One of the first expeditions along the Danube


The implementation of expeditions for biodiversity inventories and monitoring is an integral part of Green Balkans’ work – an established tradition, lasting for more than 23 years. These expeditions provide basis for assessing habitats and species of high conservation value as well as analyzing current biodiversity threats. Also, they represent a powerful incentive for the youngest members of the organization, as they secure great opportunities to bring up nature-lovers; quite often, the keenest of them become professional environmentalists.
Green Balkans organizes regularly expeditions of various character and duration. The boat expeditions along the Danube, the Maritsa, and the Tundja Rivers prove to be the most popular ones among our volunteers. Expeditions are also held in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains, the Sakar and Strandja Mountains, etc.
Not only nature-loving volunteers, but also experienced experts in biodiversity take part in these expeditions. More than 30 expeditions have been carried out for the past 15 years, mainly along the Maritsa River.
As a result of the information gathered during these expeditions, 10 new protected areas have been designated and the habitats of more than 25 species of high conservation significance and endangered status have been identified.

The Danube
Since 1996, expeditions along the Danube have been organized every second year. The organization of these expeditions requires significant amount of work and resources. Some of them are financially supported by WWF – Danube-Carpathian program, REC, the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Bulgaria, and other donors. As a result, many new areas of high conservation value, such as colonies of herons, spoonbills, and pygmy cormorants have been identified. New habitats of the rare White-tailed eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Ferruginous Duck, etc. have also been discovered. In addition, nature conservation activities such as marking of protected areas, installing information signboards, etc, are an integral part of the expeditions. As a result, 7 new protected areas and a Nature Park in the Danube area have been designated after proposals submitted by Green Balkans.

The Maritsa River
Since 1980, expeditions along the Maritsa River have been regularly held, initiated by the Department of Zoology at the University of Plovdiv. The same team has continued the tradition on behalf of Green Balkans since 1992. The expeditions usually take place in the period May 20th-30th, covering a section of 250 km along the river. Thanks to the so gathered information, the trends in the decreasing of the flood-plain and riparian forests, the extent of degradation of habitats of species of high conservation value, etc. have been identified and researched. Also, a complete report on the nesting avifauna is regularly carried out.

The Tundja River
The expeditions along the Tundja River have the same goals – reporting the ornitho-fauna, assessing the threats, mapping the degraded habitats, etc. The status of the protected areas near Elhovo is also regularly monitored as these are among the last oases of flood-plain forests in the country. The breeding success of colonially nesting birds is regularly monitored.

Searching for new nests of Imperial eagles and studying their habitats
Expeditions for studying the nesting habitats of the Imperial eagles in the area of Sakar Mountains, the Dervent Heights, the Strandja and Sredna gora Mountains have been carried out for almost 20 years now. Valuable data on the biodiversity of the areas is gathered during these expeditions while searching for new nests of Imperial eagles, studying their food basis and the factors limiting their dispersal. New sites, proposed for designation as protected areas or NATURA 2000 sites have been identified as a result of the expeditions, over 10 new nests have been discovered and invaluable data on the conservation significance of the target areas has been gathered.

Expeditions for studying vultures
Regular expeditions and monitoring are carried out in the area of the Balkan Mountains and the Eastern and Western Rhodope Mountains as part of the activities provided for in the Balkan Vulture Action Plan. Suitable habitats for possible vulture reintroduction, potential nesting sites, food availability and limiting factors are all being studied. 4 suitable areas for starting Griffon vulture reintroduction programs have been identified as a result of these expeditions.

Mid-winter Waterfowl Census
The tradition of implementing annual mid-winter waterfowl census in our country has continued for more than 30 years. The census is part of a global initiative of Wetlands International, carried out in more than 100 countries all over the world in the period January 10th-20th.
Green Balkans is one of the organizations most actively involved in the mid-winter monitoring of the waterfowl in Bulgaria. The database of the society contains extensive data on the status and the numbers of the wintering birds, as well as on the status of the threats and the related violations. The information gathered, processed and analyzed in Bulgaria is included in the general report, indicating the status of the wetlands, the distribution and numbers of the waterfowl worldwide.

An enormous amount of field work has been completed during the inventories for establishing the NATURA 2000 European Ecological Network. Some 150 experts from all scientific institutions, many non-governmental organizations, and universities took part in the inventories. The team of Green Balkans was represented by 15 experts, who contributed over 1000 man-days of field inventories and expeditions. Over 200 potential protected areas have been identified and Standard Data Forms have been completed with information on their biodiversity.