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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Lithuania

Land use (Lithuania)

Why should we care about this issue

Topic
Land Land
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The landscape is part of a country’s national identity and a factor in the quality of life of its population. The conservation, management and cultivation of the landscape to meet the economic, social, cultural, ecological and aesthetic needs of society are therefore among the main objectives identified in the National Sustainable Development Strategy.

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Figures

Fig. 1 Changes (ha) of land cover in 2000–2006 (according to CORINE Land Cover database)

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Fig. 1 Changes (ha) of land cover in 2000–2006 (according to CORINE Land Cover database)
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Fig. 2 . Naturalness of the Lithuanian landscape (acc. to P. Kavaliauskas) Source: Lithuania's Environment, State, Processes and Development. Environment Protection Agency (2008)

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Fig. 2 . Naturalness of the Lithuanian landscape (acc. to P. Kavaliauskas) Source: Lithuania's Environment, State, Processes and Development. Environment Protection Agency (2008)
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Fig. 3 Network of protected areas, 2007 Source: State Service for Protected Areas under the Ministry of Environment.

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Fig. 3 Network of protected areas, 2007 Source: State Service for Protected Areas under the Ministry of Environment.
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Fig. 4. Variations in the formation of new karstic sinkholes in the Birzai Regional Park

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Fig. 4. Variations in the formation of new karstic sinkholes in the Birzai Regional Park
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The Lithuanian landscape has undergone a dynamic process of evolution since ancient times, experiencing many progressions and abrupt changes. A wide variety of social, economic and political factors have determined changes in the structure of land use and the emergence of different types of landscape. At present, Lithuania has the following types of the landscape: (1) natural landscape areas that have survived and enlarged (mostly woodlands and wetlands); (2) large areas of reclaimed rural land which have lost their ethno-cultural identity; (3) portions of rural areas with surviving features that developed before 1940; (4) parts of cities with modern, standardised construction, new cities and villages; (5) historical cities, towns and villages and their surviving parts; (6) newly-developed, large engineering and infrastructure facilities; (7) agrarian landscape with small land parcels and individual farms and (8) urban landscape of suburban residential areas in large cities.

 

In 2000–2006, 99 700 hectares (ha) of the land cover, or 1.5 % of Lithuania’s territory were subjected to change. The greatest changes occurred in forests and other natural areas, affecting 78 600 ha and accounting for 78.8 % of all changes. Most of the changes that took place in the forest sector were in relation to timber harvesting (50 800 ha of woodland were cleared). A large part (18.1 %) of all changes occurred in farming areas, mostly affecting non-irrigated farmed land (6 900 ha) and pastures (8 700 ha). Part of the farmed land was converted to pasture (2 800 ha) and scrubland (2 100 ha). In contrast, changes in artificial cover were not as intensive. During the period 2000–2006, 1 900 ha of land were developed and almost 2 000 ha were converted into new developments. The total area of natural, semi-natural and urban territories underwent comparatively few changes during the reference period (Fig. 1).

Different morphological types of landscape can be distinguished according to the relative nature of the landscape: (1) the natural landscape; (2) the rural landscape, and (3) the urban landscape.

 

At present, rural landscape types are predominant, covering around 75 % of Lithuanian territory. Larger areas of the natural landscape have survived in the east and south as well as in the ancient delta zones to the west, but their total area does not exceed 15 % of the territory of Lithuania (Fig. 2).

 

The remaining part of the country features urban or urbanised landscape types that have experienced fairly rapid development in recent years. Lithuania currently has 11 cities with areas exceeding 1 000 ha. The five largest cities (Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai and Panevėžys) have actively contributed to the formation of urban conurbations where intensive new urban development processes are currently underway. The total area of urbanised land has been growing steadily since Lithuanian independence in 1990 and now amounts to approximately 10 % of the country’s territory. The highest level of urbanisation is observed around the largest cities (Vilnius, Klaipėda and Kaunas), with fairly intensive urban growth and agglomeration processes. The areas around less significant regional centres have urban landscape areas that are three to five times smaller.

 

Between 1990 and 2007, the territory of protected areas increased almost three-fold (Fig. 3). Most of the protected areas (including five strict nature reserves, about 300 reserves, five national parks, 30 regional parks, a biosphere reserve, 26 biosphere sites and three restoration plots) are situated in high-value landscape locations. Consequently, appropriate regulations have been drawn up for the protection of the landscape at these locations.

 

An area of sensitive geopotential has been identified in northern Lithuania where the dissolution of gypsum leads to the formation of subterranean caverns which collapse, forming a karstic landscape (Fig. 4).

