Biosphere monitoring territories are protected areas that have been established to allow global and regional biosphere monitoring and ecological experiments and ensure the protection of their natural complexes. The aims of biosphere monitoring territories are:
Biosphere monitoring territories are divided into biosphere reserves and biosphere grounds
ŽUVINTAS Biosphere Reserve
Established: 2002 (nature reserve from 1937)
Žuvintas biosphere reserve was established on November 19 in 2002 in accordance with a government ruling that seeks to ensure the implementation of the international biosphere monitoring program, the execution of ecological experiments and the protection of the stability of natural complexes and components of the biosphere reserve, as well as in territories that are used for certain types of forest/agricultural activities. This biosphere reserve has incorporated the Žuvintas strict nature reserve, the Žaltytis and the Amalvas botanical-zoological reserves.
The Žuvintas strict nature reserve has been included on the list of territories protected under the Ramsar Convention. It also has Natura 2000 status as a Site of Community Importance, as it has been acknowledged as being important to bird life.
It is in southern Lithuania, and covers the western part of the Alytus district (6,954 ha), the northern part of the Lazdijai district (1,180 ha) and the southeastern part of the Marijampolė municipality (10,361 ha). This region has protected areas of particular natural significance and long-standing conservation traditions, as well as land plots which have suffered damage from intenstive agricultural practices.
The areas surrounding the Žuvintas strict nature reserve are characterised by intensive agricultural activity, as well as other activities, which affect changes in the landscape and in the plant and animal life. The biosphere reserve territory incorporates not only the Žuvintas lake and its surrounding wetlands, which have been protected since 1937, but also plots of land used for intensive farming and other forest activities, partially exploited peat bogs and equally valuable natural territories that are located further away from the lake. Intensive irrigation practices and regulation of the lake’s water level in the second half of the last century had an especially negative impact on the natural systems in the Žuvintas region. Pollution flowing into the lake from surrounding settlements and fields was also a major problem, and continues to be problematic to this day. Areas that were once wet meadows and hay fens are being overgrown by shrubs and reeds. The nearby Amalvas swamp suffered particular damage after attempts to convert two thirds of its area into agricultural land.
Every year there are less areas of open water in the Žuvintas lake, aquatic plant life is becoming increasingly sparse, and as the area remains ice covered for longer periods, fish and other animals are oxygen deprived resulting in their fewer numbers. In order to conserve the unique natural life of the Žuvintas biosphere reserve, it is important not only to protect natural habitats and valuable biotypes, but also to reduce the effects of human activities occuring in the surrounding fields, fishing dams, villages and towns. The encouragement of ecological agricultural practices in the neighbouring territories is also necessary, as is the removal of the plant life that is choking the water systems. The development of eco-tourism, starting with the construction of observation towers, viewing platforms and walking paths with informative stands, would also help raise awareness and improve the current situation.
Landscape and biological diversity:
The greatest asset and symbol of this strict nature reserve is Žuvintas lake (975 ha), which has been protected as the most important bird habitat in southern Lithuania since 1937. A eutrophic lake, it is very shallow (average depth – 0.6 m, greatest depth – 2.2 m) and is surrounded by the Žuvintas fens. The total area of the mire complex is 6,847 ha (60% - raised bogs and intermediate mires, 40% - fens), and the average depth of the peat layer is 3.9 m, reaching 8.1 m in some areas. To the west of the lake lies Bukta forest – a reminder of the now rare broad-leaved Hornbeam forests.