SPA Byala Reka
Byala Reka Special Protection Area (BG0002019)
Photo: Volen Arkumarev
Byala Reka Special Protection Area (SPA) is located in southern Bulgaria, next to the national border with Greece. It covers the catchment area of the Byala River in the furthermost south-eastern part of the Eastern Rhodope Mountains, alongside with its surrounding hills.
Landscape and biodiversity
The region is characterized by sporadically occurring individual cliffs. Around the villages there are small plots of arable land. The strong influence of the Mediterranean climate in the area dictates high flora diversity, with a wide distribution of mixed oak forests and bush. Due to the thin human presence in this border region there still remain forests of Fagus moesiaca and Quercus petraea. The fauna is represented by over a hundred species of butterflies, Rhodopean loach, snake-eyed lizard, true and marsh tortoises, olive-tree warbler, subalpine warbler, nightjar, masked shrike, Levant sparrowhawk, wolf, roe deer, bat species et al.
The area boasts with 167 species of birds; 33 of them are included in the Bulgarian Red List, and 67 have conservation significance on a European level.
Byala Reka is globally significant as a representative area of the Mediterranean biome. It contains important feeding and resting sites for two globally threatened species: the cinereous and the Egyptian vultures.
The main sources of living in the area are the extensive traditional animal husbandry, agriculture and forestry.
As many depopulated regions in the country the area shows a decline in the numbers of livestock which in turn diminishes the natural food sources for the vultures. Other threats include poaching, fires, unprotected electric poles, investment plans (wind generators, solar parks, small water plants); these activities lead to loss of biodiversity.
About 4% of the Byala Reka SPA is protected by law under the national conservation legislation. “Byala Reka Meanders” is a protected site aimed at the conservation of threatened bird species, including the Egyptian vulture and the golden eagle, as well as that of riverbank habitats. In 1997 the area is declared Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.