Laws, regulations, and plans
The shoreline of Buljarica (4 ha) is protected after national legislation since 1968. However, management or protection activities are lacking. 2006 Buljarica cove was designated as an Emerald Habitat under the Bern Convention and has also been included in the list of key sites in Montenegro for the Natura 2000 Network. It was recognized as a potential Important Bird Area (300 ha) because of the importance as a stopover for migratory birds. A study of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism proposed a wider area of the islet Katic encompassing Buljarica to be declared as Marine Protected Area (MPA). No MPA has yet been designated in Montenegro.
In the National Spatial Plan to 2020 (issued in 2008) Buljarica is listed as a Monument of Nature, but at the same time and contradictorily identified as an area with high potential for nautical and exclusive tourism development. And due to the Special Purpose Spatial Plan for the Coastal Zone until 2030, Buljarica could be transformed into a luxury tourist complex with villa resorts, marina, golf courses, and other tourism-related facilities.
The National Sustainable Development Strategy to 2030 identified Buljarica as a site of valuable biodiversity which leads to problems for the development of large touristic capacities and the National Strategy for Integrated Coastal Zone Management to 2030 defined Buljarica as an area with the greatest number of habitats of international importance.
Following the ecosystem-based approach, the biodiversity of Buljarica is grouped into three main categories of specific ecosystems.
Marine and coastal ecosystems:
Despite restricted time and resources 94 species of animals were recorded, among them, 16 are protected under national and international law. Concerning plants, Posidonia oceanica stands out as Mediterranean endemic and one of only a few marine flowering plants, highly important for forming microhabitats for numerous forms of life. At depths of 10 to 23 m Posidonia meadows are mainly well developed, dense and very rich with benthic species and fish, mixed with Sandbanks in the middle of the bay and Coralligenous habitats and reefs at its edges.
In the area of islets Katic the following habitats and species are observed and protected under Habitats Directive Annex I: Posidonia beds, reefs, submerged caves; Annex II: Tursiops truncates; Annex IV: all species of cetacea, Lithophaga lithophaga, Pinna nobilis; Annex V: Scyllarides latus. And under SPAMI Protocol Annex II: Posidonia oceanica, Cystoseira spp., Ophidiaster ophidianus, Litophaga litophaga, Pinna nobilis, Tonna galea, Hippocampus ramulosus, Tursiops truncates; Annex III: Scyllarides latus, Scyllarus arctus, Epinephelus marginatus.
Freshwater and brackish systems:
This category reflects the strongest need for conservation as brackish coastal marshland ecosystems suffer from various human activities. Up to now in Buljarica marshland exists beside numerous freshwater springs a rich flora and fauna. It is a hotspot for dragonflies (41) and butterflies (66 species), more than 40% and 61% of all species of these orders in Montenegro and the most numerous among 175 insects are registered here. Four of the 41 species of dragonflies have special significance: Cordulegaster heros, Cordulegaster bidentate, Caliaeschna microstigma and Lindenia tetraphylla. The first three species are assessed as Near Threatened at European level by IUCN. Cordulegaster heros and Lindenia tetraphylla are listed in Annexes II and IV European Habitat Directive. Regarding the fauna of butterflies and the 13 species of moths, the one with the highest conservation status is Euphydryas maturna, Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, presented in Annex II Habitat Directive and Appendix II Bern Convention. There are 12 species of aquatic bugs, 27 species of beetles and 16 species of grasshoppers and crickets.
11 species of amphibians were recorded in Buljarica, representing 79% of all Montenegrin amphibians, all listed in Appendices II and III of the Bern Convention, six in Annexes II and IV Habitat Directive and Pelophylax shqipericus is endangered after the IUCN Red List.
Buljarica is the best-preserved habitat for the Balkan terrapin, Mauremys rivulata, and the study identified 22 species of reptiles, again 61% of all reptiles present in Montenegro. All species are listed in Appendices II and III Bern Convention, 19 in Annexes II and IV Habitat Directive and four have an unfavorable status Near Threatened and Vulnerable after IUCN Red List. The presence of reptile species was recorded in all three ecosystem categories! The most important ecosystems for reptiles are maquis and Eastern white oak forests.
178 species of birds are identified, 93 are breeding here. Due to the limitations of resources only the status of possible breeders was given to 12 species. Most important are Eegyptian vulture, Neophron percnopterus, Griffon vulture, Gyps fulvus and Bonelli`s eagle, Aquila fasicata. Added migratory and or wintering species the bird taxa rises to 220-250. Buljarica belongs to the “Adriatic Flyway”. The conservation status of confirmed 178 birds, 39 are listed in Annexes I and II Birds Directive and four species have an Unfavourable Status on IUCN Red List.
A remarkable diversity of mammals was noted in two of the ecosystem types in Buljarica. Due to scarce capacities, marine mammal species can’t be surveyed. The most interesting group of mammals are seven species of bats, all registered on the Habitat Directive and Appendices II and III Bern Convention and also nationally protected. Miniopterus scheibersii and Rhinolophus hipposideros are assessed as Near Threatened by IUCN.
Terrestrial and karstic habitats:
In this category, 36 types of habitats (17 are protected) and 250 species of vascular plants can be found. Thermophilous oak woods, cliffs, and rocky outcrops naturally occurring. The forests were significantly exploited and degraded to maquis. Various inaccessible rocky formations provide shelter for many endemic and/ or relict species.
In May 2016 state-owned land has been offered for sale and/ or long-term concession in a state land tender process without first considering the protection status of the area. The planned drainage of the wetland and its urbanization would cause the disappearance of natural values of Buljarica cove and resources that are also providing economic safety for the local population. The loss of important marine habitats has a great influence on the sea ecosystem.
Besides this unplanned or illegal construction and active real-estate market caused by poverty, lack of knowledge and awareness of alternative sustainable development opportunities present another serious threat to the ecosystem of Buljarica.
Main factors for the ecosystem degradation through stress are: natural succession in cultural ecosystems, habitat fragmentation, low soil quality, changing of water interaction regime between sea and lagoon water, reduction of habitat area, decrease of species population size, eutrophication, untreated communal and illegal solid waste disposal
The village Buljarica is situated close to Petrovac settlement with a population of around 200 people in 67 households and together 230 apartments, according to the last census 2011. Buljarica consists of two units: in Buljarica I (387 ha) the land mostly belongs to private owners but in Buljarica II (1.316 ha) the situation differs and most of the properties belong to the state.
Tourism is already now the main occupation in Buljarica and seen as the biggest potential for economic growth. 50% of the residents practice agriculture for their own needs and the majority see in the combination of agriculture, tourism, and conservation or solely tourism the biggest development potential. The sea, the landscape, and clean water are considered as the most important natural resource in Buljarica, threatened by land selling trends, unplanned construction, pollution, harmful national and local planning policies. There is little knowledge about alternatives towards the typical sun and beach tourism offered at Montenegrin coast.
As a very old settlement with remains from Prehistoric Times Buljarica has a rich cultural heritage. Most important among several old churches is Gradiste Monastery and the most famous archaeological site is the rustic villa from Roman Times. Systematic archaeological researches have never been conducted in Buljarica except for excavations in Gradiste Monastery. You can also find traditional singing und music, legends, religious practices, and rituals and crafts.
Touristic development will be successful to the extent to which the landscape, cultural and ecological values of this area are preserved. Regardless of numerous problems Buljarica still has the potential that a well – preserved nature provides good opportunities for social and economic development.