(Version date: 19/09/02)

Information sources  

"Bulgaria has a relatively low number and small area of natural wetlands. Nevertheless, due to its key biogeographical position on the Balkan peninsula, in Europe and the Western Palearctic, it is characterized with an especially rich biodiversity. A significant part of it is concentrated in wetlands." (Michev & Stoyneva 1999).

Note: persons listed are persons who supplied information.

·         Dr. Tanyo Michev, Conservation Director of the Foundation “Le Balkan” and Associated Professor at the Central Laboratory for General Ecology

  • Hughes JMR 1995. The current status of European wetland inventories and classifications. In: Vegetatio 118: 17-28, Kluwer Academic Publishers
  • IWRB National Reports 1993-1995
  • Johnson BR, Duncan A & Oldenkamp L 1998. Managing Nature in the CEEC – Strategies for Developing and Supporting Nature Conservation Management in the Central and Eastern European Countries. Country Reports. Vol. 2. Eurosite, Wimereux/ Tilburg/ Peterborough. 261 pp.
  • Bulgarian Ramsar National Report 1998

Status of wetland inventories (summary)

An ongoing national wetland inventory

In 2001 the project "Inventory of Bulgarian wetlands" was approved for the Small Grant Fund (SGF) of the Ramsar Convention (and taken over for direct funding by DGIS/Wetlands International, with assistance in financing the publication of the results from Pensoft Publishers). The purpose of the project is to develop the first inventory of Bulgarian wetlands, principally by collecting data about biotic and abiotic characteristics, functions, threats and positive actions related to the use of the wetlands; designing and developing a wetlands database (using a standardised format similar to the Ramsar Information Sheet and MedWet database); publishing the results of the completed inventory; identifying the most problematic wetlands, including the shared catchments of the important rivers of the Balkan Peninsula and Europe; and identifying those wetlands that meet Ramsar criteria and considering adding them to the List of Wetlands of International Importance. The Foundation "Le Balkan-Bulgaria" is responsible for executing the work under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment and Waters. (See Ramsar Convention website on: http://ramsar.org/key_sgf01.htm; date of access=12/07/2002).

In July 2002 the project was very well advanced. Some 8,100 sites of all wetland types except running waters were identified through remote-sensing (LANDSAT imagery) and collation of some 700 publications and 50 maps. A very user-friendly database was developed, based on the MedWet one (MWD2000), and was in the process of being populated. The plan is to finalise the project in the beginning of 2003. (Michev, unpublished).

A preliminary list of important wetlands

In 1993 a National Action Plan for the Conservation of the Most Important Wetlands in Bulgaria was published (Ministry of Environment 1995), and included a list of 11 wetlands with several categories of importance: global (3 sites), European (4 sites) and national importance (4 sites). This Plan did play a very important role for the conservation of Bulgarian wetlands in past years, but quite a number of important wetlands were omitted, notably inland wetlands, and some small but important wetlands on the Black Sea coast and the Bulgarian Danube bank.

The need for a new, more comprehensive and scientific inventory of all (semi-)natural Bulgarian wetlands is obvious, all the more since land tenure changes are now common in Bulgaria. In particular, many wetlands are about to become private properties, which could lead to the destruction or at least significant changes in the ecological character of these sites. (Primary source: Dr. Tanyo Michev, pers. comm.).

Recent sources of information on Bulgarian wetlands

Wetlands important for birds

In 2000 “Le Balkan” prepared a table listing natural wetlands of Bulgaria where counts were made, with comments on their current status (Michev, in prep.). This table was based on data from Bonchev (1929), Ivanov et al. (1964) and Michev (1995), as well as on field data. The plan was to publish this list at the end of 2000 in the book Mid-winter Numbers of Waterbirds in Bulgaria (1977-1996). Location of the wetlands included in this list is given on a map with UTM grid. For each wetland site, brief information is given on its current status and its area. The list includes as well wetland sites that have been drained since 1929, and it can thus be useful for assessing wetland loss. This list is updating the best estimate from the Ministry of Environment (1995). Michev estimates natural wetlands to cover 17,245 ha in Bulgaria, while the Ministry of Environment (1995) estimated them to cover 11,000 ha.

