Ramsar visit to Latvia, July 2003


Recently, Ilona Jepsena, the Director of the Nature Protection Department in the Ministry of Environment, responsible for Ramsar implementation in Latvia, invited Tobias Salathé, Ramsar's Regional Coordinator for Europe, to visit Latvian Ramsar Sites and to gain insight into their management situation.This provided a useful occasion to meet with key people at the Ministry of Environment in Riga, including Minister Raimonds Vejonis. The participants in the meeting in Riga and during the site visits improved, reciprocally, the understanding of the Ramsar Convention and wetland conservation issues in Latvia. It provided useful opportunities to discuss in depth different aspects related to the implementation of the Ramsar Convention and local development imperatives.

The field visits included the three Ramsar Sites designated in 1995: Lake Kanieris inside Kemeri National Park. Hopefully this Ramsar Site will soon be extended to cover the entire National Park area, including Kemeri raised bog, Lielupe floodplain grasslands, Baltic seashore meadows, and extensive wet forests; Lake Engure Nature Park, where experimental grazing for vegetation management is currently conducted by Inga Racinska, former Ramsar Assistant for Europe, now back with the Latvian Fund for Nature; and Teici and Pelecares Bogs Nature Reserve. The visit covered two more wetland areas that are currently in the process of being designated as Ramsar Sites: the Ziemelu bogs inside the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve (covering 6% of Latvia's surface), a transboundary wetland with Estonia's Nigula Nature Reserve Ramsar Site, and the Lubana wetland complex, a mosaic of a shallow lake, river floodplain meadows, raised peatbogs, and (former) fish farm ponds.

Have a look at Latvia's wetlands diversity for yourself:

Kanieris Lake Ramsar Site inside Kemeri National Park

Pictures show boats at Kanieries lake, used for recreation and angling . . . .

a bog pool beside the public boardwalk across the Kemeri raised bog . . .

pine forests next to Kemeri bog burnt down a few years ago - bog and forest fires are a serious threat to these wetland areas during the summer season . . .

and part of the Baltic Sea (Gulf of Riga) coastal grasslands and reedbeds - an important habitat for rare plants (Inga Racinska photographing a gladiola, below) and waterbirds.

Lake Engure Nature Park Ramsar Site

The shore meadows alongside lake Engure are progressively grown over by reeds and willow trees. A promising way of preventing this vegetation succession is grazing by rustic races of domestic herbivores -- pictured are Konik horses, which share their pasture with rustic cattle. Eventually, such non-intensive livestock rearing will provide local income, while being an efficient vegetation management tool. This is currently experimented with European Union LIFE-Nature project support.

Teici Nature Reserve Ramsar Site

While Ramsar Bureau staff is currently suffering from an extended period of summer heat in Switzerland, further north Latvia's misty Teici bog seems just to provide the right climate (although with a heavy load of mosquitos included); f.l.t.r. testing the ground are Inga Racinska (Latvian Fund for Nature), Ugis Bergmanis (Teici Nature Reserve), Gatis Erins (Nature Protection Department) and Michael and Annegret Stubbe of Halle University (Germany), on a monitoring visit in the area to mark rare breeding eagles.

In 1999, a Ramsar SGF project provided funds for bog restoration measures inside Teici Nature Reserve. The area depicted was formerly a military vehicle track, now recovering rapidly. In the background a large beaver castle can be detected -- beavers participate efficiently in the hydrological restoration work, all for free.

North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve

Andris Urtans, vice-director of the Biosphere Reserve takes pride in showing visitors the Salaca river, the best in Latvia for salmons, during a ride in his inflatable boat.

-- reported by Tobias Salathé

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