Situated in Eastern Latvia, the Lubana Wetland Complex (LWC) covers a huge area of 48 000 ha, containing an impressive range of wetlands. It has long been recognised for having the highest biotope diversity of any inland wetland area in Latvia.
It is a place of remarkable geography, containing Latvia’s largest: shallow freshwater lake - extending over 8 000 ha; fishponds - covering 2 700 ha; fens; and non-fragmented expanses of inundated grassland. It is also home to one of the biggest bog complexes - 14 bogs in the area - in the country.
Studies have identified 186 bird species in the wetlands, including 43 that are listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive. The area is also home to no less than 23 species of animals, including one of the most important populations of wolves in Eastern Latvia.
The complexity and sheer scale of this area presents a number of important management challenges. Its conservation values are highly dependent on the correct management of the dense drainage network and nine rivers that feed the area and maintain the hydrological conditions needed for the wide range of habitats and species. Added to this is the problem that the area extends over three administrative regions and 13 local communities.
The primary aim of the LIFE project was to develop a coherent management system for the entire area in close cooperation with all the administrative authorities and stakeholder groups concerned.
Three main groups of priority management activities were planned within the project: 1. practical habitat management measures - including removing vegetation, installing dams, deepening the fish wintering area, creating artificial islands, restoring sluices and introducing monitoring points for water level control 2. strengthening of the overall management structure - including establishing an efficient management structure for the whole project area, involvement of all stakeholders and efficient control over nature protection observation 3. public awareness raising - including organising public meetings and creating a small field information station, information boards and other information materials
Implementation of these priority management measures should limit the degradation of the key habitats of European importance at the Lubana Wetland Complex and ensure continuous nature management of the LWC.
The project successfully improved the hydrological management of the Lubana Wetland Complex and set up the structures to ensure its ongoing management. It restored the following habitats: degraded raised bogs still capable of natural regeneration (7120); active raised bogs (7110); transition mires and quaking bogs (7140) and alluvial meadows of river valleys (6450).
Bushes and trees were removed from 341 ha and grass cut back across 1 000 ha of inundated meadows. Restoration work was carried out on two key sluices - at Kalngala and Aiviekste. One concrete and 57 wooden dams were constructed. This work ensured the successful functioning of the hydrological system of the whole Lubana Wetland Complex. It crucially prevented the drying out of the Salas bog area.
To support these efforts, four water-level hydrometric points were established and the operational rules for water-level regulation updated. Regular patrolling was also organised across the site to monitor water levels, the presence of waterfowl and particularly to ensure compliance with fishing regulations and the removal of illegal nets, which also pose a hazard to birds.
Fish wintering beds were created and nesting areas for birds were created or maintained. Maintenance work was undertaken on 10 nesting islands in fishponds and 15 existing nests. The project also built four new groups of islands, 210 artificial nests for waterfowl and 16 artificial nests for rare birds of prey.
During the project, experts found that two pairs of white-tailed sea eagles (Haliaaetus albicilla) and one pair of osprey (Pandion Haliaetus) had settled in artificial nests and one pair of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetus) had moved from an old nest to new one. Great Snipe (Gallinago media) and Corncrake (Crex crex) were seen to benefit from the opening up of their nesting places in the inundated grasslands.
A website was set up, five booklets were published and 19 information boards and 13 signs placed in the area. A basic information facility was built in the heart of the area and two nature watching towers constructed. Local unemployed people participated in management activities, meetings were held with local landowners and two one-day project seminars were also conducted.
The project established a Lubana Wetland Complex Board, which held three thematic meetings. It also set up a Lubana Complex Fund, which should support the ongoing efforts of the Board to manage the wetlands effectively beyond the scope of the project. It is hoped that this will lead to LWC becoming a NATURA 2000 site.Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).