The IBER-GRASS project was presented at International Scientific Conference "Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystem Services – Science in Action"

The International Scientific Conference "Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystem Services – Science in Action" took place in Sofia from 6 to 7 February 2017. The assessment approach and results about grassland ecosystem condition in Bulgaria outside NATURA 2000 network, implemented within IBER-GRASS project, were presented.

For the first time, a comprehensive approach for ecosystem condition assessment of all outside NATURA 2000 network Bulgarian grassland ecosystems was applied. Over 100 000 polygons were estimated for their ecosystem condition. The indicators used were in accordance with the National methodology framework, but some new ones were proposed also: Total vegetation cover, Fungi diversity, Ruderalization. Another contribution of the project was parameter refinement of some indicators. For example Animal diversity indicator was split into main taxonomical groups, but invertebrates were divided into functional groups. Such separation involves a clarity in assessing the animal diversity and traceability about any changes to be assessed in the future.

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On 27 October 2016 a terrain verification of the methodology for mapping grassland ecosystem condition and services was conducted in the region of Samokov municipality. The methodology was developed throughout the project MetEcoSMap within the Program BG03 "Biological Diversity and Ecosystems" FM of the EEA

Participants in the terrain work were prof. Iva Apostolova, doc. Desislava Sopotlieva and doc. Nikolai Velev from IBER-BAS, Vasil Vasilev and N. Cvetkova from RESAK and S. Vergiev from MOEW.

Territory for in situ verification encompasses three grass ecosystem types: Dry grasslands (301), Mesic grasslands (302) and Wet and seasonally wet grasslands (303). Observed polygons were relatively large, which guaranties the manifestation of structural and functional characteristics of the ecosystems. Data about three mandatory indicators for ecosystem condition and ecosystem services respectively were collected. These indicators were chosen accordingly, taking into consideration the late stage of the vegetation development. Results gave proof that methodology for assessment and mapping of grassland ecosystem condition and services has been applied properly, considering the consistency of the terrain results with the available data. Terrain verification also confirmed the efficiency of additional indicators and parameters proposed by the project team.

On 23 August an Annex to the Project Contract was signed with the Program Operator, according to which an additional activity within the main project is started, called "Pilot project for assessment of new measures for Unified agricultural policy of EU and their impact on ecosystem services provided by grasslands"

It is connected with Regulation № 1307/2013 (EU) from 17 December, 2013, which introduces an obligation for managing of so called Ecological focus areas (EFA) – farmland elements like headlands, field boundaries and other objects of natural and semi-natural vegetation, basically represented by grassland ecosystems. With its Regulation № 639/2014 from 11 March, 2014 European Commission introduced a detailed description of the EFA types. These vegetation patches have small sizes or/and very narrow form (long stripes), which makes them unsuitable for particular mapping within the main project scheme.

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The IBER-GRASS project was presented at Photo Exhibition entitled "In Harmony with the Nature".

The photo exhibition which was situated at the City Garden near the "Ivan Vazov" National Theatre presented photos from all projects implemented under the programmes for integrated inland and marine water management and biodiversity, implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Waters.

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