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Long-Term Ecosystem Research in Europe

Environment and sites - LTER-Lithuania

Natural Environment

Lithuanian core nature areas play an important role in the regulation of hydrological regimes and are the key elements for maintaining biological diversity.

During the last five decades, intensification of industrial and agricultural activities, and a rapid expansion of urban zones have resulted in rapid ecosystem changes. Global climate change is also a major factor affecting Lithuanian ecosystems during the last decades.

Protected areas now cover more than 12% of the territory of Lithuania. The network of protected areas consists of one Biosphere Strict Nature Reserve, three State Strict Nature Reserves, five National Parks, 30 Regional Parks, 254 State Nature Reserves, 410 Objects of Nature Heritage (including 159 Monuments of Nature) and about 273 Municipality Reserves. The Natura 2000 network in Lithuania is under development.

Sites

It was important to develop a nationwide network to integrate the results of separate ecological investigations implemented by various research institutes and universities. The network of sites with long-term ecological research (LTER) in Lithuania was initiated and organized by the Institute of Ecology of Vilnius University in 2004, with the support of the US State Department and International Long Term Ecological Research (ILTER) group.

Four sites were designated for LTER program in Lithuania:

  • Lithuanian coastal area (including inshore marine waters, the Curonian Lagoon, the Curonian Spit and the Nemunas River delta)
  • Cepkeliai State Strict Nature Reserve and the Katra River
  • Kamanos State Strict Nature Reserve
  • Lake Druksiai with adjacent wetlands.

These sites are representative examples of ecosystems characteristic of different regions of Lithuania and have a been the focus of earlier and ongoing multidisciplinary research. They are also internationally-important nature areas, included in the list of UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the Kursiu Nerija (Curonian Spit) National Park) and in the list of Wetlands of International Importance (Cepkeliai and Kamanos State Strict Nature Reserves, and the Nemunas River Delta Regional Park).