Sand dune - Country Report, Bulgaria

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This article on the sand dunes of Croatia, Montenegro and Albania, is a revised country report from the 'Sand Dune Inventory of Europe' (Doody ed. 1991) [1]. The 1991 inventory was prepared under the umbrella of the European Union for Dune Conservation [EUDC]. The original inventory was presented to the European Coastal Conservation Conference, held in the Netherlands in November 1991. It attempted to provide a description of the sand dune vegetation, sites and conservation issues throughout Europe including Scandinavia, the Atlantic coast and in the Mediterranean.

An overview article on the distribution of European sand dunes provides links to the other European country reports. These represent chapters from updated individual country reports included in the revised, 2nd Edition of the 'Sand Dune Inventory of Europe' prepared for the International Sand Dune Conference “Changing Perspectives in Coastal Dune Management”, held from the 31st March - 3rd April 2008, in Liverpool, UK (Doody ed. 2008)[2].

Original Authors: Tenyo Meshinev, Mira Mileva, Geko Spiridonov, Pavel Vassilev & Robert Tekke


The Bulgarian Black Sea coastline has a length of 380 km. The sand dunes and beaches occupy 34% of the coastal strip with a total area of 1,600 ha. In some places, the sandy coasts alternate with cliffs and rocky shores, especially in the north.


There are four large sand dune areas (over 50 ha) and seven large sand strips which occupy over 80% of the entire sandy coastline of Bulgaria. The three largest sand dune areas are located, in the region of the Kamchiya biosphere reserve between Kamchiya and Skorpilovtsi, near the town of Nessebur between Sozopol and the Ropotamo National Park, and finally in the vicinity of Primorsko, respectively. The dunes in Ropotamo National Park were formed on low hills covered by sand 1 to 10 metres deep.


There is a great variety in the vegetation on the coastal dunes of Bulgaria. A number of plant communities are formed on the sand dunes and sandstrips depending on the presence of mobile sand, the degree of plant growth, competition between species and age of the dunes:

Strandline and foredune

The dominant species in this part of the dunes are Eryngium maritimum and Cakile maritima, while Euphorbia paralias, Euphorbia peplis and Stachys maritima are rarer. Salsola ruthenica is also present with Cakile maritima and to a lesser extent with Polygonum maritimum, P. mesembricum, Xantium italicum, etc. On soils that are more humid, there are open communities where Elymus farctus, Eryngium maritimum, Lactura tatarica etc. are present;

Yellow dune

Here perennial species dominate such Ammophila arenaria, Leymus racemosus ssp. sabulosus, Elymus farctus, Cionura erecta, Artemisia campestris, Artemisia lerchiniana. In the flatter and lower lying areas species like Silene thymifolia, Centaurea arenaria, Galilea mucronata, Festuca vaginata, Peucedanum arenarium, Carex colchica, Lepidotrichum uechtritzianum, Lurinea albicaulis and Astralagus onobrychis become more important. On the older, more stabilized dunes, with a denser vegetation structure, communities of Tamarix ramosissima and T. tetrandra occur;

Dune slack

In the low areas among the sand dunes where there is a high level of underground water, plant communities with Phragmites australis, Schoenus nigricans, Juncus nigricans, Juncus maritimus, Juncus littoralis, Agrostis stolonifera occur. In these communities Holoschoenus vulgaris, Calamagrostis epigeios and Carex extensa are common. In some places, Erhianthus ravennae can also be found;

Dune grassland

Typical species for the dune grasslands along the Black Sea coast are Chrysopogon gryllus, Poa bulbosa, Bromus tectorum, Cynodon dactylon and Teucrium polium;


Some examples of species, which occur in the dune woodlands of Bulgaria, are Carpinus orientalis, Tilia tomentosa and Quercus cerris in the region of the Ropotamo Park and Q. pedunculiflora in the region of the Kamchiya reserve. In the forest, undergrowth species like Crategus monogyna can be found. In the hollows between the wooded ridges Ulmus minor, Fraxinus oxycarpa and Celtis australis prevail. In the Bulgarian dunes there are number of rare and threatened plants like Blackstonia perfoliata, Centaurea arenaria, Verbascum glanduligerum (endemic for the Balkan peninsula), Pancratium maritimum and Trachomitum venetum amongst others.


