Life Protection and Management of Coastal Habitats in Latvia Costal Habitats

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Project area – coastal protection belt

Vija Znotina
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Location of Latvia


 

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General description of the Baltic Sea coast in Latvia


Project Area

The location of the planned project is the entire Baltic Sea coast in Latvia – an approximately 300 m wide coastal belt beginning from the waterline in the terrestrial direction.

The sea coast extends over 490 km, 182 km along the Baltic Sea and 308 km along the Gulf of Riga. The characteristic landform is a plain with dune relief with sandy soils. There are the outflows of 45 small and 3 large rivers and 3 lagoons.

Typical habitats along the Latvian Baltic Sea coast are located in the following zones: sandy, less frequently boulder and pebble beaches, embryonic, white, grey and wooded dunes, and coniferous forests. Coastal meadows and brackish salt marsh communities are common in small areas. Forests cover more than half of the coastal protection belt.

A threatened habitat can be found in almost every part of the Latvian Baltic Sea coast, and most of these habitats are not found outside of the 300 m protection belt. The most threatened habitats are sandy beaches and embryonic and white dunes which are particularly sensitive, grey dunes which are attractive for recreation and have been decreasing in area as a result of overgrowing and tree planting, and meadows which have dramatically declined in the past ten years.


 

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The legal protection of the coastal protection belt


Coastal protection belt is an approximately 300 m wide coastal belt beginning from the waterline in the terrestrial direction. The boundary of the coastal protection belt has been defined and drawn on maps in 1999, according to the Law on Protected Belts (1997). In some areas where threatened habitats (dunes, coastal meadows) continue outside of this belt, project actions extend to cover the entire areas of the habitats.

The greater part of the coastal protection belt likely will become NATURA 2000 sites by accession of Latvia in European Union because of it’s outstanding biological diversity and unmodified complex of habitats of Community importance.

Several protected nature areas are located along the sea coast (45 % of total length of the sea coast). The protected areas include territories within: 1 biosphere reserve, 2 national parks, 2 nature parks and 10 nature reserves. The coastal area covers a small part of the total area of the above protected territories, and the protection of coastal habitats is not the priority of most of these areas.


 

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Protected habitats and species of Community importance within coastal protection belt


The project aims at direct conservation measures for 23 habitat types listed in Habitats Directive Annex I (7 of them EU priority), and 9 habitat types according to the Bern Convention Resolution N° 4 (1999), 4 Habitats Directive Annex II species, 1 Bern Convention Resolution N°6 species, and 16 Birds Directive Annex I species (2 of them priority).

The Baltic Sea coast of Latvia is an area of outstanding biological diversity, including habitats of Community importance – embryonic, white, grey and wooded dunes, western taiga and coastal meadows.

A threatened habitat can be found in almost every part of the Latvian Baltic Sea coast, and most of these habitats are not found outside of the 300 m protection belt. The most threatened habitats are sandy beaches and embryonic and white dunes which are particularly sensitive, grey dunes which are attractive for recreation and have been decreasing in area as a result of overgrowing and tree planting, and meadows which have dramatically declined in the past ten years.

The unique value of each site depends on interaction of all species and habitats present in it, and the project aims also to preserve this diversity of species and habitats, which together form the landscape diversity of the seashore. It is almost impossible to protect each habitat individually along the coast, as each is inherently associated with the neighbouring habitats.


 

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Protected habitats


Priority Code Name % Comments

DIRECTLY TARGETED HABITATS DIRECTIVE ANNEX I HABITAT TYPES

1130 Estuaries < 0.1
1140 Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide 0.8

*

1150 Coastal lagoons < 0.1
1160 Large shallow inlets and bays ~ 300 km
1210 Annual vegetation of drift lines 3.6
1220 Perennial vegetation of stony banks 0.4
1230 Vegetated sea cliffs of the Atlantic and Baltic coasts < 0.1
1310 Salicornia and other annuals colonising mud and sand 0.5

*

1630 Boreal Baltic coastal meadows 3.6 Protected habitat type in Latvia (since 2000)
1640 Boreal Baltic sandy beaches with perennial vegetation 0.2
2110 Embryonic shifting dunes 6.0
2120 Shifting dunes along the shoreline with Ammophila arenaria (white dunes) 9.2 Some subtypes are protected habitat types in Latvia (since 2000)

