About the Habitat
This habitat encompasses a range of dry loving, perennial communities, made up predominantly of grasses from the Poaceae family – yellow bluestem, Chrysopogon gryllus, Poa bulbosa. It also includes legume grasses and small shrubs and a great diversity of species from other botanical families – species of Teucrium, Ranunculus, Polygala, Galium, Eryngium, Euphorbia also thyme, oregano, etc. Unlike in the meadows, the grass vegetation here may not be as dense and the coverage is usually less than 100%.
This habitat can be found on shallow and dry, rocky soils, mainly with a southern exposure and on slopes with different inclination. The soil forming rocks can be silicate and not just limestone. Unlike in the lowland hay meadows, the soil moisture level here depends solely on rainfall, because there is no groundwater, close to the surface.
There are shrubs and single trees, up to 25% of which are remainders of the primary woodland vegetation. They offer domestic animals shade and protection from the wind, as well as provide sanctuary for a great number of small mammals, insects, reptiles and birds, typically found in the habitat. The characteristic species are ground squirrel, marbled polecat, Hermann’s tortoise, blotched snake, Old World swallowtail butterfly, scarce swallowtail butterfly, etc. Habitat 6210 gives a home or food source to the calandra lark, the corn bunting, the lesser spotted eagle, the long-legged buzzard, the short-toed snake eagle, etc. A great number of bats also hunt above the dry pastures. Many of the wild animals in the pastures are rare, endangered, and protected on a national and international level.
The wetter parts of habitat 6210, the so called “meadow steppes” are distinguished by their wealth of orchids like different types of Orchis, Himantoglossum, etc. According to the Habitat Directive, this habitat subtype is of conservational priority in the whole European Union.
From an economic perspective, the semi-natural dry grass and shrub communities are pastures for domestic animals. The wetter areas, where grasses with a preference for higher humidity predominate, are also used as meadows. They are used both as pastures and for haymaking.
The habitat is widely distributed throughout the country from the planes to the lower parts of the mountains up to 1200-1300 m a.s.l. It is more common in areas with a Mediterranean climatic influence in the southern parts of the country.
The overall conservation status of the Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies in Europe is unfavourable. This is why the habitat is protected by its inclusion in Annex I of the Habitat Directive and in the Bern Convention. In Bulgaria, the habitat is protected by the Biological Diversity Act. Habitat 6210 is also included in the Red Data Book of the Republic of Bulgaria under the “Nearly threatened” category.
The conservation status of the habitat is unfavourable-unsatisfactory on a national level. The overall evaluation of its condition in the Natura 2000 site “Central Balkan – buffer” is unfavourable-bad.
The condition of the pastures depends on human activity. In the past, the Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies (6210) were widely distributed throughout Europe. Now they are rare and threatened. In the last decades they were pushed out into isolated, smaller areas. The overall area of the pastures in the EU shrunk by over 12% between 1975 and 1998. For example, in Dorset, United Kingdom it has been determined that the territory of dry grasslands on limestone has been reduced by over 50% between the mid 50s and the 90s of the XX century. The data for Austria, Denmark and Belgium is similar.
The pressure on grassland habitats is ongoing and increases continuously, mainly due to overgrowth due to abandonment, excessive grazing or other changes in the land use. Within the borders of the EU, the remaining territories of dry grasslands are very fragmented. The natural development of the vegetation in many areas will lead to habitat 6210 becoming almost extinct.
The project is being executed in habitat 6210 in the Natura 2000 site “Central Balkan – buffer”, in the area of Karlovo and Sopot municipalities. It is to assist the maintenance and conservation of the habitat and reduce the following threats:
- Introduction of plant IAS, such as black locust and desert false indigo
- Overgrazing by domestic animals
- Spread of weeds, and species, which prefer nitrogen rich soils (field eryngo, Cirsium, Scotch thistle, wild carrot, mullein, nettle)
- A lack of conservation and maintenance knowledge and experience of the owners and users of the land
People can improve the condition of the pastures through the way they use them. This is why we are testing and demonstrating the following conservation and maintenance measures as part of the project:
- Regulation of grazing
- Clearing of invasive alien trees and shrubs
- Combating of weeds
- Sowing of meadow grass species
- Clearing of rocks
- Landscape feature maintenance
- Improving the conservation knowledge and skills of land owners
Monitoring is being executed as part of the project
The features under observation are: a change in the plant species, plant biomass quantity, the ratio between grass and legume species and species of other botanical families; the presence, entry and spread of tree and shrub IAS and weed species; how grazing is affecting the habitat.
The effect of activities for the improvement of the conservation status of the habitat and their influence on the wellbeing of people and nature is being observed.
We assess the effect of the project on the enrichment of stakeholders’ knowledge and the change of their attitudes and behaviours toward IAS.