F. Shrub communities

Savin juniper(Juniperus sabina) scrub

Relationships with habitat classifications. EUNIS: F2.2325 Carpatho-Balkan Juniperus sabina scrub; PAL. CLASS.: 31.4325 Carpatho-Balkan Juniperus sabina scrub; HD 92/43: 4060 Alpine and boreal heaths.

Conservation status. BDA, HD.

Category. Critically endangered [CR – A1, 2 C2 D3 E3 F2 H3].

General characteristics. The Sabin Juniper (Juniperus sabina) is a procumbent shrub with an irregular corona, spreading branches, needle- or scale-like leaves and a specific smell. The general distribution of the species encompasses separate localities in Europe and Asia. Almost in all places the species distribution is limited. In the Carpathians, for instance, the xeromesophytic phytocoenoses of the association Juniperetum sabinae cover small areas in the central part of the West Carpathians (Mont Trascau and Mont Mare). The phytocoenoses of Juniperus sabina are a relic remnant from different vegetation that used to cover Eurasia in the past. They have survived in places that are utterly unfavourable for the development of a considerable number of the present-day species. Therefore the Juniper phytocoenoses have survived thanks to the low competition from other species. The potential of the species to spread in other localities or to conquer new territories is low. The distribution of Juniperus sabina in Bulgaria is restricted to several localities on limestone and silicate in Rila Mts., the Balkan Range, and East Rhodopi Mts. Only one locality has been known from Rila Mts. – above Beli Iskar village at 1100 m alt., but recently it has been destroyed. Presently, there is another locality in the valley of Beli Iskar River at approx. 1600 m (very rocky and stony meso-slope facing South and East). The tufts are dense, almost without other species, localized most often on rocky silicate outcrops. The following species occur in the adjacent areas: Betula pendula, Festuca dalmatica, Iris reichenbachii, Juniperus sibirica, Pinus sylvestris, Poa nemoralis, Populus tremula, Rubus idaeus, etc. The other locality in Rila Mts. is westwards from Beli Iskar village at 1000 m alt., on flat rocky area. This phytocoenoss, covering an area of almost 100 m2 on the terrace near Cherni Iskar River, is the best preserved and compact one. The projective cover of the Sabin juniper is 100%. The height of the shrubs is about 50–80 cm. The poorly developed soil is covered by Thuidium abietinum, and less by Hypnum cupressiforme, Brachythecium salebrosum. Sedum spp., and Thymus spp. The lichens Cladonia pyxidata, Peltigera canina, Pseudevernia furfuracea also occur. Close to this locality there is another fragment of a phytocoenoses of Juniperus sabina (together with Juniperus communis). It shows that the Sabin juniper used to be more widely distributed in the area in the past. In both localities the surrounding vegetation belongs to class Vaccinio-Piceetea excelsae.Several more localities of the Sabin juniper are known from Vrachanski Balkan and Troyan Balkan mountains. A few tufts rooted in the cervices of the vertical rocks and screes are preserved in these localities. Possibly there are some more localities of this species but in general its distribution is very limited. The thermophilic characteristics of these communities is emphasized by the species belonging to order Quercetalia pubescentis: Brachypodium pinnatum, Campanula persicifolia, Cardaminopsis arenosa, Carex humilis, Cornus mas, Fraxinus ornus, Rhamnus catharticus, Sesleria rigida, Teucrium montanum, T. chamaedrys, Vincetoxicum hirundinaria,as well as such that belong to order Erico-Pinetalia of class Erico-Pinetea: Centaurea triumfettii, Chamaecytisus hirsutus, Daphne blagayana, Laserpitium latifolium, Lembotropis nigricans, etc. Probably, the Bulgarian phytocoenoses (even fragments of these phytocoenoses) of the Sabin juniper in the Balkan Range used to be part of the Carpathian association Juniperetum sabinae from allience Seslerio rigidae-Pinion the diagnostic species of which are: Carex humilis, Helianthemum nummularium, Juniperus communis, Stachys recta, Rhodax canus, Teucrium chamaedrys. They are a part of order Erico-Pinetalia of alliance Erico-Pinetea. They comprise the pre-glacial relic phytocoenoses of different pine species (Pinus sylvestris, Pinus nigra) occurring on alkaline substrates (limestone, dolomites, serpentines) in C, S and SE Europe.

Characteristic taxa.

Distribution in Bulgaria. Rila Mts., Forebalkan, Balkan Range, East Rhodopi Mts. (Gyumyurdzhinski Snezhnik peak); 1000–1600 m alt.

Conservation importance. Very rare, relic phytocoenoses of Juniperus sabina is threatened by extinction.

Threats. Any human activity that has an impact on the locality or the neighbouring areas.

Conservation measures taken. The locality is included in Annex № 1 of BDA. The localities in the Balkan Range are within the borders of Central Balkan National Park and Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park. Part of the localities are in sites from the European Ecological Network NATURA 2000.

Conservation measures needed. Monitoring of the habitat; to include the localities in Rila Mts. in a protected area; effective implementation of the legal documents and existing regimes related to the protected areas

References. Coldea 1991; Donita et al. 2006; Kochev 1967; Tashev 2008.

Author: Veska Roussakova

Savin juniper (Juniperus sabina) scrub (distribution map)