Marian Pulina,
Prof. in the University of Silesia, Poland
Dear colleagues and friends,

As a Bulgaria's friend and member of the Consultative Board of the Foundation "Centre on Karstology - V. Popov" I am pleased to back the new initiative of the Bulgarian karst experts - International Scientific Conference "Protected Karst Areas : State, Problems, Perspectives" (18-21 October 2005, the town of Shumen, Bulgaria).

The karst regions occupy about 1/4 of Bulgaria's area. Karst phenomena can be distinguished in the high mountains (Pirin, the Rhodopes, Stara Planina) as well as on various plateaus, hills and on the Black Sea coast (Dobrudja). More than 5000 caves have been investigated in Bulgaria, the largest of which are over 5000 m long and 300 m deep. The speleological movement in the country is well developed and the Bulgarian speleologists have proved that they are among the best in Europe.

The sediments of the Bulgarian caves have been tested in the course of international archaeological surveys. By tradition, the karst genesis has always been considered of primary importance in the research, conducted by different institutions which deal with natural science studies. Many of the caves are accessible to tourists and 9 are specially equipped to facilitate the tourist visits. Besides, karst terrains are involved in protected areas of different rank (nature and national parks included). Some of them display typical karst features and incorporate unique karst geosystems.

During the on-going political and economic transformations in Bulgaria a number of karst objects, including the caves, have been threatened. This results from the lack of modern and efficient regulations on nature protection and natural resource management in karst areas. The aforesaid fact can lead to irretrievable environmental damages in this part of Europe. Therefore, the solution of the problem should be one of the urgent tasks at the time when Bulgaria is getting ready to join the EU. As quickly as possible the experts must have serious discussions, aiming to determine the key principles and conceptions in Bulgarian public administration, related to the protection and management of specific karst areas and objects of national and international importance.

In this respect the initiative of the Institute of Geography at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the Nature Park Office "Shumensko Plateau" to organize an international scientific conference comes just in time. Although devoted mainly to the protected karst areas, it will also focus on a wide range of issues, closely associated with nature protection and natural resource use in karst regions. It will be very important to hear the opinion of foreign experts at the conference who can suggest reasonable solutions concerning the karst resource management in Bulgaria.

I appeal to your participation in the conference!