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Potential Wilderness in Vitosha Nature Park

Recently, auditors of the European Wilderness Society set out on a trip in Bulgaria to visit existing members of the European Wilderness Network. Paralelly, the aim was to explore the diverse Bulgarian landscape and search for new potential Wilderness.

The Bulgarian Vitosha Nature Park in the direct vicinity of Sofia is the home to unique Wilderness, including two potential new members in the European Wilderness Network. This park is the oldest nature park in the whole Balkan Peninsula. Moreover, it is the only area in Europe that provides refuge to large carnivores such as brown bear so close to the capital.

Rich biodiversity

Vitosha’s flora includes a lot of Balkan endemic species in all vegetation zones characteristic of the Bulgarian mountains. It hosts 2000 varieties of plant species, including several glacial relicts. The 26 606 hectare area is home of a big selection of mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians. It encompasses two strict reserves “Bistrishko Branishte” and “Torfeno Branishte”. Due to its accessibility, Vitosha Nature Park is very popular among citizens coming from Sofia, who mostly explore the Northern part of the Nature Park. To limit human impact, the two reserves strictly protected by law preserved in their original state vast coniferous forests and alpine grass vegetation. Moreover, a central part of the park’s area encompasses the most considerable for Bulgaria complex of alpine peat.

Torfeno Branishte Strict Reserve is the largest high-mountain peat complex in Bulgaria with hundreds of moss and algae species. The turf surface is up to 2 m thick, increasing annually by approx. 1 mm. Over 50% of the territory of Bistrishko Branishte Strict Reserve is covered by predominantly 100 to 120 years old spruce forest. The rest constitutes of meadows, rock formations and several unique stone rivers in the sub-alpine zone.

New candidates on board

The two reserves Bistrishko Branishte and Torfeno Branishte were subjects to a quick-audit in October. Auditors were accompanied by experts of the Nature Park. They explained the history, floristic and faunistic values, tourism pressure and current challenges of the two reserves. Auditors were able to witness how natural processes formed these areas, including windthrows, bark beetle outbreaks and wildfires. Due to their unique Wilderness, Bistrishko Branishte Wilderness and Torfeno Branishte Wilderness became new candidates of the European Wilderness Network. The full-audit will be conducted in the following year.

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