 

The most problematic areas of Lithuanian territory in terms of landscape management include: (1) the coastal strip; (2) picturesque shores of water bodies in ecologically important, protected areas that are fragmented as a result of small, privately-managed land parcels; (3) privately-owned forests subjected to intensive timber harvesting; (4) rapidly-growing new individual housing areas in large cities in an environment with no appropriate engineering facilities, and (5) cultural heritage sites in the urban landscape.

 

 

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

At present, the state of the landscape, including protected areas, is mostly affected by the restitution of private property and related processes. This has led to a growing number of owners acquiring land in high-value natural and recreational areas, resulting in restricted access to the public and frequent illegal developments. However, the landscape is also affected by more intensive agricultural processes, increased use of private forests, and the rapid development of construction, industry and infrastructure since Lithuania joined the EU and began receiving structural support funds.

Another pressure on the landscape sector is the erosion of the Baltic Sea coast. Destructive and violent storm winds tend to remove loose soil from beaches and dune crests, while waves wash away the sand from beaches and dune crests during high tide. The intensive erosion of the Baltic Sea coast and the buffer strip of dunes caused by the unsustainable use of the coastal landscape will eventually cause recreational conditions to deteriorate.

Problems in the northern region of Lithuania as a result of climate change and anthropogenic activities remain urgent. These phenomena have led to more intensive karstic processes, increased karstic features of the landscape, deteriorating conditions for the use of the area and reduced natural safety of the subterranean hydrosphere.

Since 2001, the development of industry, roads and construction has increased the annual quantity of mineral resources per capita extracted in Lithuania. The mining of peat bogs has also intensified, leading to growing demand for new sites for the extraction of minerals. However, given the recent pace of construction, mining rates are likely to slow down in the near future.

In addition, all further sustainable development of the landscape may be affected by the following factors: (1) implementation of plans for reconstruction of the road network that may lead to increased fragmentation of the natural landscape; (2) planned intensive expansion of new developments and reconstruction around large cities likely to increase the total area of urbanised landscape; (3) reduction of green areas in the urban landscape through the increased density of new developments; (4) more intensive use of forests that may threaten the quality of the wooded landscape; (5) accelerated planning and design of alternative energy facilities (wind farms, hydropower plants, etc.) likely to jeopardise the identity or conservation value of important elements of the landscape (river confluences, etc.) and (6) failure to comply with protected area planning solutions for landscape management, as evidenced by the increased private use of land in national and regional parks designated as protected areas and by property development in these areas.

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

One of the main problems today is the fragmentation of land management and land use. The increasing number of derelict land parcels has led to the breakdown of poorly-maintained land improvement systems, the transformation of meadowland and pastures into scrubland and renaturalisation of the landscape. Former farming areas are increasingly being used for recreation and residential construction and the area of new developments is steadily increasing. Developments encroaching on protected areas, including the Curonian Spit, are threatening the quality and survival of high-value landscape areas and the stability of ecosystems. The reconstruction of Klaipėda State Seaport, the construction of the Būtingė oil terminal and the development of recreational infrastructure and residential housing coupled with extreme climatic phenomena have contributed to coastal erosion and the loss of a part of the coastal area. The rebuilding of dams on small rivers is changing the hydrographic structure of these water bodies and flooding land areas. Meanwhile, the rehabilitation of damaged areas is very slow. Unless the necessary action is taken, these negative trends will continue in the future.

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

In 2002, the Republic of Lithuania approved a Master Plan for its territory, setting out the general policies of landscape management and the development of the protected area system. It also approved a Long-Term Development Strategy that establishes the following objectives for the conservation of the landscape and the development of land use structure: improving and consolidating the general land use structure; halting the loss of the natural landscape and preserving its specific features, and preventing the destruction of the karstic and wetland landscapes.

In accordance with the provisions of the European Landscape Convention, in 2004 the Government of the Republic of Lithuania approved a landscape policy procedure. The most important landscape policies are designed to: (1) ensure the social, economic and ecological functions associated with the cultivation of the Lithuanian landscape; (2) identify provisions for the protection, use, management and planning of the landscape and specific features of the country’s identity; (3) maintain and increase the existing spatial structure of the Lithuanian landscape and its potential, and (4) optimise the targeted cultivation of the cultural landscape.

In 2005, the Government approved a set of implementing measures for landscape policies in Lithuania containing a specific implementation programme until 2020. Implementation of these specific measures is designed to preserve areas of landscape at various levels and ensure their proper management.

Lithuania’s landscape policies are integrated into strategic state planning documents, including national, regional, district and urban strategic development plans, sector programmes and management programmes for problem areas.

The measures applied to Lithuanian protected areas are designed to ensure the targeted protection and sustainable use of standard landscapes and high-value landscapes. To solve the problem of former agricultural land neglected after the collapse of the Soviet collective farm system, Lithuania is developing projects for afforestation of non-productive land.

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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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