UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) was launced in 1971 to safeguard the nature through building up a World Network of Biosphere Reserves and Parks.

Today, the World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently counts 669 sites in 120 countries all over the world, including 16 transboundary sites.

The first biosphere reserves were announced in 1976. Bulgaria joined the Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB) in 1977 with the announcement of 17 biosphere reserves, which are also strict natural reserves under Bulgarian law. This places Bulgaria among the top ten countries on the number of biosphere reserves.

Chervenata stena reserve is one of those 17 sites, designated as a biosphere reserve in 1977.

According to the original concept, a Biosphere Reserve is a strictly guarded territory with unique flora and fauna whose main purpose is to preserve natural ecosystems, which have not been impacted by human activities and conserve genetic resources, providing a basis for scientific and educational activities.

The International Conference on Biosphere Reserves, organized by UNESCO in Seville, Spain in 1995 adopted the Seville strategy and a Statutory Framework for biosphere reserves, setting out new rules and norms for these territories. According to the Seville Strategy, these places are an example of a harmonious co-existence between man and nature, demonstrating good practices and policies not only about biodiversity and natural ecosystems conservation but about the sustainable development of the local communities as well.

According to the Seville Strategy, in addition to areas of strict protection, the modern biosphere reserves/parks shall include buffer zones and also areas, where sustainable practices are promoted for encouraging both of the economic development of the concerned regions and of nature conservation in them, called ‘transition’ zones.

All Bulgarian biosphere reserves are “strict nature reserves” with protection norms that do not allow the implementation of activities related to the sustainable use of natural resources, i.e. they do not apply the required function for sustainable development and use of natural resources. At present, none of the Bulgarian sites corresponds to the zoning requirements and functions imposed by the Seville Strategy, which is why most of them will be withdrawn from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

The International Consultative Committee on Biosphere Reserves ‘strongly encourages’ the offer of new nominations in line with the Seville Strategy and the Statutory Framework for Biosphere Reserves and marks Chervenata Stena Reserve as one of the territories that have the potential to meet the new criteria.

At the meeting in March 2016, the National MAB Committee of UNESCO took a decision on nomination for designation of Chervenata Stena reserve as one of the first biosphere reserves of new type in Bulgaria.

By Decision No. 484, taken with Protocol No. 14 / 06.07.2016, the Municipal Council – Assenovgrad agrees to include the territory of the municipality of Assenovgrad in the Chervenata Stena biosphere park.

As a result of the common efforts of the Ministry of Environment and Water, Assenovgrad municipality and the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water – Plovdiv, a nomination form was prepared and submitted to the MAB Secretariat. As a consequence, in 2017 Chervenata stena was designated by UNESCO as one of the first Bulgarian modern-generation biosphere parks.

Chervenata Stena Biosphere Park consists of a core, a buffer and a transition zones and fully meets the requirements of the Seville Strategy:

  • The core zone is the existing Chervenata Stena Reserve, declared in 1962. At present the area of ​​the Chervenata Stena is 3.043,53 decares. The core zone is situated on the territory of the lands of Bachkovo, Dobrostan and Oreshets villages, Assenovgrad municipality and in the lands of Borovo village, Laki municipality, Plovdiv region. The reserve is declared according to the national legislation with the purpose of preserveing the complexity of natural beauties and the richness of floristic species, many of which are rare relicts, paleo – and neoendemites for the country and the Balkan Peninsula.The core zone of the proposed biosphere park – the existing Chervenata Stena Reserve is an exclusive state property under Art. 8 of the Protected Areas Act and is managed and safeguarded by the Ministry of Environment and Water, respectively by RIEW-Plovdiv.In accordance with national legislation, the legal status of the Chervenata Stena Biosphere Park core area fully complies with the conservation function of the core area of Biosphere Reserves regulated by the Seville Strategy and contributes to preservation and conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic diversity. Only in the core zone, no economic activities are allowed and no natural resources can be utilized.
  • The buffer zone of the Chervenata Stena Biosphere Park is protected zone BG 0002073 Dobrostan – a part of the European ecological NATURA 2000 network. The protected area was designated by Order No. РД-528 / 26.05.2010 of the Minister of Environment and Waters. The area of ​​Assenovgrad municipality, situated within the protected zone, is 25.387,99 ha. The territory of ​​this area is directly adjacent to the core zone (the existing Chervenata Stena Reserve). It has a clearly defined legal status, regime and boundaries and is a natural core zone buffer. Conservation habitats are preserved in its territory and are also habitats of rare animal species, including birds. For this reason, the Dobrostan protected area, comprising the territory of Assenovgrad municipality, is defined as a buffer zone of the biosphere park.According to the order for declaring the protected area, the following activities are prohibited within its boundaries:
    – Plowing of pastures and their conversion into arable land;
    – Use of pesticides in pastures and meadows;
    – Construction of hydroelectric power plants.
    Ownership in this area is various – state, municipal, private and remains as it is so far. Its inclusion as a buffer zone of the park does not change the ownership of the land and does not impose additional prohibitions and restrictions from the existing ones.Within the boundaries of the Dobrostan Protected Area, which is a buffer zone of the biosphere park, scientific studies of ecosystems, flora and fauna are performed and biodiversity monitoring is carried out. Ecotourism is developed in the area, as there are lots of cultural and historical sites and tourist trails, some of which pass through the core zone also. The buffer zone of the biosphere park – Dobrostan Protected Area is a natural buffer of the core zone and fully complies to the functions of the buffer zones, regulated by the Seville Strategy.

