Lithuania's two newest Ramsar Sites
The Ministry of Environment of Lithuania has designated two new Wetlands of International Importance, bringing the Convention's global total to 1,970 Ramsar Sites with a surface area of 190,737,829 hectares. Lithuania's two new sites, both in the eastern part of the country in Utena and Vilnius counties, are that Party's first designations since it joined the Convention in 1993, and they bring Lithuania's total to 7 Ramsar Sites covering 65,581 hectares. Ramsar's Assistant Advisor for Europe, Kati Wenzel, has summarized the two new sites based on the accompanying Ramsar Information Sheets.
Adutiskis-Svyla-Birveta wetland complex (Adutiškio-Svylos-Birvetos šlapžemiu kompleksas) (6,881 hectares, 55°15'15"N 26°41'28"E) is a Nature Reserve and Natura 2000 Special Protection Area. The largest part of the site consists of wet forests dominated by aspen, birch, black alder and spruce stands, of which about 30% grows on peat land. The site also includes a system of fishponds (800 ha), open areas of raised bogs, several rivers and their floodplains, a network of drainage canals, a number of temporal oxbow lakes, and two clay-pits. Five of the site's habitat types as well as several rare plant and animal species are listed under the EU Habitats Directive. More than 500 species of higher vascular plants have been identified and birds of more than 150 species have been recorded, including some 50 species that are protected in Lithuania.
The site hosts more than 1% of the population of White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons (10,000) and of the Taiga Bean Goose subspecies Anser fabalis fabalis (1,100). It is one of the key staging grounds for migratory water birds in eastern Lithuania, and the site, particularly its raised bogs, is important for groundwater recharge, aquaculture (mainly carp) and commercial timber production. It is threatened by drainage activities, large-scale fires, clear-cutting of old growth forest, and unsustainable agricultural uses.
Biodiversity research for this new site was supported by the 2001 cycle of the Ramsar Convention's Small Grants Fund through the project "Inventory of important transfrontier wetlands in Belarus, Kaliningrad Region of Russia and Lithuania".
Girutiskis bog (Girutiškio pelke) (1,402 ha; 55°11'52"N 25°51'21"E), a Strict Nature Reserve, Regional Park, and Natura 2000 SPA, is a complex of raised bogs, rich fens and transitional mires with acidic and oxygen-poor lakes and surrounding pine forests interspersed with spruce and birch trees. Numerous habitat types as well as plant and animal species (mammals, fish, insects, amphibians, and molluscs) are listed under the EU Habitats Directive and protected nationally, and a large number of breeding and non-breeding bird species protected in Europe and Lithuania occur within the site.
The site is important as a source of groundwater and the swamp has a significant replenishing function. Peat accumulation in bogs also facilitates the binding of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The site is being used for research, environmental education and limited educational tourism; there is a visitor centre and an exposition at the Labanoras Regional Park directorate. Habitat overgrowth with bushes and trees, and invasive species, pose the main problems. An approved nature management plan exists.
Photo courtesy of Labanoro regioninis parkas (www.labanoroparkas.lt).