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Central Balkan National Park

Date of Submission: 10/10/2011
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Submitted by:
Ministry of Environment and Water
State, Province or Region:
Districts of Lovech, Gabrovo, Stara Zagora
Coordinates: N42 46 36.66 E24 36 51.88
Ref.: 5641

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The National Park includes territories from 5 administrative districts:  Lovech (28 827,5 ha), Gabrovo (3 192,4 ha), Stara Zagora (10 550,7 ha): Plovdiv (25 702,1 ha) and Sofia (3 396,8 ha).

Central Balkan National Park, situated in the heart of Bulgaria, includes the central and highest parts of Stara Planina Mountain (The Balkan Mountain Range). The park extends in East-West direction for about 85 km, covering a 10 km wide stripe and altitude from 550 m up to the highest peak of Stara Planina mountains - Botev peak - 2 376 m a s. l.

Central Balkan National Park contains forests with total area of 44 000, 8 hа (61 %), and mountain pastures and meadows with total area of 27 668,7 hа (39%). The park was established to protect the unique wilderness of Central Stara Planina Mountains and the local traditions and livelihoods linked to it.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Central Balkan National Park is one of the most valuable and the largest protected areas in Europe - a category II protected area according to the IUCN categorization. On the area of 716 km2, the Park protects pristine habitats of rare and endangered wildlife species and communities, self-regulating ecosystems of exceptional biological diversity and natural beauty, which are of global scientific and conservation significance.

The primeval beech forests (Fagus sylvatica) of the park are one of the most valuable natural assets of the territory. They are important part of the European beech forests complex. The park shelters much of the the largest, continuous and low human -impact old-growth beech forests' massifs in Europe.

The park's territory is an extraordinary, representative example of the process of evolution of recent flora. The park is one of the most active centers of new species formation in Europe and a center of high flora and fauna endemism.

The park contains the most representative and important natural habitats for in-situ conservation of significant number of plant and animal species. More than 130 species of plants and animals found in Central Balkan National Park are listed in the Bulgarian and World Red Data Book.


(vii) Central Balkan NP includes mountain massif of exceptional natural beauty and impressive landscapes. There are ancient forests, attractive mountain top pastures, rocky peaks, deep gorges and high waterfalls. The territory posses specific natural beauty and has superlative aesthetic value during all four seasons.

As a whole, the geomorphologic elements in the park shape a landscape with high aesthetic value and great diversity in a relatively small territory. The geomorphologic structure and the altitude are combined to offer excellent view points, with possibilities to observe at long distances and enjoy great panoramic views.

(viii) Central Balkan is a park with globally significant geologic and geomorphologic characteristics. The Park includes the central and the highest parts of the Stara Planina Mountain (The Balkan range - one of the most significant mountain structures of the Balkan Peninsula, which gives it its name). The Balkan range emerged during the Neocene and the Quaternary together with the Alpo- Himalayan mountain system. NPCB possess complex geologic history and structure. Special interest attract 4 geologic phenomena with European significance - Novoselski Rocks, Peeshti Rocks, Taja Gorge and Krali Marko's Hole. From a scientific point of view the first three objects represent the largest natural outcrop of granites shaping the Botev peak thrust and fault, which is about 30 km long (from Dobrila peak to Triglav peak and the Peeshti Rocks), from 1 to 7(8) km wide and with progression of over 12 km. This scale is unique for Bulgaria.

Novoselski Rocks - represent a rock crown of exceptional beauty, impressiveness and inaccessibility. It has number of rock walls, caves and other geomorphologic forms. It is more than500 m in height and is situated in the South most part of the Severen Djendem Reserve.

Peeshti Rosks -rock crown shaped by number of rocks along the mountain ridge, northwards of Triglav peak. It is located in Peeshti Rocks Reserve.

Taja Gorge - located in Djendema Reserve, the gorge includes interesting geomorphological forms - narrow and deep gorges, rock walls and towers, bizarre karst forms and waterfalls. Interesting and unique geological peculiarities of the Stara Planina Mountain can be observed here.

Krali Marko's Hole is a rock bridge. Behind there is a significant depression with 20 diameter and about 10 m depth. The rock bridge is located nearby the Steneto Reserve.

The deepest in Bulgaria precipice cave is situated in the park as well. This is Rajchova Dupka cave which is 377m deep.