*

2130 Fixed coastal dunes with herbaceous vegetation (grey dunes) 2.4 Protected habitat type in Latvia (since 2000)

*

2140 Decalcified fixed dunes with Empetrum nigrum < 0.1 Protected habitat type in Latvia (since 2000)
2170 Dunes with Salix repens ssp. argentea (Salicion arenariea) 0.2 Protected habitat type in Latvia (since 2000)
2180 Wooded dunes of the Atlantic, Continental and Boreal region 57.8
2190 Humid dune slacks < 0.1 Protected habitat type in Latvia (since 2000)
2320 Dry sand heaths with Calluna and Empetrum nigrum 0.1 Protected habitat type in Latvia (since 2000)
6510 Lowland hay meadows (Alopecurus pratensis, Sanguisorba officinalis) 4.0
7140 Transition mires and quaking bogs 0.6 Some subtypes are protected habitat types in Latvia (since 2000)

*

9010 Western taiga 10.0 Some subtypes are protected habitat types in Latvia (since 2000)

*

9180 Tilio-Acerion forests of slopes, screes and ravines < 0.1 Protected habitat type in Latvia (since 2000)

*

81E0 Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (Alno-Padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae) 0.2 Some subtypes are protected habitat types in Latvia (since 2000)
Comments

Habitat areas are calculated rough; precise areas will be calculated during the project time.

In Latvia, several of the priority habitats can overlap. For example, the habitat type 2180 “Wooded dunes” can overlap with habitat type 9010 “Western taiga” if the western taiga forest occurs on dunes.

In Latvia, the inventory of potential Natura – 2000 sites is ongoing in accordance with habitat classification of the Habitats directive. This inventory is ongoing in accordance with habitat classification of the Habitats Directive. The “Habitat Handbook” which describes the Directive habitats has been translated and published in Latvian, and this classification is currently introduced and used in Latvia. Therefore, in the further text, when habitats of Community importance are mentioned, including the EU priority habitats, reference is made to the Habitats Directive and not to the Bern Convention habitats.

DIRECTLY TARGETED HABITAT TYPES ACCORDING TO THE BERN CONVENTION RESOLUTION N° 4 (1996)

14 Mud flats and sand flats 0.8
15.33 Atlantic upper schorre communities 3.6 Protected habitat type in Latvia (since 2000)
15.34 Atlantic brackish saltmarsh communities 4.5
16.2 Dunes 75.7 Several subtypes are protected habitat types in Latvia (since 2000)
16.3 Humid dune-slacks < 0.1 Protected habitat type in Latvia (since 2000)
17.3 Sea kale communities 3.6
21 Coastal lagoons < 0.1
31.2 European dry heath 0.1 Protected habitat type in Latvia (since 2000)
54.5 Transitional mires 0.6 Some subtypes are protected habitat types in Latvia (since 2000)


 

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Protected species other than birds
Habitats directive annex II


DIRECTLY TARGETED HABITATS DIRECTIVE ANNEX II SPECIES

SCIENTIFIC

POPULATION SIZE FOR THE SITE (quantitative estimates)

G Priority NAME RESIDENT MIGRATORY
(IN LATIN)


BREEDING WINTERING STAGING
P Angelica palustris 2 localities
P Dianthus arenarius subsp. arenarius common in 100 km belt (disperse)
P Sorbus teodorii 10 km belt; insufficient data
P Linaria loeselii common in 150 km belt (disperse)
Comments

Linaria loeselii is not included in Habitats directive yet. However, it is included in a list of species, which in the opinion of DG Environment are good candidates for inclusion into Annex II and IV of the Habitats Directive. It is a very rare species in Europe, scatterly distributed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, only along the Baltic Sea coast.

CANDIDATE COUNTRIES: DIRECTLY TARGETED SPECIES ACCORDING TO THE BERN CONVENTION RESOLUTION N°6 (1998) SPECIES

A Bufo calamita ~10 localities


 

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Protected bird species


SCIENTIFIC POPULATION SIZE FOR THE SITE (quantitative estimates)

Priority

NAME RESIDENT MIGRATORY
(IN LATIN)


BREEDING WINTERING STAGING

DIRECTLY TARGETED ANNEX I SPECIES OF THE BIRDS DIRECTIVE

*

Botaurus stallaris 1 locality
Philomachus pugnax 1 locality; may be disappeared
Calidris alpina schinzii 1 locality; close to extinction
Sterna hirundo 200 – 250 pairs
Sterna paradisea 60 – 70 pairs
Sterna albifrons 250 – 300 pairs
Circus aeruginosus 1 locality; 5 – 10 pairs
Circus cynaeus 1 locality; not found since 1989
Porzana porzana 2 localities

*

Crex crex 2 localities
Bubo bubo ~ 2 localities (insufficient data)
Alcedo atthis 5 – 10 pairs
Dryocopus martius ~100 pairs
Lullula arborea insufficient data; not rare
Anthus campestris 100 – 150 pairs
Lanius collurio insufficient data

Comments

All of the above bird species are protected in Latvia (Regulations on Particularly Protected Species and List of Particularly Protected Species for Restricted Use, 2000).

