Svishtovsko-Belenska Nizina SPA

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Description

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The SPA is located in northern Bulgaria, south of the Danube and the Belene Island group, between the towns of Belene and Svishtov. To the north, it borders on the Danube, to the south - on the Svishtov - Belene road and railway, to the east - on the industrial zone of Svishtov, and to the west its boundary lies north-west of the village of Dekov. This is a huge Danubian lowland, periodically flooded by the Danube in the past to form a natural complex of wetlands rich in flora and fauna. The area has been converted to farmland with semi-natural grass vegetation, shrubs and isolated groups of trees and windbreak strips of trees, intersected a network of drainage canals. The Kaykusha marsh occupies the southwestern part of this SPA (source: Important Bird Areas and Natura 2000 in Bulgaria, Kostadinova and Gramatikov, 2007).

Although 68% of the area of SPA is in Persina Nature Park, nature conservation and research are the main land uses only in the protected areas, or in 4% of the SPA. The main land use is agriculture. Hunting is allowed over the entire SPA area.

Birds in the protected area

The Svishtovsko-Belenska Nizina SPA supports 32 bird species, 16 of which are of European conservation concern (SPEC) (Birds in Europe and their conservation status, BirdLife International, 2004), 2 of them are listed in the SPEC 1 category as globally threatened, 4 other in the SPEC 2 category, and 10 in the SPEC 3 category as species threatened in Europe. The SPA provides suitable habitats for 10 species included in Annex I of the Birds Directive and needing special conservation measures.

The Svishtovsko-Belenska Nizina 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 SPA is an important intermediate station point for flocks of geese, mostly White-Fronted Geese Anser albifrons and Red-Breasted Geese Branta ruficollis, on their way to their permanent wintering grounds. The birds stay in the region for about a month, feeding mainly in the agricultural lands. The large-scale national surveys on wintering geese carried out in 2011 and 2012 have confirmed the high importance of the SPA for geese during the winter, having recorded more than 70,000 White-Fronted Geese and 800 Red-Breasted Geese foraging there. This has confirmed the Svishtovsko-Belenska Nizina SPA is one of the most important foraging areas for geese along the Bulgarian part of the Danube.

Threats to the protected area

  • Human activities
    The wetlands are sensitive to human activities related to water management. The water regime of the flooded forest is destroyed and that is considered as a main threat to its normal functioning as an ecosystem. Intensive development of tourism, settlements enlargement cause fragmentation, deterioration and loss of habitats mainly in the coastal zone, but also in the grasslands.
  • Wind turbine Farms
    The region is sensitive to plans of wind turbine farms development. This could disturb the free movement and access of birds to suitable habitats.
  • Fires and afforestation
    Forests are threatened by intensive forestry activities, burning and natural fires, affecting the quality and composition of LSE breeding habitats and cause disturbance to breeding birds. The grasslands are vulnerable to abandonment and conversion to arable lands and afforestation.