    • The transition zone of the biosphere park is the whole remaining territory of Assenovgrad Municipality, surrounding the buffer zone. The area of the transition zone is 37.774,762 ha. All settlements in the municipality are located in this area. Various economic and agricultural activities are being carried out here – livestock farming, agriculture, and other diverse forms of use of natural resources. The transition zone is developed according to the General Plan of the Municipality and no change in the parameters of the Master Plan is required.

Ownership in this area is various – state, municipal, private and remains as it is so far. Its inclusion as a transition zone of the park does not change the ownership of the land and does not impose additional prohibitions and restrictions from the existing ones.

Assenovgrad municipality is responsible for the management of the transition zone, including all settlements in the municipality. The land in this area is managed in accordance with the Territorial Planning Act and the General Master Plan by the Municipality of Assenovgrad. Its inclusion in the biosphere park provides opportunities for attracting future funding and investment for the municipality.

None of the Biosphere Park zones shall be a subject to any additional restrictions and norms beyond those regulated by national law.

The provisions of the existing national legislation related to the territory planning and environmental protection shall be applied for the site of the biosphere park.

Chervenata Skala Biosphere Park area is distinguished by a number of architectural, natural, cultural and ecclesiastical sites, which are undoubtedly among the most significant in Bulgaria. Among the important cultural and educational centers in the region are the Historical and Paleontological Museum in Assenovgrad, the St. Georgi school, The Bachkovo Monastery ‘Assumption of the Holy Mother of God’, founded in 1083 – the second largest monastery in Bulgaria, Krastova gora, a number of chapels and monasteries, Assen’s fortress, the rock phenomenon Belintash and others.

Agriculture is well developed. Larger crops are grown, vegetables, perennials – vines and orchards. The appropriate soil and climatic conditions are a good prerequisite for the development of vegetable growing, vine growing and wine production.

The combination of the cultural-historical and natural features on the territory of the Chervenata Stena Biosphere Park represents a good opportunity for recreation and tourism of the population and can be used for demonstration of a number of sustainable activities such as ecotourism, hospitality, restaurant business and other practices on sustainable use of natural resources.

Who is responsible for the biosphere park?

The major feature of the Biosphere Park is the collective management, the exchange of views and practices as well as decision-making in the public interest. The management of the biosphere reserve is the subject of a collective body which requires the establishment of a Management Board or a Committee to plan and coordinate the activities with the participation of all stakeholders. The Biosphere Park is the guarantee to cooperation among all stakeholders for a more responsible lifestyle.

What are the benefits of the Biosphere Park and for whom?

  • Direct benefits to the local population are to “revitalize” local businesses by promoting the development of sustainable, environmentally friendly farming and livestock farming practices, forestry and hunting, ecotourism, fisheries, etc. This results in creation of new jobs and increase of the local people’s financial income. At the same time, a long-term conservation of natural and cultural heritage for future generations is achieved;
  • The wide international reputation and good image of the Man and Biosphere program attract numerous visitors to the Biosphere Park and provoke a great interest in purchasing local products. Only the initiative of the local people and the cooperation of all the stakeholders will frame the extent to which they will be able to benefit from this popularity in order to attract the necessary resources and realize their ideas;
  • The designation of the territory as a Biosphere Park – a part of the World Network brings international prestige and recognition, exchange of knowledge and experience, advertising, area attractiveness, etc., as well as better publicity of the region not only in Bulgaria but also abroad;
  • The Biosphere Park is a preferred place for recreation and tourism because the environment is clean and well-preserved, the quality of the provided tourist services and the products, created in a nature-friendly way are guaranteed.
  • The Biosphere Park provides an opportunity for stakeholders to participate in its governance through a co-management structure – an Advisory Board composed of representatives of local non-governmental organizations, business associations, universities, local authorities, etc. It is the Advisory Board that plan and coordinate the park management activities with the participation of all stakeholders;
  • Participation in the development of regional brands of local products is possible – and thus participation in the Biosphere Park means a bonus and confirmation that the territory is ecologically clean and well preserved, and that it has the potential to develop sustainable tourism in line with environmental standards;
  • The inclusion of Chervenata Stena Biosphere Park in the World Network provides almost unlimited opportunities for regional and international cooperation and exchange of experience. It is an expression of recognition from such a prestigious international organization as UNESCO, and this is a reason for the pride and personal satisfaction of everyone who feels connected to the Biosphere Park!