area of grassland in the region decreased by 12%. This was mainly due to a decrease in livestock numbers and the loss of pastures. They were mainly converted to arable fields.

Reorganization of agricultural lands

Conversion of pastures into arable

The reorganization of agricultural lands are a threat to the existing land-use systems. The recovery of former land ownerships facilitate changes in land-use, like conversion into arable crops or intensification.

Dry grasslands

Eastern sub-mediterranean dry grasslands

The hills territory is dominated by Eastern sub-mediterranean dry grasslands (62AO) which is the most important habitat of rare, endemic and protected species. It is characterized by bare and eroded slopes. Therefore, most of this land is ineligible for agricultural support.

Semi-natural dry grasslands

Semi-natural dry grasslands

Semi-natural dry grasslands (6210) are situated at the bottom of hills where eroded soils can accumulate. Many of them were used as arable land or for intensive pasture in the past but now this is no longer happening.

Pseudo-steppe habitats

Pseudo-steppe habitats (*6220) mainly occur in the south-eastern part of the area, in the bottom of the hills. The habitat occurs if there is enough grazing that eliminates the competition (invasion) of the multiannual cereal grasses and enables the growing of Mediterranean therophites including Brachypodion distachyon or Fylago vulgaris.

Juniperus oxycedrus

Juniperus oxycedrus

Juniperus oxycedrus is mostly found as single shrubs throughout the hills. They make a good habitat for species such as Horned viper (Vipera ammodytes). More densely covered areas of Arborescent matorral with Juniperus spp. (5210) are located in the southern slopes of Kapitan Dimitrievo hills.

Himantoglossum caprinum

Himantoglossum caprinum

Important area for orchid species of global and European conservation importance such as Himantoglossum caprinum. It needs open grasslands with sparse bushes or trees usually maintained by extensive grazing or mowing.

Merendera attica

Merendera attica

Another priority conservation species is Merendera attica which needs open grasslands maintained by extensive grazing only.

Crocus olivieri

Crocus olivieri

Crocus olivieri – a priority species for conservation dependent on extensive grazing to maintain an open habitat.

Aquila heliaca

Aquila heliaca

A global conservation site for Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) and other species of birds of prey. They nest mostly in the forests but are attracted by the rich feeding base provided by grasslands.

Spermophillus citellus

Spermophillus citellus

The European ground squirrel (Spermophillus citellus) which is classified as “vulnerable” (IUCN Red List) is found in three main habitats in the area: pastures, former arable lands now used for grazing and extensive vineyards.

Podarcis tauricus

Podarcis tauricus

The open rocky grasslands are also home to specific reptiles such as Crimean wall lizard (Podarcis tauricus). They are mostly found near areas with shrubs where they can hide and lay their eggs.

Elaphe sauromates

Elaphe sauromates

The open rocky grasslands are also home to specific reptiles such as Four-lined snake (Elaphe sauromates). They are mostly found near areas with shrubs where they can hide and lay their eggs.


European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism
Online: http://www.hnv-farming.eu/panorama/bessaparski-hills/
Date: 2017/07/24
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