Over the past decade, ecotourism has obtained considerable popularity in Bulgaria. Ecotourism is highly appreciated for its potential contribution to both the preservation of resources and the prosperity of local communities. As one of the most rapidly growing tourism sectors in the world, and an industry with significant potential in Bulgaria, there are high expectations for ecotourism. In Bulgaria, as in some other countries, ecotourism is expected to help balance regional differences, stimulate local economies, and promote sustainable development in socially and economically-depressed areas. The development of ecotourism in Bulgaria is associated mainly with protected and rural areas. However, ecotourism also supplies opportunities for traditional destinations to diversify their main traditional offerings, such as sea recreation, skiing and spa-tourism. Well-preserved nature and cultural heritage create great potential for ecotourism development in Bulgaria. With a relatively small territory of 111,000 km2, a large variety of relief forms, climatic zones, and landscapes can be observed, from the Black Sea coast to the highest mountain ranges. Mountains take up twenty eight percent (28%) of the country's area but there are numerous additional natural sites of interest, including in valleys and especially in wetlands along the Black Sea coast and the Danube River. Bulgaria is also a country of great biodiversity, with more than 30,000 plant and animal species. Almost one-third (1/3) of the country's territory is covered with forests. Vast territories preserve deciduous and coniferous woods 250–300 years of age and there are some of the most significant habitats for hundreds of endemic, rare and endangered spices in Europe. For example, bird life in Bulgaria is rich in the variety of its species. There are 405 bird species that make up more than the half of the total number in Europe, including about 35 birds-of-prey. Preserved natural environment and an abundance of living and nonliving nature are the reason for the establishment of a network of protected areas, which is expected to widen in the years to come. Srebarna Lake and Pirin National Park are Bulgaria's natural sites included in the UNESCO List of Natural Heritage Sites.
Natural Environment and Culture in the Mediterranean Region The Mediterranean Basin is located at the intersection of two major landmasses, Eurasia and Africa, which contributes to its cultural and high biodiversity. The greatest impacts have been deforestation, habitat fragmentation, intensive grazing and fires, and infrastructure development, especially on the coast, which have distinctly altered the landscape. In view of the valuable natural heritage there is a great need for weighing our ecological impact in order to achieve a balance between biodiversity conservation and human development and above all, how to maintain traditional rural livelihoods in a way that benefits biodiversity. This book synthesizes knowledge from many disciplines to throw some light on the unpredictability of forthcoming changes.