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WWF Bulgaria Plants 1000 Oaks, Broadens Biodiversity in Its Newly Planted Riparian Forest

Breathing new life into the 28000 m² riverside area near Stamboliyski along the Maritza River.

Acorns from old oaks that are remnants of the former impressive forests of Thrace, or the Magna Silva Bulgarica (The Great Bulgarian Forest). © Neli Doncheva
Acorns from old oaks that are remnants of the former impressive forests of Thrace, or the Magna Silva Bulgarica (The Great Bulgarian Forest). © Neli Doncheva

In March, 2020 WWF-Bulgaria planted 1000 Common oak (Quercus robur) acorns in among the new saplings planted along the river last winter. In November, 2019 WWF-Bulgaria, the Stamboliyski Municipality, local businesses and groups of enthusiastic volunteers planted twelve thousand saplings and seeds of tree species adapted to the local environment, and breathe new life into the [b]28000 m² riverside area near Stamboliyski[/b]. White willow, black and white poplar, ash, black alder, elm and Old World sycamore were planted over a 1-month period along the Maritza River. All of them are suitable for alluvial soils and capable of withstanding temporary floods.
Riparian forests are forested or wooded areas of land adjacent to a body of water, and are extremely valuable because they strengthen banks, limit erosion, absorb dust, improve water quality, prevent floods, and maintain habitats and eco-corridors for very rare plants and animals. Despite the numerous ecosystem services they provide, riparian forests have been destroyed for centuries to free up grasslands, create agricultural land, and build dikes and other infrastructure. Consequently, there is an urgent need to restore and protect the remaining riparian forests,” says Neli Doncheva, Chief Forestry Expert, WWF-Bulgaria

The acorns were collected from selected 250+ year-old trees by the WWF forest team last autumn. These old oaks are remnants of the former impressive forests of Thrace, or the Magna Silva Bulgarica (The Great Bulgarian Forest). Bulgaria used to be covered with dense and impenetrable forests about 1000 years ago, including lowland oak forests. Those forests are long gone, but some copses of old oak trees survive. By collecting acorns from these oaks and using local provenances of the tree species for use in the restoration area, we are preserving the genetic diversity. This also provides for better adaptation to the local conditions. 
Even now, WWF-CEE experts are working to increase the area of responsibly-managed forests; identify, map and protect old-growth forests; support forest managers and communities to achieve FSC certification; and push for improved forest management legislation and policy. Priority action areas include poaching, illegal logging and the illegal trade in wildlife.
New Deal for Nature and People is urgently needed. We have received warning after warning highlighting a crisis of accelerating nature loss. Science has never been clearer on the impact of human activities on nature and the consequences we will be facing. We call on the European Commission to develop an ambitious forest ecosystem restoration plan by 2021, and to allocate adequate resources for its complete implementation by 2030. Efforts should aim to enhance forest resilience to climate change; a move which would also represent an integral element in boosting the EU’s efforts to achieve its climate ambitions. Simultaneously, actions should also be taken to restore the EU´s priority forest habitats and increase the capacity of forests to sequester and store carbon. This can be achieved by promoting the natural regeneration of forests involving a diversity of native European tree species best adapted to the current and future climate of the region. Therefore, we call for the ecological reconstruction of 10% of all forests in the CEE Region (2.4 mil. ha.) and for the afforestation of an additional 2.4 million hectares of degraded land in CEE using native species and local provenances.
Partnership with the Mondi Group
Following many years of local collaboration, WWF and the Mondi Group launched a global strategic partnership in 2014 to promote responsible forestry, water stewardship and a sustainable packaging and paper sector. In 2017, Mondi extended its global partnership by another three years to build on progress made in the first phase. In Bulgaria, the partnership has supported over 150,000 hectares of State-owned forest to achieve Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. WWF, with Mondi’s support, has mapped high conservation value forests (HCVF), carried out social impact surveys, and provided training and capacity-building for foresters operating in these areas. Afforestation along the Maritsa River is just one of the partnership’s efforts to promote sustainable forest management.

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