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Elaka is an IPA near Gabarevo, in the heart of the Balkan mountain range. The Important Plant Area is a remarkable mix of wet meadows and common alder forest flanking the small rivers that run from Stara Planina slopes.
As a result of work to identify IPAs in Bulgaria (2005 – 2008) the last revision of Natura 2000 areas in Bulgaria acknowledged Gabarevo-Elaka IPA as part of its network.
Why is it important?
The fens, wet meadows and inundated forests of Elaka are rich in calcium carbonate, creating conditions that support some rare and endangered plants: The orchid Dactylorhiza kalopissii - listed on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered - has a very tiny population here, in a small forest glade. Another orchid Liparis loeselli (regionally extinct in Bulgaria) was last found 15 years ago in the same glade. Their scarcity is mainly due to the loss of their habitat as traditional farming disappears. Where previously, grazing would have maintained the grassland now ash trees, crack willows and shrubs can grow and spread out, thus reducing the wild flower diversity.
How is Natural Networks helping?
Fifty volunteers have taken part in conservation activities thanks to the active support of the local authorities. After a guided visit to the Important Plant Area to learn about the issues, they have cleared bushes in the glades where orchids used to grow.
The Natural Networks team has also given presentations to the local authorities and organizations about European environmental legislation, specifically High Nature Value farming and Natura 2000 policies. As a result, Natural Networks project has formed a partnership with the chitalishta (local community centres). These multi-purpose institutions, of which there are 3,400 in Bulgaria, share knowledge and help build life skills in local communities. They represent a real bridge between people and plants.
Plantlife has been working in partnership with the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation and the Botanical Garden of Bulgaria (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences).