Dragoman Marsh Karst Complex Restoration Project

  • Country:
  • Start year:
  • Location:
    Situated along the 20 km long Chepan Mountain ridge, Bulgaria.
  • Size (ha):
  • Area Type:
  • Type of protection:
    1 protected area, 2 NATURA 2000 sites, Ramsar site, Important Bird Area, Important Butterfly Area.

The Dragoman Marsh Karst Complex is the only one of its kind in Bulgaria and one of the few on the Balkan Peninsula. The complex consists of limestone hills with depressions between them where wetlands are formed. The very rich biodiversity of the area has suffered from human activities and restoration works are necessary.

Dragoman marsh karst complex in Bulgaria.


  • Habitat types: Marshes, wet meadows, arid pastures, cliffs and oak forests.
  • Keystone species present: Dragoman Marsh karst complex is one of the most important areas for Bulgarian wild fauna and has a significant biodiversity and conservation value. From a conservation point of view 75 bird species are listed in Annex I of the Bird Directive, 17 in the Bulgarian Red List, 17 in the IUCN Red List and 108 species in the Bulgarian Red Data Book. There are 43 mammal species recorded up to now in the proposed area. Eight species are from the IUCN redlist and 17 Annex 2 of the Habitat Directive.The entire area is an Important Butterfly Area and up to now 243 butterfly species have been found.
  • Fauna (mega) species present: Wild boar (Sus scrofa), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)
  • Fauna species reintroduced: Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni)
  • Vegetation types present: Subcontinental peri-Pannonic scrub, basophilic grasslands, semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (* important orchid sites), Eastern sub-Mediterranean dry grasslands, Molinia meadows on calcareous, peaty or clayey-silt-laden soils, lowland hay meadows, calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation, medio-European limestone beech forests, oak-hornbeam forests, Pannonian-Balkan turkey oak –sessile oak forests.


  • Description: The Dragoman Marsh Karst Complex was declared as a Ramsar site in 2011 thanks to the work of the Balkani Wildlife Society. Although many species have returned, the wetlands (Dragoman and Aldomirovtsi marshes, wet meadows, fishponds) still suffered from drainage, poor management, contamination, and eutrophication. Therefore active restoration actions and practices are necessary. The grasslands that are containing many endemic and rare species also need on-site management. The project aims to also focus on environmental education and active participation of local people and stakeholders.
  • Aim: To restore natural wetlands, grasslands and forest ecosystems of the area with their characteristic species.
  • Vision: Create a model area for wetland and grassland conservation, restoration and education, playing an important role for ensuring sustainable livelihood, good water quality, wastewater cleaning and potable water to the people from 4 municipalities.
  • Accomplished in 10 years from now: Habitats are restored with key plant and animal species being reintroduced. Two new protected areas and one Natura 2000 site are declared, with approved management plans. wastewater treatment plant of Dragoman constructed and eutrophication solved. Local people are involved in and support conservation activities. Nature based tourism is developed in the area together with production and sales of sustainable products.<br />
  • Uniqueness: The area contains the last conserved karst marshes in Bulgaria and one of the few on the Balkan Peninsula. The vast wet grasslands are unique because of their natural flooding regime and the relict flora. The complex shelters vast diversity of plants and animal species characteristic and rare for the region.
  • Results so far: Pump station removed from Dragoman Marsh. Water level at Aldomirovtsi Marsh stable after sinkhole problems solved. Ongoing monitoring of species of the entire Ramsar site and plants reintroduction. Bird-ringing at the Dragoman marsh. Reed removal from the Dragoman marsh and technology for producing pellets. After drainage of the Dragoman marsh, several plants disappeared from the Bulgarian flora. Two of them, Aldrovanda vesuculosa and Caldesia parnassifolia are in process of reintroduction. Due to improved conditions of the marsh, Aldrovanda vesiculosa is now developing successfully in its natural habitat. The white water lily is also successfully reintroduced after its extinction from the marsh. Afforestation with local tree species -Quercus pubescens, Quercus robur and Salix sp.- annually organized with participation of local people. Information plates at the Dragoman marsh designating fishing spots, litter bins for visitors and information tablets installed presenting key species in the marsh. Tourist infrastructure constructed and education events organized every year.
  • Flagship species: Other
  • Other characteristics: Community involved, Eco tourism, Education, Recreational activities, Research


  • Inspirational value: Various possibilities to work with species and habitats give the opportunity to introduce best practices from Europe in Bulgaria and to share good examples to other sites in the country. Also, the area is a perfect place to share experience - it is close to the capital and has the only wetland conservation centre in Bulgaria.
  • Experience you would like to share: Reintroduction of plants and fish species, water management practices, involvement of local community.<br />
  • Experience you would like to gain: Wetland restoration techniques, grassland management, reintroduction of mammals and birds, reed management and usage.<br />


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.