Wilderness found in Cervenata stena: the land of caves

In autumn 2019, European Wilderness Society auditors travelled to Bulgaria to seek new potential Wilderness. One treasure found was Cervenata Stena Strict Reserve. The Chervenata Stena (Red Wall) Strict Nature Reserve is a unique piece of nature, established as Strict Reserve in 1962 and is part of the Chervenata Stena Biosphere Reserve since 2017. The area is located in the Rhodope Mountains, about 30 km south of Plovdiv. 

Local experts guided the auditors, who learned a lot about the history and current challenges of this area. They also met representatives of the Regional Inspectorate of Plovdiv to discuss the possibility and interest to join the European Wilderness Network.

A mosaic of habitats

Cervenata Stena Strict Reserve is located in two biogeographical regions: the Rila-Rhodopes and the Central Bulgarian region. The territorial location of the park in two biogeographical regions and the diversity of relief, climatic and soil characteristics enable a wide variety of ecosystems and a mosaic of diverse habitats. The mountain biogeographical region is the only location in Bulgaria, where ice-age relics of animals and plants are still present. The Strict Reserve shows uniquely rich biodiversity. Rare birds like rock thrush, golden eagle and peregrine falcon may be found. Moreover, the area is home to a wide variety butterflies and mammals, together with many more protected, endemic and relict plant species.

Various mammal species are enlisted in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria as vulnerable or endangered. Examples include the marbled polecat, otter, European ground squirrel, wolf, brown bear, chamois, pine marten and wild cat.

A Wilderness of diverse reliefs

Big difference in altitude makes parts of this potential Wilderness difficult to access. Steep and rocky slopes, deep valleys, hillsides, riparian habitats, waterfalls are characteristic for this Wilderness. Moreover, the abundance of caves in the region (one of the richest cave regions in Bulgaria) make room for continuous natural development.

Cervanata Stena Strict Reserve became a candidate in the European Wilderness Network. This rich Wilderness is a great example of pure, natural processes where man keeps hands off. The 1 200 ha Chervenata Stena Wilderness meets the European Wilderness Quality Standard. It will be subject to a full-audit in the following year.

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