Cultural ecosystem services in a large Lithuanian peatland

During a preliminary assessment of ecosystem services (ES) of the third largest bog in Lithuania, undertaken as part of the project "Demonstrative restoration of the Tyruliai bog as a part of the initiative of the re-wetting of Lithuanian peatlands" (supported by the EU’s LIFE+ Programme and implemented by the Lithuanian Ornithological Society, No. LIFE12 NAT/LT/001186), the ecosystem services selected as priorities to study included the following cultural services – potential for recreation; nature tourism; leisure/recreational fishing and hunting; and science and education.  The priorities also included the closely related provisioning services provision (not for industrial purposes) of wild plants and animals. These services commonly are supplemented, again, by cultural services, e.g. visiting nature with family, followed by education and acquaintance with nature, culinary heritage, etc.

The project area is relatively small (3,699 ha), and surveying only its limited resident population will not provide a full and balanced picture of the area’s ES.  It was therefore decided to use data also from a representative survey of neighbouring municipalities within a radius of 40 km of the project area, this being thought to encompass the area from which the majority of visitors would come (Fig. 1).

The results showed that recreational fishing is very important for almost 20% of respondents, hiking for up to 25%, visiting protected areas is preferred in order to interact with nature for 37%, nature photography for more than 40%, and eco-tourism and wildlife watching (Fig. 2) are preferred for 48% of inhabitants. The importance of infrastructure to enjoy nature visits was indicated by as much as 97 % of respondents. Short visits to natural areas (one day camping, walking, sporting activities) appeared to be the most frequent type of visits, accounting on average for 64 days per person per year. Picking mushrooms and berries is a regular activity for more than 60% of the adult population, while collecting medicinal plants was cited by 33%. Wetlands were pointed out by more than 20% of respondents as the main target ecosystem for nature watching/educational ecosystem services. They were also the ecosystem type mentioned by 26% of those referring to collection of medicinal plants and by 8% of those referring to picking of berries.

The data received reflects hidden high potential for use of CES in the project area, and it presupposes an increase in sustainable use of these services in the future, if effective infrastructure and publicity measures are implemented. Preliminary calculations of the potential annual economic value of ecosystem services at Tyruliai could be as much as 7 million Euros

By Dr. Vytautas Narusevicius

Photo credit: Tyruliai bog, Gintaras Riauba

Fig. 1. Survey region (green - project area, first line – 20 km, second line – 40 km from project area border).

Fig. 2. Preliminary map of ecotourism/nature watching CES potential of the Project area (index values 0,24-3,20 (highest), resolution - 1 km).