The main threats to the sandstrips and dunes of Bulgaria are the building of holiday complexes and associated roads, the use of sand dunes for other building purposes and the subsequent disturbance by tourist activities as occurs on “Sunny Beach” near Nessebur. In this area the sand dunes have been destroyed partly by tourist developments. Part of the area is now protected and plans have been made to restore the damage. Nature conservation in Bulgaria has a central authority. There are four types of protective designations, National Parks, Protected Landscapes, Nature Reserves and Natural Monuments. So far 596 ha of the Bulgarian coastline have been declared as protected areas. These include 45% of the most important sandstrips and dune areas. The nature reserve status of the protected areas within the Kamchiya Biosphere Reserve and the Ropotamo National Park are most important. The latter has been a National Park since 1960 and it is envisaged it will be extended in area in the future.

Additional information 2006

A review of Bulgaria’s Biological Diversity: Conservation Status and Needs Assessment by the Biodiversity Support Program and edited by Curt Meine March 1998 can be downloaded @ [1] This includes chapters on the range of plants and animals. Sand dunes are not described as a separate habitat though there are numerous references to the Black Sea coast and the sand dunes found there see for example:

“Very distinctive and ecologically important are the coastal habitats of the Black Sea. This transition zone is of great importance for biodiversity in all invertebrate groups. The destruction of these habitats will be pernicious for many species.”

“The fauna of the coastal dune and salt soils is greatly threatened by the construction of resorts (buildings, camp sites, roads, etc.). This is of special concern at Beliya bryag by Kavarna, in the district of Sinemoretc, and at most of resort sites along the Black Sea coast.”

“For Odonata, the most interesting communities are located along the Black Sea coast and in parts of south-west Bulgaria,”

The section on Plant Community Ecology in Bulgaria by Tenio Meshinev, Velcho Velchev, Pavel Vassilev, Iva Apostolova, Nikolay Georgiev, and Anna Ganeva states: “Information about some specific habitats - …..sand-dune and coastal vegetation….. - is insufficient.

Original Contacts:

Pavel Vassilev, Institute of Botany, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, ul. “Acad. G. Bonchev” Block 23, 1113 Sofia, BULGARIA.

Mira Mileva & Geko Spiridonov, Wilderness Fund, Institute of Ecology, Gagarin Street 2, 113 Sofia, BULGARIA.


  1. Doody, J.P., ed., 1991. Sand Dune Inventory of Europe. Peterborough, Joint Nature Conservation Committee/European Union for Coastal Conservation.
  2. Doody, J.P., ed. 2008. Sand Dune Inventory of Europe, 2nd Edition. National Coastal Consultants and EUCC - The Coastal Union, in association with the IGU Coastal Commission.

Further information:

Dunes under threat: an inventory of the dunes of Bulgaria By Margarita Stancheva, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Sand Dune and Shingle Network, Tenth Newsletter, December 2010. [2]

Bondev, I. (No date). Psamophytic vegetation in Bulgaria and the problem of its conservation (in Bulgarian). In: Miscellany National Theoretical Conference on the Problems of the Protection of the Environment, 1-15 XI. Slunchev Bryag.

Davidov, B. 1912. Costal Sands in South Bulgaria and their Vegetation. (Bulg.). Sbornik na Prirodoizpitatelnoto Drujestvo (Proceedings of the Natural - Scientific Society). 5. Sofia.

Meshinev, P. & Vassilev, Ar. Inzheyan, 1982. The vegetation of the Ropotamo (in Bulgarian). In: Davidov, B. 1912. "Costal Sands in South Bulgaria and their Vegetation." (Bulg.) Sbornik na Prirodoizpitatelnoto Drujestvo (Proceedings of the Natural - Scientific Society). 5. Sofia., 1-15 XI. Slunchev Bryag.

Mishev, K.. (No date). Black Sea Terraces (in Bulgarian). In: Geography of Bulgaria, Vol. I, BAS.

Mishev, K., & Popov, P., 1979. The Bulgarian Black Sea Coast (in Bulgarian), BAS.

See also

The main author of this article is Doody, Pat
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Doody, Pat (2019): Sand dune - Country Report, Bulgaria. Available from,_Bulgaria [accessed on 1-12-2023]