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Golden Sands Nature Park

Golden Sands Nature Park

Golden Sands Nature Park (Bulgarian: Природен парк "Златни пясъци") is a national park on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast in Varna Province. It is spread on an area of 1320.7 hectares. The park is 9.2 km long and on the average 1.2 km wide; it was declared a protected territory in 1943 (under the name Hachuka State Forest). According to the criteria of the World Conservation Union, it ranks fifth category on the list of protected territories.

It is covered with natural deciduous forests consisting of various types of oak species including moss-capped oak, Hungarian oak, swamp white oak, and hornbeam. The indigenous vegetation of the park, unlike forests with the predominance of oaks, also includes ecosystems of dense forest type.

Oaks and the accompanying silver leafed lime, manna ash, yoke elm, and field maple occupy the hilly area in the centre of the park. These forests include almost all tree species typical for the local lower forest layer (up to 1,000 m above sea level) and some of them (limes, elms) are over 100 years old. A two-hundred years old sycamore with circumference of the trunk 4m is among the landmarks of the park. Among the rich variety of grassy species most typical are the common mullein, toad flax, and ribwort.

Dense forest ecosystems occupy a smaller and wetter area in the southeast. These are deciduous tree species (Caucasian ash, moss-capped oak, yoke elm, white poplar, Mahaleb cherry) covered with climbing plants: old man’s beard, wild vines, ivy, hop, and silk vine. These forests are surprisingly similar to tropical forests. Grasses include wood horsetail, oriental iris, wild orchids, and cuckoo pint.

Shrub ecosystems take up the steep parts of the park in places with thin topsoil layers over limy rockbase. The predominant shrubs are lilac, crown vetch, jasmine, and Christ's thorn. Grasses in these parts are mostly drought-resistant. Some rare species are fernleaf wormwood, field chamomile, and the protected species joint pine. Under protection are 20 other rare and endangered species (snowdrop, Caucasian primula, orchids, etc.)

During its long-term cohabitation with humans the forest has changed, some native vegetation has been replaced by hornbeam brushwood. A result of human intervention are the cultured eco-systems. The most common coniferous plants in the park are European black pine, white fir, cypress, and cedar, and of the deciduous - acacia, flowering ash, and white poplar. The flora of the park includes a total of about 500 plant species.

Two amphibious, 8 reptile, 78 avian and 25 mammal species inhabit the park. The water-covered areas are populated by amphibious species. Among the variety of reptiles some protected species are Aesculapian snake, green whip snake, and tortoise. Of the 78 avian species most common are blackbirds, thrushes, tits, woodpeckers, jays, and common buzzards. Of the predatory birds the most common are goshawks, eagle owls, and tawny owls. In the water basins nest moorhens and green-headed duck.

Some typical mammals are roe deer, red deer, wild boar, badger, squirrel, beech marten, and rabbit. There is a great variety of insects too. Among the most attractive is the stag beetle, and, in the open areas, butterflies - swallowtail, admiral, small tortoiseshell, etc. Under protection are some rare and endangered animal species - 70 avian (common buzzard, goshawk, hawk finch, golden oriole, etc.) and 25 mammal species (including roe deer, wild boar, badger, hedgehog, pine marten, and bats).

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