Heath & Evans (2000) includes all known wetlands that are important for birds (using BirdLife criteria), including some manmade wetland sites like reservoirs or fishponds. "The majority of forest sites (36% of IBAs) comprise […] alluvial/very wet forests along the River Danube and Black Sea coast. Most IBAs contain some wetland, and at 34% of sites such habitat covers more than half of the site’s area. In the main, wetland IBAs comprise standing fresh or brackish water (lakes, reservoirs and fish-ponds), often with reedbeds Phragmites, and rivers with water-fringe vegetation." (Heath & Evans 2000).

Important wetlands of the Black Sea coastal region

The Directory of Azov-Black Sea Coastal Wetlands (Marushevsky 2002) builds upon Wilson & Moser (1994). For Bulgaria a detailed description is given of 10 wetland sites. (For more information see: http://www.ramsar.org/w.n.wi_blacksea_books.htm; date of access=16/07/2002).

Some outdated detailed inventories

In 1929 and 1964 two comprehensive wetland inventories were prepared, by Bonchev and Ivanov et al., respectively. These are outdated, but they do provide very valuable baseline information on wetland sites in the country. (Dr. Tanyo Michev, pers. comm.).

Wetland coverage*

Area of national territory: 11,055,000 ha (excluding marine areas)

Best estimate of wetland coverage: 237,245 ha

Ramsar Site area: 2,803 ha (site area, not necessarily wetland area) (date of data extraction 20/09/2001)

The best estimate is made from two references (Wilson & Moser 1994, and Michev, in prep.): 17,245 ha for 'natural wetlands' and 220,000 ha for manmade wetlands. The estimate is deemed reliable, but Le  Balkan stresses the need to update these data by undertaking a new and comprehensive wetland inventory.

Wetland loss

"The total area of natural wetlands (lakes and marshes) in Bulgaria today amounts to nearly 11,000 ha, mostly along the Danube and the Black Sea Coast, as opposed to 200,000 ha at the beginning of the 20th century. [This means that at least 189,000 ha of wetlands have been lost.]

This tenfold reduction came about through a short-sighted domestic policy between 1944 and 1989 which resulted in the drainage of large wet areas along the Danube and Black Sea Coast

in the interior of the country to support agricultural development [and as a result of touristic and industrial development (Heath & Evans 2000)]. The many large and small dams (totalling 220,000 ha) built during this time cannot replace the biodiversity and biophysical functions of intact natural wetlands." (Wilson & Moser 1994).

Bonchev (1929) was very comprehensive and could be useful to assess the loss of natural wetlands, and identify wetlands that should be restored (if possible).

Gap analysis / Key recommendations

The ongoing national wetland inventory is filling an identified gap. There was a need for a comprehensive and scientific inventory of all natural Bulgarian wetlands. In particular, inland wetlands, and some small but important wetlands on the Black Sea coast and the Bulgarian Danube bank have never been well covered. (Tanyo Michev, pers. comm.)


Spatial inventory: "The use of satellite images and geographic information systems in mapping and research of forest ecosystems in Eastern Bulgaria is the subject of the PHARE-financed MERA project". (Report to the Convention on Biodiversity 1998). It is not mentioned if wet forest can be distinguished from other forests in the classification used.


Assessed in this study

Doody JP (ed) 1991. Sand dune inventory of Europe. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), UK, and EUCC (European Union for Coastal Conservation). 80 pp. (Ref. # 502)

Heath MF & Evans MI (eds) 2000. Important Bird Areas in Europe: Priority sites for conservation. 2 vols. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No. 8). (Ref. # 005)

IUCN Eastern European Programme 1993. Wetlands of Central and Eastern Europe. 83 pp. ISBN 2-8317-0142-2. (Ref. # 111)

Lappalainen E (ed) 1996. Global Peat Resources. International Peat Society. Geological Survey of Finland. UNESCO. 359 pp. + appendices. ISBN 952-90-7487-5. (Ref. # 053)

Marushevsky G (ed) 2002. Directory of Azov-Black Sea Coastal Wetlands. Black Sea Programme of Wetlands International, Kyiv, Ukraine. 229 pp., 80 maps. ISBN 905882 985 5. (Ref. # 004)

Michev T (in prep.). Mid-winter Numbers of Waterbirds in Bulgaria – 1977-1996. (Ref. # 032)

Michev T (unpublished). Project "Inventory of Bulgarian Wetlands" – Technical Report. Technical report for Wetlands International and the Ramsar Bureau (period 1/10/2001–30/06/2002). Foundation "Le Balkan–Bulgaria", Sofia, Bulgaria.

