Volume 3 of the Red Data Book of the Republic of Bulgaria, entitled Habitats, is a qualitatively new stage in the study and conservation of the biodiversity in the country. It is consistent with the current trends in conservation biology and ecology, according to which the conservation of the habitats and the environment is of major importance for the conservation of the species. This new approach is the basis of international regulations, which are binding on Bulgaria as an EU member state and as a party to the international conventions. At national level, they are integrated into the Biodiversity Act (BDA).
An important feature of Volume 3 is that it becomes part of the elaboration of new theoretical approaches to study, management and conservation of habitats as an important structural element of biodiversity. The intensive study and classification of the diverse habitats started in the 90's of the last century, with the project "CORINE Biotopes" in Bulgaria and the preparation of the first management plans for protected areas. Today, still, no complete classification of plant communities based on the floristic (sygmatic) method of Brown-Blanquet (1964) exists. Since this is the basis for habitat classification we still do not have a detailed national mapping of their distribution. The knowledge on the changes in the structure, functions and threats to natural habitats is still limited. However, to meet public needs, the authors have taken the responsibility both to present and analyze the status of the natural habitats in Bulgaria in accordance with the generally accepted classification schemes of Europe and to assess their threats. For this purpose, the author teams include phytocoenologists, botanists, foresters, mycologists, zoologists, hydrobiologists and environmentalists who have experience in solving problems related to natural habitats.
Five categories (extinct, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, nearly threatened) have been accepted to assess the conservation status and these are based on criteria related to the main characteristics of the habitats, i.e. geographical distributions, areas of distribution, structure, functions, sustainability, restoration capacities and resilience rehabilitation under exploitation pressure. As a result of the field studies and detailed analyses of the existing habitats according to the EUNIS classification, 166 habitats of conservation importance have been identified in the country. They are included in the Red Data Book and need specific conservation measures. They belong to the following groups – marine habitats – 11; coastal habitats – 8; inland waters – 21; mires, bogs and fens – 6; herbaceous communities and communities of lichens and mosses – 32; shrub communities – 32; forests – 40; inland rock habitats – 16.
The habitats in volume 3 belong to four threat categories:
Thirty-two authors have contributed to volume 3. Some of them have participated only in the elaboration of certain parts of the descriptions, others played a more extensive role.
Each article in the volume is accompanied by a UTM-grid map (10 km grid) of the habitat distribution in Bulgaria, based on data provided by each author. The maps are indicative and not completely comprehensive, especially in regards to the habitats of conservation importance that are more widely distributed and less studied. The authors will be grateful for any additional information or well-motivated suggestions for changes in this respect.
The photos of the habitats are made by the authors themselves or have been placed at the disposal of the authors by various experts. Their names are listed in the annexes of the volume. The editors of Volume 3 Habitats express their sincere and deep gratitude for the contributions to this edition.
The editors are also grateful to Mr. Simeon Marin (Green Balkan Association) and Michal Hajek and Petra Hajkova (Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic) who have provided unpublished data from their projects which have been used in the preparation of the maps in the volume.
The editors believe that the volume will be used both by professionals – biologists, ecologists, foresters, conservationists and experts from the Ministry of Environment and Waters and by the wider audience – professors and students from different higher schools, pupils, tourists, journalists and nature lovers who have an interest in the study and conservation of the rich biodiversity of Bulgaria. The editorial staff will be grateful for any criticism, recommendations, and corrections. The address to which these should be sent is pressure as follows:
Editorial staff of Red Data Book of Bulgaria
Volume 3 "Habitats”
Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research – BAS
2, Yuriy Gagarin Str., Sofia 1113, Bulgaria