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Important Bird Areas - Srebarna

Srebarna State: Silistra
Area: 1448,20 ха
Ownership: state - 87%; municipality - 8%; private - 5%;

Srebarna is a eutrophic lake, located at the Danube riverbank against km 393 – 391, 18 km to the west of the town of Srebarna. The village of Srebarna is situated on its western bank. The lake is designated as a reserve, which also includes former agricultural lands north of the lake, a belt of forest plantations along the Danube, the island of Komluka and the aquatic area locked between the island and the riverbank. About 75% of the lake area is overgrown with reed Phragmites australis, reed mace (Typha angustifolia, T. latifolia, T. laxmanii) and other marshland vegetation. Shrubs of Salix caprea and S. cinerea grow among the reedbeds without forming compact groups. Diverse hygrophyte vegetation develops in the open water pools during the summer - Hydrocharis morsus ranae, Nymphaea alba, different Potamogeton spp., etc. The natural floating islands are quite typical for the lake. They are formed of sediments, caught by the roots of the reed that grows on them. In the lake’s northern end the reedbeds gradually give way to wet meadows. In the north-western end of the lake and along the Danube there are belts of riverine forest and shrub vegetation with single old trees of White Willow Salix alba. The surrounding hills are overgrown with grasslands of steppe character and artificial plantations of Robinia pseudoacacia and Eleagnus angustifolia. Komluka island is covered by riverine forest, mainly of willow Salix sp. and poplar Populus sp. (Kochev 1986; Baeva 1988; Ivanov 1993).

Srebarna Lake and adjacent territories supports 173 bird species, 57 of which are listed in the Red Data Book for Bulgaria (1985). Of the birds occurring there 78 species are of European conservation concern (SPEC) (BirdLife International, 2004), 9 of them being listed in category SPEC 1 as globally threatened, 19 in SPEC 2 and 50 in SPEC 3 as species threatened in Europe. The area provides suitable habitats for 64 species, included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act, which need special conservation measures, of which 58 are listed also in Annex I of the Birds Directive. Srebarna lake hosts the only colony of Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus in the country, as well as the biggest breeding populations of four more globally threatened species – the Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus, the Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, the White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla and the Corncrake Crex crex. Srebarna is one of the most important sites in the country with European value also for the breeding Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus, Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax, Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides, Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Great White Egret Egretta alba, Purple Heron Ardea purpurea, Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea and three species of terns – Common Tern Sterna hirundo, Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus and Black Tern Chlidonias niger. The regular wintering species include the globally threatened Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus and Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis. In winter there are great concentrations with international significance of the White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons, the Greylag Goose Anser anser and Fieldfare Turdus pilaris.

The area is very sensitive to drainage and water regime of the Danube River, because it is highly dependent on flooding, which removes the sediments from the lake and maintains the riverine forests on the island. The construction of the dyke along the Danube for flood prevention during the 20th century broke the natural connection of the lake with the river. Because of temporary drainage of some parts of the lake and big variations in the water level the open water surface of the lake started to overgrown with vegetation, which cause loss of sutable places for feeding of number of waterbird species. Due to the disturbed water balance and the strong protection regime the lake gradually filled with sediments. By the early 1990s the wetland was almost dry and the pelican colony had disappeared. After restoration measures in middle 1990s the Srebarna Lake has regained its conditions and value for birds. The Dalmatian Pelican again start to breed there. The colony of pelicans has started to breed again. All activities related to disturbance of the water regime of the lake could cause deterioration and even loss of the valuable habitats. The shipping on the Danube influences the water quality of the river. Deepening the bottom of the Danube, planned by the Government with EU funds, will cause further disturbance of the water regime and deterioration of the wetland habitats. Illegal fishing in the lake with nets causes disturbance and entraps diving birds such as Pygmy Cormorants, Pochards, Ferruginous Ducks, grebes Podiceps spp, and Otters Lutra lutra, and terrapins Emys orbicularis. A potential threat for the area is burning of the floating reedbeds during drier periods in spring or summer that may cause destruction of the pelican colony, or the mixed heron colony. The deposition of organic and urban garbage on the bank of the lake from people of Srebarna village is causing additional organic and ecstatic pollution of the site and cause introducion of many ruderal plant species. The use of fertilizers and pesticides in the surrounding arable lands and the pig farm near the river Kalnezha contribute to the pollution of the lake with bioorganic elements and organic compounds.

Legal protection:
Srebarna lake was the first wetland in Bulgaria to receive legal protection status and the value of which received international recognition. The lake was designated as reserve in 1948 to protect the considerable diversity of birds. Since 1998 it has been a managed reserve. There was a management plan adopted for the Srebarna Managed Reserve. Srebarna lake has been a Wetland of International Importance since 1976, as well as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World heritage site. In 1989 the lake was designated as Important Bird Area by BirdLife International. In 1998 the area was appointed as CORINE Site because of its European value for habitats, rare and threatened plant and animal species, including birds. The proposed SPA borders a proposed Special Protection Area in Romania.

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