Environment Planet Earth Bulgaria Is Getting a Beautiful New Forest By Melissa Breyer Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. our editorial process Melissa Breyer Updated November 20, 2019 ©. WWF-Bulgaria Share Twitter Pinterest Email Planet Earth Conservation Weather Outdoors Soon, willow, alder, ash and oaks will grace the banks of the Maritza river once again. The riparian forest is one we don't hear enough about, but trees along rivers are hugely important. Aside from the all the usual hard work trees do, riparian forests strengthen riverbanks and limit erosion, help absorb dust, improve water quality, prevent floods, and harbor habitats and bio-corridors for plants and animals. Yet even with a multitude of obvious benefits, they have been unceremoniously destroyed. "Despite the numerous ecosystem services they provide, riparian forests have been destroyed for centuries to free up grasslands, create agricultural land, and build dikes and other infrastructure. Consequently, there is an urgent need to restore and protect the remaining riparian forests,” says Neli Doncheva, Chief Forestry Expert, WWF-Bulgaria "This makes them one of the rarest and priority forest habitats," notes WWF. With this in mind, WFF has embarked on a project in Stamboliyski, a town in southern Bulgaria. Along with the municipality and local businesses, the plan is to restore a riparian forest along the Maritsa river. All told, 12,000 saplings and seeds of tree species adapted to the environment will be populating the riverside, thanks to the work of the organizations involved and teams of volunteers. White willow, black and white poplar, field ash, black alder, field elm, and oak were selected after years of research to ensure that the right species would be used. "The saplings to be planted along the Maritza coast have been selected according to the specifics of the riparian forest habitats. WWF restores priority habitat type 91E0, characterized by black alder trees, poplars, willows, ash trees, oaks - all of which are suitable for alluvial soils and also withstand temporary flooding," said Nelly Doncheva, WWF Chief Expert in Forest Practice. The new forest will comprise 28 acres along the river, a place where riparian forests rich in biodiversity once thrived. In preparation for the month-long planting that begins November 21, 2019, dozens of volunteers helped clean the area; they removed 120 bags of garbage. This will actually be the third plot of restored riparian forest along the Maritza river – may many other rivers soon meet the same fortunate fate. For more, visit WWF.