Relationships with habitat classifications. EUNIS: G1.6E11 Eastern Balkan Range oriental beech forests, G1.6E121 Stranja bearberry tree-oriental beech forests, G1.6E122 Stranja rhododendron-oriental beech forests, PAL. CLASS.: 41.1E11 Eastern Balkan Range oriental beech forests, 41.1E121 Stranja bearberry tree-oriental beech forests, 41.1E122 Stranja rhododendron-oriental beech forests; HD 92/43: 91S0 *Western Pontic beech forests; Bondev (1991): 79 Oriental beech (Fageta orientalis) forests.
Conservation status. BDA, BC, HD.
Category. Endangered [EN – A1, 2 B1 B2 C3 D2 E2 F2 G2 H2 I L2].
General characteristics. This habitat comprises of the forests of Fagus orientalis in Strandzha Mts. and the East Balkan Range. They are autochthonous, relic and with a concentration of South-Euxinian floristic elements and Tertiary relics. They are inverse to the oak forests and occupy the most shadowy and humid ravines, low places and slopes. The geological basis is mainly silicate. The soils are Luvisols and Alisols (only in Strandzha Mts) and are well developed, rich and humid. The exposure is northern or with northern component. The phytocoenoses are mostly monodominant. More rarely Fagus orientalis forms mixed communities with Carpinus betulus, Acer platanoides, A. pseudoplatanus, Cerasus avium (= Prunus avium), Populus tremula (in younger forests), Quercus polycarpa, Tilia tomentosa, etc. Particularly typical for these forests in Strandzha Mts are the evergreen laurel shrubs – Rhododendron ponticum, Daphne pontica, Ilex colchica, Laurocerasus officinalis and the deciduous Vaccinium arctostaphylos. Together with the Central European species (Festuca heterophylla, Geranium robertianum, Poa sylvicola, Sanicula europaea, etc.) present in some places, some South-Euxinian species are abundant: Cyclamen coum,Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii, Salvia forskaohlei, Symphytum tauricum, Trachystemon orientalis. Syntaxonomically these forests belong to the alliance Fagion orientalis with the associations Rhododendro pontici-Fagetum orientalis, Cyclamini coum-Fagetum orientalis and Primulo rubrae-Fagetum orientalis. There are three subtypes of this habitat according to the geographical distribution and the prevailing species in the understorey and the herbaceous cover:
1. Forests of Oriental beech with Rhododendron ponticum in Strandzha Mts.
Monodominant and more rarely mixed communities of the Oriental beech with clearly defined layer of evergreen shrubs. Most often it is Rhododendron ponticum that densely cover the slopes and reaching the top of more humid ravines. On the bottom of these ravines the evergreen layer consists of Ilex colchica and Laurocerasus officinalis.Typical for this layer are also Daphne pontica and Ruscus hypoglossum. Characteristic taxa are Daphne pontica, Fagus orientalis, Hedera helix, Hypericum androsaemum, Ilex colchica, Laurocerasus officinalis, Quercus polycarpa, Rhododendron ponticum, Ruscus hypoglossum, Trachystemon orientalis. Syntaxonomically these forests correspond to the association Rhododendron pontici-Fagetum orientalis.
2. Forests of Oriental beech with Vaccinium arctostaphylos in Strandzha Mts.
Monodominant communities of Fagus orientalis or, more rarely, mixed with Quercus polycarpa with Vaccinium arctostaphylos prevailing in the subtree layer. The subtype is locally distributed, in separate localities (e.g. Rudenovo locality near Slivarovo village, Beliya Pyasak locality near Kondolovo village, Uzunbudzhak Strcit Nature Reserve, Brayanovo locality, Hodzhata peak near Kosti village, Sarnekovo peak and Vitanovo Strcit Nature Reserve near Malko Tarnovo, etc.) with a total area of not more than 80 ha. These forests occur on northern, northeastern and eastern slopes in their middle and upper parts while on the western and southwestern slopes they occur on the lowermost parts. The slopes are flat to very steep, rocky in some places. The communities are usually much closed (0,8-0,9). The shrubs of Vaccinium arctostaphylos are up to 2 m high and are solitary or in groups with denser cover (30–40%). Solitarily in the subtree layer are also Calluna vulgaris, Daphne pontica, Euonymus latifolius, Rhododendron ponticum, etc. The herbaceous layer is with low projective cover (5–10%) and consists mostly of Campanula persicifolia,Festuca heterophylla, Melica uniflora, Poa nemoralis,and solitary plants of Hypericum androsaemum, Ruscus hypoglossum, Trachystemon orientalis, etc.The ferns Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, Polypodium vulgare and Polystichum setiferum are highly abundant in more rocky and humid places.
3. Forests of Oriental beech in the Balkan Range (Eastern)
Pure or mixed (with Quercus polycarpa) communities of Fagus orientalis with fewer South-Euxinian floristic elements. There are no evergreen laurel shrubs in the shrub layer. These communities occur in the East Balkan Range– Eminska, Aitoska and Kamchiyska Mts. The communities occur between 170 and 550 m alt. The slopes are very steep with different, but mainly northern, exposures. The soils are Chromic Cambisols or Luvisols, sand-clayey, in some places very stony. The bedrock is both silicate and limestone. The monodominant forests prevail. Solitary trees of Quercus polycarpa, Acer platanoides, Carpinus betulus, Corylus colurna, Tilia tomentosa, T. plathyphyllos also occur in them. Carpinus betulus, Cornus mas, Euonymus europaeus occur with low abundance in the sub-tree layer. The herbaceous cover is slightly developed. Mostly the Central European elements Brachypodium sylvaticum, Carex sylvatica, Dactylis glomerata subsp. lobata, Euphorbia amygdaloides, Festuca heterophylla, Galium odoratum, Melica uniflora, Poa nemoralis participate.South-Euxinian elements like Cyclamen coum, Doronicum orientale, Lathyrus aureus,Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii, Ruscus hypoglossum, Salvia forskaohlei,Trachystemon orientalis, etc. also occur. Syntaxonomically these forests correspond to the association Primulo rubrae-Fagetum orientalis
Distribution in Bulgaria. The northern slopes of Strandzha Mts. and East Balkan Range (Kamchiyska amd Eminska Mts) up to 500 m alt.
Conservation importance. The forests of Oriental beech are an important edaphic and hydrological factor. Many of the shrub and herbaceous species are rare and protected plants: Cyclamen coum, Daphne pontica, Hedera helix, Hypericum androsaemum, Ilex colchica, Laurocerasus officinalis, Rhododendron ponticum, Salvia forskaohlei, Vaccinium arctostaphylos, etc. and fungi of conservation value – Hericium coralloides, Melanogaster variegatus.
Threats. Unregulated and wrongly conducted logging; network of truck roads and erosion related to them, infrastructure development; grazing, forest plantations of untypical species, etc.
Conservation measures taken. The habitat is included in Annex № 1 of the national Biodiversity Act. The largest parts of the habitat are within Strandzha Nature Park, and Silkosiya, Uzunbudzha, Tissovitsa and Sredoka Strict Nature Reserves. Approx. 90% of the localities of the forests of Oriental beech are in sites of the European Ecological Network NATURA 2000 in Bulgaria.
Conservation measures needed. Monitoring and, restoration activities in habitat subtype of forests of Oriental beech with Vaccinium arctostaphylos in Strandzha Mts. damaged by various forestry engineering activities
References. Jordanoff 1939; Kochev 1976; Stefanov 1924; Stoyanov 1927; Tzonev et al. 2006.
Author: Chavdar Gussev