site.btaProject for Artificial Island in Varna Lake to Help Preserve Its Rich Biodersity
A project is in the works for building an artificial island in the Varna-Beloslav Lake to help preserve its rich biodiversity while also putting to good use dredged sediments. The LIFE for Lake Varna project is carried out by Bulgarian Ports Infrastructure Company with the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) as associated beneficiary.
The Varna Lake is a protected area.
The artificial island with a total area of 3.5 ha will be built by August 2025 using dredged sediments from ship canals. It will provide breeding grounds for threatened bird species and an underwater substrate for fish and zoo-benthic species in Varna-Beloslav Lake. Two wooden platforms will also be constructed of 32 square metres each to solve the existing shortage of suitable nesting sites. The platforms will serve as a resting place for migratory birds as well.
The project has a total budget of EUR 1,852,060, of which EUR 1,110,980 will come from EU funding under the LIFE Programme.
At a working meeting on the project last week, Bulgarian Ports' Project Management Directorate head Anna Natova said that the working plan for LIFE for Lake Varna is ready and research is underway for the technical plan. Coordination procedures have been undertaken with various institutions. Preliminary estimates show some 200,000 cubic metres of dredged sediments will be needed to build the island, she explained.
Nikolay Petkov of the BSPB said that the Varna-Beloslav Lake area is one of the most urbanized in Bulgaria. The artificial island will help preserve the habitats of endangered and rare birds in Bulgaria, such as the common tern (Sterna hirundo), the sandwich tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis), the little tern (Sternula albifrons), and the pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta).
Varna Lake is situated next to the Black Sea city of Varna. It was a closed freshwater lagoon until 1909 when a canal was built to connect the lake with the sea, according to information on the LIFE Programme’s database. In 1923, a second canal connected Varna Lake with Beloslav Lake. In 1976, a shipping route was constructed to connect both lakes with the Black Sea, making it necessary to dredge sediments from the canals annually to ensure their navigability for large commercial ships.
The ship canals and the resulting increase in water salinity have caused a significant change in both lakes’ biodiversity. That led to Varna-Beloslav Lake’s inclusion in the Natura 2000 network of protected sites in 2007 and its designation as a special protected area under the EU’s Birds Directive in 2012.
In winter, Varna-Beloslav Lake is home to over 20,000 waterfowl of 64 species. The site is a bottleneck migration site for the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), the pygmy cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmeus), the pochard (Aythya ferina), the white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala), and the Ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca), among other bird species.
The artificial island to be built under the LIFE for Lake Varna project is only the first out of ten islands planned to be constructed in Varna-Beloslav Lake, according to Varna's master plan. The aim is to increase the green areas around Bulgaria’s third largest city and to restore bird habitats.