JSC “Latvia's State Forests” (LVM) is renovating a priority, rare and protected coastal dune habitat of European Union significance – the grey dunes – in two specially protected Natura 2000 natural areas – in the nature reserve “Užava” and “Ovīši”, in a total area of almost 70 hectares. Full restoration of the grey dunes of such volume and complexity is being implemented for the first time in Latvia.
The existence of the grey dunes depends on regular natural disturbances; if there are none, they must be purposefully simulated by man.
“As the necessary blowing of sand decreases, nutrients gradually accumulate in the grey dunes, they get overgrown with bushes and trees. It is the overgrowth that threatens the existence of this rare biotope, because the landscape of open dunes and the necessary living conditions for very rare light-loving animal and plant species, such as the sand pink, meadow pasqueflower, etc., are disappearing. Therefore, in the course of the works, the grey dunes are cleared of overgrowth – pines and bushes – in almost 20 hectares of “Ovīši” and 50 hectares of “Užava”, thereby restoring open areas,” says Ieva Rove, LVM Environmental Project Manager.
With the help of technology
To ensure a quality result, all grey dune restoration works have been planned and supervised by a certified nature expert with many years of experience in dune habitats, and they have also been coordinated with the responsible institutions.
The large-scale restoration works of the grey dunes are not possible without the use of machinery. Logging works in “Ovīši” are almost finished, the branches prepared in piles will be burnt on the spot at the beginning of next year, to burn the excess nutrients for the habitat and expose open sand to be lit by the sun, so that the rare species of flowers that need sun feel good here. In turn, the logging works in “Užava” are to start in December.
“When carrying out such responsible work in the Natura 2000 territory, the performance of the work is constantly monitored due to both the environmental instructions and the terrain and cover of the territory. In advance, we carefully plan the creation of safe and efficient technological corridors, marking the places where equipment can and cannot move,” says Lauris Gumskis, Head of Logging at LVM Northern Kurzeme Region.Military pollution has also affected the progress of work in the “Ovīši” area. In Soviet times, there was a communication line of the military seaside zone here – a cable line once stretched along the entire length of the facility. For the works to be carried out in a high-quality manner and for the wires not to affect the operation of the equipment, approximately 500 metres of telephone wires were collected and removed before the start of the works.
The value of the habitat of the grey dunes is also the special seaside landscape they create – it is open and wide, with rare pines and open sand areas. In the course of the works, biologically old and large pines and their groups, junipers, as well as other elements of park-like landscape structures, which were dusted in sand, were preserved. Moreover, the remaining pines are not only significant from the point of view of natural diversity, but also have a great scenic value.
“Ovīši” and “Užava” are two of the 14 specially protected natural areas, where LVM improves and restores habitats of EU importance within the framework of the European Union co-financed Cohesion Fund project “Management measures in specially protected natural areas and micro-reserves to improve the state of protection of habitats and species” (No. 220.127.116.11/20/I/001); the works are to be completed by the end of 2023.