Harnessing megafauna for accelerating sustainability in the Eastern Rhodopes pastoral social-ecological system
Project duration: 2022 - 2023
Keywords: Bulgaria, DNA metabarcoding diet analysis, trophic interactions, herbivory, niche partitioning, trophic rewilding, European bison

The Eastern Rhodopes mountains are an extremely emblematic region in Southeastern Europe - a hotspot for biodiversity as well as cultural and ethnic diversity on the border between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. Since 2012, initiatives have been taking place to restore wildlife in the region, namely the reintroduction of large herbivores such as European bison, red and fallow deer, and wild horses, but also local ancient breeds of cattle and sheep. However, no empirical validations or comprehensive assessment of the ecological and socio-economic impact of these reintroductions have been carried out. The goal of the HARM project was to fill this gap. Using DNA metabarcoding diet analysis, the project assessed multispecies trophic interactions and their seasonal variation in areas with different densities of large herbivores. The data are used to assess the impact of grazing regimes on dietary diversity and overlap between species, as well as the potential effects on vegetation and the sustainable management of grasslands and pastures within the study area.

  • National Museum of Natural History, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (NMNHS)

Contact person: Chief Assistant Stefaniya Kamenova

List with publications

Kamenova S, Nedyalkov N, Kostadinova D, Hristov H, Avramov S, Coissac É (in prep) DNA metabarcoding detects natural and supplemental feed in the winter diet of recently reintroduced European bison.