Nikopolsko Plato SPA

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Description

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The Nikopolsko Plateau is located in northern Bulgaria, in the Danube plain south of the town of Nikopol, to which it borders on the north. It also borders to the north on the Danube, and to the Osam River to the west and south. It’s eastern border, on the Svishtov-Belene lowland, is limited by the villages of Dragash Voyvoda, Byala Voda and Dekov. Nikopolsko Plateau has a karst nature. A ridge with numerous rocky outcrops exists above the Osam River. On the east, the plateau descends gradually toward the lowland. The Svishtov - Nikopol road cuts across the plateau. Most of it is occupied by farmland, xerothermal (with Dichantium ischaemum, Poa bulbosa, Chrysopogon grillus and Stipa tirsa) and mesoxerothermal (Poa bulbosa, Lolium perenne, Cynodon dactylon, etc.) grass associations in the ravines, overgrown in places by Carpinus orientalis dominated patches of shrubs. A big portion of this area is occupied by various and predominantly mixed broadleaved forests of Quercus pubescens with Cotynus coggygria undergrowth, but also there are single patches of mixed forests of Tilia tomentosa, Q. cerris and Acer campeste. Some still intact riparian forests Salix alba exist along the Osam River. Hybrid poplar plantations are predominant along the river. The western part of the plateau, around the Osam river, includes some flooded areas, remnants of former river beds, wet meadows, and open rocky terrain .

The Nikopolsko Plateau is home to 15 rare and endemic plant species mainly of steppe origins. It is, also, home to one of the most numerous Souslik Spermophilus citellus colonies in Northern Bulgaria.
 

Birds in the protected area

The Nikopolsko Plateau supports 92 breeding bird species, 43 of which are of European conservation concern (SPEC) (BirdLife International, 2004), with 2 of them having been listed in the SPEC 1 category as globally threatened, 11 in the SPEC 2 category, and 30 in the SPEC 3 category as species threatened in Europe. The area provides suitable habitats for 25 species from Annex I of the Birds Directive.

The Nikopolsko Plateau SPA is a former breeding site of the Saker Falcon Falco cherrug, nowadays the species is recorded in the area during migration and wintering.

The site one of the most important in Bulgaria and in the EU for the Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, the European Roller Coracias garrulus, the Short-Toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus and the Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris. It is of European importance for the European Bee-Eater Merops apiaster, which breeds there in significant numbers. Also, the Nikopolsko Plateau is home to representative breeding populations of a mix of threatened species as Black Stork Ciconia nigra, Long-Legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus, Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor and Red- Backed Shrike Lanius collurio.

A special migration survey carried out in Autumn 2009 in the northern part of the SPA, near the Vubel village, has registered the area as a quite intensive migration, although not a bottle-neck, site. At this site alone, 1,148 soaring birds (storks, pelicans and raptors) have been recorded - mainly raptors, but also 400 white storks. Lesser-Spotted eagles and Red-Footed Falcons have also been recorded as migrating through this area. Young Imperial Eagles from the Sakar SPA population in Southern Bulgaria have been confirmed by satellite tracking as visiting this area during their dispersal period.

Threats to the protected area

  • Habitat deterioration
    The pasture lands further away from the settlements are not used to a full extent because of the smaller number of animals today compared with the past. Reduced grazing, followed by succession, has caused loss of grassland habitats for birds.
  • Human activities
    The Nikopolsko Plateau is surrounded by settlements, a relatively well-developed infrastructure and lands on which various land uses are practiced. The entire area is easily accessible for people and is sensitive to human activities. The forest habitats are highly affected by intensive forestry, deliberate forest fires and afforestation with non-indigenous species. Other activities leading to deterioration of valuable bird habitats are mainly illegal stone quarry extensions, and inadequate waste management
  • Poaching
    There are evidences of taking chicks and eggs from the nests, shooting of raptors and owls in the area.