Botaurus stellaris and Bubo bubo require establishment of microreserves in their nesting locations; Sterna paradisaes, Sterna albifrons, and Sterna hirundo require establishment of microreserves in areas of their colonies (Regulations on Establishment, protection and management of Microreserves, 2001).

CANDIDATE COUNTRIES: DIRECTLY TARGETED SPECIES ACCORDING TO THE BERN CONVENTION RESOLUTION N°6 (1998)

B Botaurus stellaris 1 locality
B Crex crex 2 localities
B Porzana porzana 2 localities
B Sterna hirundo 200 – 250 pairs
B Sterna paradisea 60 – 70 pairs
B Sterna albifrons 250 – 300 pairs
B Motacilla citreola 1 – 10 pairs
A Bufo calamita insufficient data
OTHER MIGRATORY SPECIES DIRECTLY TARGETED BY THE PROJECT
Bucephala clangula ~800
Comments

Bucephala clangula is not protected in Latvia and it is not a species of Community importance. However, during summer, 1 % of it’s European population can be found in North Vidzeme (northern part of the project site).


 

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Threats



 

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Threat 1: Deterioration of coastal ecosystem by motorised vehicles.


Description: Pressure from vehicles on coastal habitats has significantly increased during the past three years. The main reasons for this are:

*renewal of private land ownership, splitting of land parcels;

*increase in population along the coast, particularly during summer;

*increase in fishing and number of access roads for fishing boats;

*lack of an effective control system.

The sea coast, particularly low moist beaches, is used as a convenient transport route. Good compacted “roads” have developed in several sea shore stretches. This is associated with poor public awareness and gaps in regulations concerning particularly protected zones along the coast.

The physical degradation of dunes and beaches by vehicles is worsening in the course of time because the living standards of residents and visitors is improving (increase in number of cars, boats, tractors, etc.). Recreation with water scooters and wind surfers is also increasing, and these are transported to the shore by cars. Presently, control of vehicles driving along the coast is insufficient.

Location: the entire sea coast, excepting particular stretches (river outflows, rocky shores, wetlands).

Impact on habitats and species: Travel by motorised vehicles along the sea shore disrupts natural shore development processes, changes ecosystem structure, causes erosion and decreases stability.

Habitats of beach plants and animals are destroyed, feeding and migration of amphibians (including Bufo calamita), living and migration locations of birds (Tadorna tadorna, Haemotopus ostralegus, Pluvialis apricaria and others) are affected.

In particular, the following habitats are affected:

*grey dunes, habitats with Dianthus arenarius subsp. arenarius;

*white dunes with the European rare species Linaria loeselii andTragopogon heterospermus;

*annual plant communities on drift lines and sandy and muddy beaches with the rare plant species Atriplex calotheca, Atriplex longipes;

*Boreal Baltic sandy beaches with perennial vegetation;

*Wooded dunes (stability of old dune forest is particularly affected).


 

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Threat 2: degradation of coastal natural habitats by recreation and activities of tourism.


Description: Between 1945 and 1990, access to the seashore was restricted, and allowed only in particular locations. These restrictions were removed after renewal of independence in 1991, and access to the entire seashore is now allowed. With the increase in the numbers of visitors to the seashore in Latvia, impact to shore habitats is increasing, causing destruction of vegetation, ecosystem structure and promoting erosion. This is caused by trampling, camp fires, and camp sites.

The number of visitors has particularly increased in individual seashore stretches, where habitats have been substantially degraded. For example, the number of visitors to Kolkas rags (Cape of Kolka) in summer has increased from 2000 in 1995 to 20 000 in 1999. Similar trends are apparent in Pape, Pāvilosta and other locations.

Anthropogenic pressure has particularly increased in protected nature areas. Unfortunately, management plans have not been developed for all protected areas. This hinders establishment of services which would promote habitat protection.

Habitat degradation related to visitors occurs due to several factors:

*visitors are poorly informed regarding seashore protection;

*few recreation areas with services are along the shore (paths, parking lots);

*poorly developed control system.

Location: Beaches, dunes, and dune forests along the entire seashore, particularly in Kolka, Pape, Carnikava, Saulkrasti, Bernāti, Pāvilosta and Lielirbe.