(ix) One of the most significant natural treasures of the park is the pure and mixed stands of beech (Fagus sylvatica) forests. Wide distribution of the species in Central Balkan NP include the beech forests of the Asperulo-Fagetum 9130 и Luzulo-Fagetum 9110 habitat types. Less represented, fragmented and with smaller area of distribution are the forests of Fagus sylvatica, ssp. moesiaca. A majority of the forests in the park are broadleaf species - beech, hornbeam, durmast, sycamore and others. The mixed forests consist mainly of beech and fir.

"Virgin" or primeval temperate forests are rare in Europe due to the long-lasting, continuous human use of forests and due to high human population densities. Beech forests once covered 40 percent of Europe. Beech forests re-colonised Europe about 6,500 years ago from "refuge" in the Balkans, where they had persisted during the last ice age.

The average age of the beech communities in Central Balkan NP is 135 years. The area of the beech forests of over hundred years covers 18 106 ha. The beech forests in the park cover 28 522 hа (40% of the park territory) where the pure beech stands cover 22 500 ha. These forests together with the beach forests neighboring the park's territory extend at about 60 000 ha and are one of the largest continuous beech massifs in Europe. The beech forest belt in the park is continuous and in many places it has pure beach stands of 1000 to 3000 ha (North Djendem, Steneto, Stara Reka and Peeshti Rocks reserves)

The primeval beech forests in Central Balkan NP have outstanding scientific and conservation significance. The park protects invaluable genetic reservoir of the beech species as well as of many other species that are linked to and dependent on it. About 40% of the beach forests in the park are strictly protected in the nature reserves. Some of the reserves were declared in the middle of the last (20th) century.

The park's territory is an extraordinary representative example of the process of evolution of the recent flora. The park includes  a speciation center where new plant species are formed, and with the biggest concentration of Bulgarian endemic plant species in the country 11 species and subspecies of local endemics, 23 Bulgarian endemics and 57 Balkan endemic plant species can be found in the Park.

(x) The impressive plant species diversity and the high level of endemism are among the unique characteristics of the Central Balkan NP. There are 2337 species and subspecies of plants in the park - 1900 higher plants, 188 algae, 229 mosses and 15 species of ferns. This is more than 50% of the Bulgarian flora diversity.

The diverse relief, vegetation and microclimate provides for the high diversity of the fauna as well. The territory of the park (0,6% of the total area of the country) shelters 20% of the invertebrates and 62% of the vertebrates species diversity in Bulgaria. 224 bird species recorded from the Park include rare and endangered species that help define the status of the Park as Important Bird Area of World significance.

The park is of global significance for the conservation of 19 invertebrate species and 21 globally threatened vertebrate species. More than 130 species of plants and animals found in Central Balkan National Park are listed in the Bulgarian and World Red Data Book.

The total number of endemics among the invertebrate fauna of Central Balkan NP is 167. The most are Balkan endemics (86), followed by Bulgarian endemics (52) and the local ones (29).

Twenty nine habitat types listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC are found in the park. According to the Directive, 5 of them are priority habitat types, which require special conservation measures.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Park is 71 669,5 ha. This is the third largest protected area in Bulgaria and one of the largest in Europe. In 2008, Central Balkan NP was declared as Natura 2000 site for protection of birds according to the Birds Directive 79/409/ЕЕС and Habitat Directive 92/43/EEC of the EU.

The park includes all elements necessary to reflect an outstanding universal value. The territory is of adequate size to ensure the complete representation of the features and processes which convey its global significance.

The territory protects complex, naturally functioning ecosystems and all necessary elements for long term conservation of the various types of beech forests and their characteristic ecological processes.

The Park does not suffer from adverse effects of development or lack of management, and indeed is an excellent example of large scale conservation and natural resources management after centuries of human influence and civilization.

Comparison with other similar properties

Central Balkan NP can be compared with the "Primeval beech forests of the Carpathians", included in the World Heritage List in 2007 - encompassing a series of 10 sites covered by beech forests in Ukraine and Slovakia, which World Heritage Property was further on extended in 2011, by including  the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany, representing examples of on-going post-glacial biological and ecological evolution of terrestrial ecosystems and are indispensable to understanding the spread of the beech in the Northern Hemisphere across a variety of environments. The tri-national property is currently known as Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany (Slovakia, Ukraine, Germany).

The biggest single site included in this array of sites is Uholka - Shyrokyi Luh in Ukraine with the total core area of 11,860.0 hа. For comparison the beech forests in Central Balkan NP cover 28 552 ha with pure stands covering 22 500 ha.

The new inscription from 2011 (Germany), represents the addition of five forests totaling 4,391 hectares that are added to the 29,278 hectares of Slovakian and Ukranian beech forests inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2007.