Ministry of Environment 1995. National Action Plan for the conservation of the most important wetlands in Bulgaria. Sofia. 55 pp. (Ref. # 123)

Potentially useful references not available for assessment

Anonymous. CORINE Biotopes Project. [It contains a description of 31 wetland sites out of 141 sites. (cited in: Bulgarian Ramsar National Report 1998)].

Bonchev G 1929. Marshes in Bulgaria. Ministry of Agriculture, Sofia. IX+71 pp. (in Bulgarian). [Old material, but might be very useful when assessing wetland loss in Bulgaria. "This publication includes a wealth of information on a wide variety of natural wetlands (lakes, marshes…) in the country. It was written before the large-scale dredging and alterations along the Bulgarian Danube bank and inland. Each wetland is described in a detailed comprehensive fashion, and an overview of the wetland resource provides information on: quantity and distribution, general description, size, depth, hydrography, siltation, flora and fauna, purifying function, and economic importance." (Tanyo Michev, pers. comm.)].

Ivanov K, Sotirov A, Rojdestvenski A & Vodenicharov D 1964. Lakes in Bulgaria. Publication Institute of Hydrology and Meteorology, Sofia. XVI+242 pp. (in Bulgarian). ["This is the most comprehensive inventory of Bulgarian natural and some artificial wetlands until now. This monograph is a good basis for making comparisons and following trends. The book is divided into 7 chapters: Coastal lakes, Glacial lakes, Tectonic lakes, Karstic lakes, Lakes along rivers, Lakes with landslide origin, and Artificial lakes (dams, reservoirs). Each chapter presents detailed information on the lakes per region (geography, hydrology, biology) and per site." (Tanyo Michev, pers. comm.)].

Kochev H 1983. Vegetation of the water reservoirs in Bulgaria. [Mentioned in the National Action Plan].

Other references (considered/used, but not assessed)

Anonymous 2002. Hydrological map of Bulgaria (scale 1:500,000, UTM grid 10 km). Map prepared in the framework of the project "Inventory of Bulgarian Wetlands", funded through DGIS/Wetlands International.

Michev T & Stoyneva M 1999. National Scientific Wetland Inventory of Bulgarian Wetlands. Project proposal.

Mondain-Monval JY & van der Ven JA 1986. IWRB visit to P.R. of Rumania and P.R. of Bulgaria. 17 pp. [It lists 11 sites in Rumania and 25 in Bulgaria (no area given), and gives results of waterbird counts].

Tomŕs Vives P 2002 (draft). The use of the MedWet Inventory system and database. Summary of recent developments. Draft document.

Wilson AM & Moser ME (ed) 1994. Conservation of Black Sea Wetlands: a review and preliminary action plan. IWRB Publ. 33. 76 pp. [For Bulgaria a more comprehensive overview of wetlands is to be found in the National Action Plan (Ministry of Environment 1995)].

References on specific sites/regions (Source: Dr. Tanyo Michev, pers. comm.)

Anonymous. Magazine "Branta". Foundation "Le Balkan". [So far 3 issues were published in French language. There are many data on Dobrudzha wetlands and globally threatened bird species].

Dobrev S 1998. Management Plan of Ropotamo Complex. [Includes also the marshes of Alepu, Arkutino and Stamoplo].

Georgiev D 1998a. Management Plan of Durankulak Lake. [The lake is a Ramsar site. 

Georgiev D 1998b. Management Plan of Shabla Lake. [Another Ramsar site].

Hiebaum G (in prep.). Management Plan of Srebarna Biosphere Reserve. [The lake is World Heritage site, Biosphere reserve, IBA site. The plan will be prepared by a team of the Central Laboratory for General ecology in Ramsar format and should be ready mid-2000].

Marinov M 1998. Management Plan of Poda Protected Site. [A small wetland, situated in the vicinity of the town of Burgas].

Michev T 1998. Management Plan of Atanasovsko Lake Reserve. [A hyperhaline wetland of great importance for breeding, migrating and wintering of waterbirds].

Michev T, Georgiev BB, Petrova AV & Stoyneva MP (eds) 1998. Biodiversity of the Srebarna Biosphere Reserve. Checklist and Bibliography. Sofia. Co-published by Context & Pensoft. 130 pp. (in English).

Michev T, Profirov L, Dimitrov M & Nyagolov K 1999. The Birds of Atanasovsko Lake, Status and Checklist. Bourgas wetlands Publication Series No. 1, Project ‘Bourgas Wetlands’. 34 pp. (in English).