Impact on habitats and species: Habitats with better recreational resources are most affected. Several habitats of Community importance belong to this category:

*Embryonic shifting dunes;

*White dunes with Ammophila arenaria;

*Fixed coastal dunes with herbaceous vegetation (grey dunes);

*Decalcified fixed dunes with Empetrum nigrum;

*Wooded dunes;

*habitats with the species of Community importance: Dianthus arenarius subsp. arenarius.

The presence of humans along the shore during nesting has a negative effect on nesting density of terns (Sterna hirundo, Sterna paradisea, and Sterna albifrans). Terns nest in colonies, and disturbance can affect not only individual nests but also entire colonies. Visitors usually do not intentionally destroy nests, but their presence can cause terns to leave their nests. During that time, they become the prey of Corvus coronei.


 

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Threat 3: Destroying of indigenous flora and vegetation by aggressive alien species.


Description: Alien invasive species are a growing problem to biodiversity globally and within the EC. It is ecological threat to native flora and fauna, habitats and ecosystems. Several foreign, expansive species have occur along the Baltic seashore, of which the most dangerous presently are Rosa rugosa and Elagnus commutata. In specific locations, these species have been planted for strengthening dunes, and in others they have escaped from gardens. Expansion of the alien, aggressive species has been progressing due to suitable ecological conditions and poor competition from other species.

Alien species are not currently a major threat along the entire coast, but in some areas of the south-west they have started to dominate and rapidly expand in specific locations, completely destroying natural vegetation. If the alien species are not combated in the near future, much greater effort will be needed later.

There are several factors which promote dispersal of alien species:

*the species are not restricted: no actions are taken against their spread;

*the community is not informed about the ecology of alien species and their impact on natural communities;

*monitoring of alien species is not adequately conducted.

Location: Nida, Pape, Medze, Ziemupe, Akmensrags, Jūrmala, Rīga, Saulkrasti, Lilaste, Skulte.

Impact on habitats and species: Alien species are distributed mainly on

*White dunes with Ammophila arenaria;

*Fixed coastal dunes with herbaceous vegetation (grey dunes);

*Decalcified fixed dunes with Empetrum nigrum;

*Wooded dunes.

Several species endangered in Latvia are threatened by expansion of alien species, for example, Eryngium maritimum, and the species of Community importance Dianthus arenarius subsp. arenarius.


 

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Threat 4: The reduction of area of grey dunes.


Description: The grey dune area is decreasing because of overgrowing and tree planting. Planting of forest is one of the main factors threatening grey dunes. Succession of grey dunes normally leads to overgrowing with pine and development of forest. However, natural development occurs in the long-term, and results in forested dunes formed by sparse pines and dune patches. Artificially planted areas support dense Pinus sylvestris and Pinus montanum stands. The main cause of this is the poor knowledge of foresters regarding the threatened status of grey dunes in Europe, their ecology and management. Presently, not all grey dunes are known and recorded in spatial and forest plans, and their protection status has not been determined.

Location: Pape, Liepāja, Medze, Ziemupe, Akmensrags, Užava, Ovīši, Lielirbe, Rīga.

Impact on habitats and species: Tree planting destroys or degrades the following habitats:

*Fixed coastal dunes with herbaceous vegetation (grey dunes);

*Decalcified fixed dunes with Empetrum nigrum;

*habitats with the plant species Dianthus arenarius subsp. arenarius.


 

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Threat 5: Decreasing area of meadows.


Description: Meadows are overgrowing because of a decline in their management and the effects of environmental eutrophication. Presently, only a few landowners own livestock. Therefore, pasture management and hay cutting occurs only in small areas. Twenty years ago, hay was cut even in wet dune slacks with sedges, but today, productive meadows are not used because raising cattle is not economical. Meadows have remained only in specific locations where cattle still remain and where landowners wish to maintain the traditional seashore landscape. The wetter sites have overgrown with reed Phragmites australis.

Location: Ainaži, Salacgrīva, Rīga, Vaide, Jūrmalciems, Pape, Jūrkalne.

Impact on habitats and species: Overgrowing occurs in

*Boreal Baltic coastal meadows;

*Lowland hay meadows;

*Grey dunes (dune meadows);

*Molinia meadows on calcareous, peaty or clayey-silt-laden soils (Molinion caeruleae);

*Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels.

Many endangered plant species of Latvia (Glaux maritima, Plantago maritima, Armeria maritima) as well as the species of Community importance Angelica palustris are present here.

Coastal meadows are the habitat for bird species of Community importance:Philomachus pugnax, Calidris alpina schinzii, Crex crex (Crex crex is species of EU priority).


 

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Threat 6: The decrease of forest biological diversity resulting from inappropriatemanagement.


Description: Clear cutting is not allowed in the sea coast protection belt. Therefore forests here have a great potential for hosting rare plant and animal species.

Until 1990, all forests were state owned. Land reform resulted in return of forest land to private landowners who often have poor knowledge of forest management, and who are not informed regarding protected forest habitats and management regulations. As a result, forest stands and their structure are disrupted by removal of dead wood, cutting oldest pine trees, cutting branches from old trees, and degrading or destroying of the forest understorey. Old pine forests with sparse trees and open dunes are particularly sensitive to forest harvest. For several of the old pine forests, protection status has still not been determined. Therefore, these forests are not adequately included in the network of protected nature areas.

Location: Seashore (350 km length).

Impact on habitats and species: The following are progressively being affected:

*Wooded dunes,

*Grey dunes,

*Western taiga.


 

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Threat 7: Decrease in area of endangered habitats due to building and due to inappropriate coastal management.


Description: Houses are being built in the dune zone in areas of endangered habitats. Infrequently, also coastal management carried out by local municipalities destroy endangered habitats. For example, car parking places, camping sites and resting places for visitors have been built in the habitats of EU priority. Less valuable habitats could be chosen for building, leaving the endangered habitats untouched. Destruction of habitats is occurring because the municipalities lack habitat maps and land-use plans, and because local residents are not informed about endangered habitats of Community importance and the associated allowed and restricted activities.

Location: Jūrmala, Lapmežciems, Ziemupe, Pāvilosta, Mērsrags.

Impact on habitats and species:

*Coastal meadows;

*White dunes;

*Grey dunes;

*Wooded dunes;

*Lowland meadows;

*Western taiga.


 

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Threat 8: Deterioration of endangered habitats in protected nature areas due to lack of management plans.


Description: In the protected nature areas, the number and percentile area of endangered habitats of Community importance are higher than in other sites along the coast. These territories are also very attractive to visitors.

In the coastal protection belt, 4 protected nature areas have no management plans. These territories are just announced as protected nature areas. That is not enough to ensure the conservation of endangered habitats and species of Community importance. Zones of strict protection and zones where residence of people is acceptable must be designated.

Local municipalities want to ensure the protection of endangered habitats. However, there is a lack of information about the restrictions and appropriate measures in these habitats. Local people try to establish services for tourists. Sometimes, this management is inadmissible. For example, educational paths are being established for visitors to see the most endangered species and habitats. As a result, these habitats are being deteriorated, the localities of rare plant species destroyed, nesting birds and migrating animals disturbed.

The lack of management plans also hinders development of local economics. According to rules, no development of infrastructure is allowed in the protected nature areas until the management plans are elaborated. This infrastructure is required for sustainable development of the coastal municipalities and for the improvement of well being of the local residents.

Location: Piejūra Nature Park, Bernāti Nature Reserve, Užava Nature Reserve, Vidzemes Akmeņainā Jūrmala Nature Reserve.

Impact on habitats and species:

*Coastal meadows;

*Lowland meadows;

*Embryonic shifting dunes;

*Shifting dunes along the shoreline with Ammophila arenaria:

*White dunes;

*Grey dunes;

*Decalcified fixed dunes with Empetrum nigrum:

*Dunes withSalix repens ssp. argentea:

*Wooded dunes;

*Western taiga;

*Estuaries;

*Coastal lagoons;

*Vegetated sea cliffs.


 

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Threat 9: The deterioration of natural habitats due to low public awareness.


Description: The area of wooded dunes and western taiga is decreased due to building of houses and services for visitors (camping places etc.). Grey dunes are destroyed by planting of trees. Aggressive alien species are planted in the most endangered habitats. The structure of western taiga is degraded by removing of dead wood and cutting of the oldest pine trees. Sometimes, the white dunes are even used as the resource of sand – sand is excavated and used for building. Discussions with the people show that they do not know that their activities deteriorate or destroy the habitats of Community importance. They think that they are promoting the value of coastal habitats.

The reason of such activities is a lack of information about the coastal habitats and species. This regards to landowners, local authorities, forest managers, local residents and visitors. Most of the literature about the habitats of Community importance is distributed only in-groups. For some subjects (alien species etc.), there is no literature at all. Also information boards in the coast are not installed.

In local municipalities and schools, there is a strong demand for any information about the values and management of natural coastal habitats. In Latvia, information about other habitats like wetlands and meadows is being distributed. However, coastal habitats have received less attention. As these habitats are very sensitive and as the number of visitors is growing, the information about coastal habitats of Community importance must be easy accessible for everyone.

Location: all project area.

Impact on habitats and species: Mainly affected are:

*all types of dunes;

*coastal meadows and lowland hay meadows;

*western taiga.

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2002.11.03.