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Habitat restoration in the Nemunas River Delta sees the return of three bird species of international conservation concern

23-Jul-2009

Habitat restoration in the floodplain areas of the Nemunas River Delta, LithuaniaThe Nemunas River Delta, Lithuania, 23 July 2009 – Tucked away along the north-western part of Lithuania is one of the very few natural estuaries remaining in the Baltic Region and a unique example of a coastal wetland complex characteristic of the Eastern Baltic Region.  The Nemunas River Delta is by far the most important wetland complex in Lithuania and a key stop-over site for many migratory waterbirds.  It is also one of the key nesting sites of rare and vulnerable bird species in Europe.

 

Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) breeding at the Nemunas River Delta

In spite of its natural importance nationally and across Europe, recent changes in the land-use regime have negatively impacted this key bird area. As a result of the lack of traditional small-scale cattle grazing and hay-making, shrubs and bushes rapidly overgrew open floodplain habitats in the Delta.  In an effort to improve habitat for a variety vulnerable bird species the Institute of Ecology of Vilnius University (IEVU), through support of the Wings Over Wetlands Project, spearheaded the restoration of open meadow floodplain habitats and the re-introduction of traditional sustainable farming across the Nemunas River Delta.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of this type of management system, a number of sites were selected for small-scale restoration work. Shrubs, bushes and dense reed beds in overgrown meadows were cut, creating over 50 ha of cleared habitat. Seeds of plant species characteristic to open meadows were then planted and the area is regularly managed through a local grazing regime. The restored habitat now holds up to 15 lekking males of the Great Snipe (Gallinago media), and several pairs of the Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola).  The Corncrake (Crex crex) is also a common breeder in the restored meadows with more than 70 calling males documented. The whole complex of floodplains in this site (over 600 ha) holds more than 60 lekking males of the Great Snipe, more than 100 calling males of the Aquatic Warbler and more than 400 – of  the Corncrake.

View of the Bird Ringing Station in Ventes Ragas

“It was amazing to see these restoration efforts pay off so quickly.  The successes and results of our demonstration project are important for further large-scale wetland restoration work in Lithuania” says Saulius Svazas, Project Manager from the Institute of Ecology of Vilnius University.

Launch of the newly established Bird Observatory in Rusne on 29 June 2009The result of this restoration work is one of a string of important milestones accomplished by IEVU in the framework of the WOW project.  A newly established Bird Observatory in the town of Rusne is already being used as a base for scientific research, monitoring and transboundary cooperation with Russia’s Kaliningrad region.  “This is an example of the cooperation and great working relationship between the Municipality of Silute District, the Nemunas Delta Regional Parks Authority and IEVU”, says Nerijus Gricevicius, Director of the Nemunas River Delta Regional Park.

A national waterbird monitoring scheme for the Nemunas River Delta, initially supported through the WOW project, will be carried forward indefinitely through the state budget. 

To learn more about the achievements of this WOW Demonstration Project please visit:
• www.wingsoverwetlands.org/lithuania
• www.ekoi.lt/info/wowlt/


Notes to Editors:

Sightings: Accoridng to Saulius Svazas (The WOW Project Manager from the Institute of Ecology of Vilnius University) the numbers of sightings in the restored area of about 50 ha increased from 0 to several pairs of Great Snipe and Aquatic Warbler and to more than 50 pairs of Corncrake, while the whole floodplain area (the Rupkalviai Ornithological Reserve with adjacent wetlands – ca 600 ha) holds more than 60 males of Great Snipe, more than 100 of Aquatic Warbler and more than 400 of Corncrake.

For more information regarding these sightings and the WOW Demonstration Project in Lithuania please contact: Saulius Svazas

For more information on the Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) Project please contact: info@wingsoverwetlands.org
 

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