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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Lithuania

Nature protection and biodiversity (Lithuania)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Biodiversity is the key to the productivity of natural systems and the multifunctional character of the natural environment, sustaining its immunity, adaptability and ability to regenerate. Preserving biodiversity is therefore one of the most important environmental issues. Unlike most western European countries, Lithuania still has a fairly large number of natural areas which are extremely diverse by European standards. Nevertheless the Lithuanian Environmental Strategy stresses the need to halt the threatening loss of biodiversity.

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Lithuania has over 20 000 species of animals, 6 500 fungi and 1 800 plants. Some 90 species of fungi, 70 plants, 11 shellfish and four molluscs are common in Lithuania. However, there are also a number of invasive species of fish, birds and mammals.

In 2009, Lithuania cultivated 105 varieties of grain crops, 52 of potatoes, 59 of rape, nine of flax and 36 of apples. In total, Lithuania has over 3 000 varieties of field, garden and orchard plants. The country also produces around 10 different breeds of cattle, six of horses and 10 of sheep. Lithuanian native animal genetic resources include 14 breeds: three breeds of horse, four of cattle, two of pigs and two of sheep, as well as local breeds of goats, geese and bees.

The first Lithuanian Red Data Book list was authorised in 1976. In 2003, the Red Data Book list included 259 animal, 357 plant, 134 fungi and 65 lichen species. In 2007, this list contained 253 animal, 339 plant, 112 fungi and 63 lichen species. However, the best news was that the list also contained an extended range of five restored species: the European bison, the otter, the corncrake, the twaite shad, the medicinal leech and 10 varieties of flowering plant.

To protect its biodiversity, Lithuania is establishing conservation priority areas (protected state reserves, state and municipal reserves and heritage sites), restoration protection areas,  ecological protection zones and integrated protected areas (national and regional parks, biosphere reserves and biosphere sites). At present, the system of protected areas covers about 15.3 % of the country’s territory (Fig. 1).

Lithuania is home to 50 species (36 animal and 14 plant species) of Annex II and 52 habitat types of Annex I to the Habitats Directive. In addition, there are 53 bird species of Annex I to the Birds Directive that breed in Lithuania. To conserve these biodiversity values, 366 sites (68 % of the existing protected areas, except for the sea water areas) in the Natura 2000 network had been formally designated by June 2009 (Fig. 2). The establishment of a total of 390 Natura 2000 sites is envisaged.

 

Figure 1:

Fig. 1 Categories and relative percentages of protected areas, 2008 Source: State Service for Protected Areas under Ministry of Environment

Figure 2:

Fig. 2. Natura 2000 network in Lithuania, 2009 Source: State Service for Protected Areas under Ministry of Environment

Original

Translation

NATURA 2000 TERITORIJOS

NATURA 2000 SITES

Buveinių apsaugai svarbios teritorijos

Areas of importance for the conservation of habitats

Paukščių apsaugai svarbios teritorijos

Important bird areas

Saugomų teritorijų valstybės kadastras

State cadastre of protected areas

Valstybinė saugomų teritorijų tarnyba prie Aplinkos ministerijos

State Service for Protected Areas under the Ministry of Environment

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The main challenges to the preservation of biodiversity are: (1) the loss and deterioration of the habitats of protected species, particularly as a result of the increased use of forests, the decline in traditional agricultural land use, the disruption of natural hydrological features in forests and wetlands, infrastructure development and development on the shores of water bodies; (2) the likely extinction of fragmented and small populations of protected species and the deteriorating conditions for animal migration, and (3) the spread of invasive plant and animal species that occupy the habitats of endangered species or destroy important ecological relationships between species.

 

Biodiversity in Lithuania has experienced negative effects from the development of agriculture, forestry, tourism, recreation and urban sprawl. The biodiversity of the seacoast, agro-ecosystems, surface waters, natural forest ecosystems and fragments of ecosystems surviving in urban areas are most at risk.

 

During the final decades of the 20th century over two-thirds of Lithuania’s wetland ecosystems were destroyed. At present, the biodiversity of swamps and wetlands faces the greatest risk as these ecosystems are highly sensitive to environmental change.

 

 

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Like the rest of Europe, Lithuania is likely to face further loss of biodiversity, as well as quantitative and qualitative changes in its structure in the future. This may result from climate change and global anthropogenic activities or from the loss of particularly sensitive habitats induced by anthropogenic activities. The number of invasive species that spread with the transport vector is likely to grow.

One of the main objectives of the National Sustainable Development Strategy is to increase the forest area to 34–35% of the country’s territory by 2020, and in 2007 this indicator was already 32.8 %, exceeding the forest area growth rate. It  therefore seems likely that the set target will be achieved.

Lithuania is consistently developing the Natura 2000 network and formalising the status of previously designated areas and it plans to increase the area of designated sites. In addition, a list of areas important for the conservation of potential key habitats has been approved. Consequently, following the validation of all sites previously identified and those being planned in the immediate future, the territory of protected areas should reach 18 % of Lithuanian territory, or the limit set in the National Strategy for Sustainable Development. Once a clear and adequate system has been developed for restricting farming in protected areas, the pressure on protected areas should decrease.

 

On the other hand, inadequate environmental regulation of the processes of land use change, land use, property restitution and construction may increase the pressure on those areas which are most valuable in terms of the natural landscape. The lack of public awareness of the need to protect unique natural values and the unjustified interests of private land managers or local communities may slow down the establishment of the network of Natura 2000 sites, or reduce the possibility to preserve valuable species and habitats for which the sites are established.

 

 

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

In Lithuania biodiversity is managed by regulating the use of natural resources and the trade in certain plant and animal species and by establishing special protected areas and gene banks.

 

Lithuania’s Long-Term Development Strategy envisages preventing the extinction of plants, fungi and animal species and populations, preserving their national genetic resources, increasing forest resources, ensuring their rational use and enhancing productivity and health. The National Sustainable Development Strategy has set the following main long-term objectives for biodiversity: to preserve the biodiversity and identity of the state and its ethnographic regions; to ensure the rational use of biodiversity; to develop the network of protected areas; to increase the share of protected areas to cover 18 % of Lithuanian territory; to expand Lithuania’s forest area by 5 % as a result of afforestation; to enlarge the areas of other natural perennial plants; to enhance the stability of the agrarian landscape; to improve the protection of biodiversity in  marine ecosystems; to protect aquatic ecosystems and to protect and increase natural areas of urbanised landscape and historical green areas.

 

The volume of timber felled in state-owned forests is controlled and the annual rates of logging are approved each year. With a view to ensuring the rational and continuous use of timber resources, in 2007 the Government of the Republic of Lithuania determined that the  maximum annual level of timber that could be felled in state-owned forests for 2009–2013 is 2.8 million m3. Determining the of timber felling rate will help to ensure the sustainable use of timber resources in state-owned forests and to harmonise the economic and ecological functions of the forests.

 

 

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The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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