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Nature's smallest wonders need special protection

2014-03-31

We often forget that we aren't alone on this planet – we share it with entire ecosystems, which we can affect and change. We often fail to appreciate nature's smallest wonders – plants or rare animals right in our own backyards. This is exactly why, in 1992, the European Union created the “Natura 2000” network of protected ecological areas, which has 480 territories in Lithuania. This European Community network of areas consists of the habitats of various protected plants and animals that are set by each member nation. Areas in the “Natura 2000” network require special care because they are home to birds or plants that are especially sensitive to human interference. These territories must not only be protected, but cared for as well – cared for so that the environmental conditions favorable for the rare species contained therein would remain unchanged.

Work for the good of nature

Regional park specialists and ecologists indicate which zones need special care to the State Service for Protected Areas under the Ministry of Environment. Whether or not those territories lie within private land is also established, because landlords are usually not prone to protecting plants or animals that they don't know much about.

Each territory is unique, so each is cared for differently. In some, new shoots must be cut. In others, the natural hydrological regime has to be restored to swamps dried up by reclamation efforts or, in the opposite case, to make certain areas drier.

Many of the areas being cared for are rarely visited by people but, for various reasons, the especially rare and important species that live therein are still threatened. For example, the Senrusnės and Sennemunės lakes were especially loved by the rare black tern. However, this old part of the Nemunas riverbed became overgrown and was covered with osiers and bushes. Taller trees, well-liked by predators, also began growing in the area, so the black tern population began to decline. To make the are more habitable for black terns, the bushes were uprooted and the lakes' shores were cleaned up. Due to these changes, the next year's tern population increased several times over.

The 800 ha Novaraiščio ornithological reserve, near the town of Lekečiai on the border of the Kaunas and Šakiai regions, is known for its long-legged crane population. This area was also cared for because it had been affected by beavers. When they began building dams, the swamp began to be overgrown by reeds. After working on 90 hectares of this territory, the number of cranes increased from 70 to 1500 over the course of a year.

24 territories from the “Natura 2000” network are currently being worked on in Lithuania. The Margupis juniper grove in the Panemunių regional park is also being cared for. This grove is special because it is home to many small growing junipers, meaning that it renews itself quickly. The Naudvaris forest in the Panevežys region is being cared for, as is the Dilbinėlių botanical reserve in the Žagarės regional park, where there is a protected lady slipper habitat. People who see the territories that have been worked on often misunderstand and fail to notice any changes. Nature, however, does “notice” the changes. For example, lady slippers and certain other plants love to grow in very specific light conditions, so we make sure that the trees and bushes in their area are thinned out accordingly.

An oak forest is being revived

State Service for Protected Areas specialist Aleksas Žebrauskas said that the Dūkštų oak grove was one of the most important projects being undertaken by the Service. 1600 solid cubic meters of hardwood were removed from this oak grove. “The foresters couldn't understand us – we were chopping down firs that they had planted 30 years ago. However, in this case, because of the forest's special value, Oak trees were given priority. After chopping down those trees, we planted 26,000 little oak trees. Just as many more were covered with biodegradable materials that look like plastics, but will deteriorate in 5 years without harming the environment,” - explained A. Žebrauskas.

80 nest-boxes for dormice and another 100 for bats were also erected in the area. By May 2015, several informational displays should appear in the area, and a small bridge should link the opposite sides of the Dūkštos creek.

Caring for all of these territories is important if we want to protect our natural treasures.

Public information division
2014-03-31


Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas
Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas