The Lithuanian system of protected areas covers protection of the natural and cultural heritage.
Lithuania has a system of protected areas substantiated by scientific research. It is characterised by variety, representativeness, complexity, sufficiency, evenness, coherence and flexibility, and allows the establishment of protected areas (of national and international importance) to preserve their value. It is possible to establish protected areas of different categories and types that would comply with all the directions of protection of landscape and biodiversity, and that would represent landscape and biodiversity of all the regions, as well as their unique complexities. This system may be developed logically and creatively in consideration of new needs.
The Lithuanian system of protected areas consists of the following categories of protected areas:
- areas of the conservation protection priority (strict reserves, reserves and heritage objects);
- complex protected areas (public parks – national and regional parks, biosphere monitoring territories – biosphere reserves and biosphere polygons);
- areas of ecological protection priority (ecological protection zones);
- areas of restoration protection priority (restorable sites, genetic sites).
The areas of conservation protection priority and complex protected areas are the most important, so sometimes they are called specially protected areas. These are 5 strict reserves (where 2 are cultural), 514 reserves, 5 national parks (one historical), 30 regional parks (one historical), 1 biosphere reserve, 32 biosphere polygons, 3 restorable sites and numerous heritage objects. The areas of conservation protection priority and complex protected areas cover 1,152,793 ha or 17.65% of the country’s area.
Areas of conservation protection priority
Strict reserves are intended to preserve the especially valuable natural and cultural territorial complexes, to assure the natural course of natural processes or to maintain the authenticity of cultural values, and to spread protection of the territorial complexes of natural and cultural heritage.
The strict nature reserves are intended to preserve the especially valuable complexes of the natural landscape (no economic activities are carried out there), while the strict cultural reserves (reserve-museums) are intended to preserve the especially valuable complexes of the cultural landscape. The reserves may be state strict reserves, strict reserves in the state parks and biosphere reserves, or small strict reserves.
Reserves means protected areas intended to preserve the natural and/or cultural sites of scientific and educational importance, their values of natural and cultural heritage, landscape and biodiversity, and genetic foundation. The economic activities are permitted in the conservation areas.
According to the type of values, the following division is made:
- natural reserves (geological, geomorphological, hydrographical, pedological, botanical, zoological, botanical-zoological, genetic, thelmological, talasological);
- cultural reserves (archaeological, historical, ethnocultural, urban/architectural);
- complex reserves (landscape).
The reserves may be state, municipal, reserves in state parks or in biosphere monitoring territories.
Heritage objects means individual objects of natural or cultural heritage, or groups of such objects – landscape elements, for which the special protection and use regime is imposed in accordance with legal acts because of their value. The most valuable heritage objects are proclaimed natural or cultural monuments. The heritage objects are divided into:
- objects of natural heritage (geological, geomorphological, hydrogeological, hydrographic, botanic, zoological);
- objects of cultural heritage / immovable cultural values (archaeological, mythological (sacral) / historical/memorial, architectural/engineering, art).
Complex protected areas
National parks protect the natural and cultural landscape of national importance that represents the natural and cultural peculiarities of the ethnocultural regions. To preserve the cultural complexes of historical centres of the statehood of Lithuania and their natural environment, the historical national parks are established.
Regional parks protect the landscape of regional importance and ecosystems that are valuable in natural, cultural and recreational aspects. Historical regional parks are established to preserve the regional cultural complexes of the biggest historical value and their natural environment.
Biosphere reserves are intended to implement the international monitoring programme of changes in biosphere, and to carry out nature protection experiments in the representational natural complexes of natural zone and surrounding territories.
Biosphere polygons are established for monitoring the national and regional environment in the territories of special geoecological significance.
Areas of the conservation protection priority (preservative) are the territories where ecological landscape balance is maintained, in an endeavour to avoid any negative impact on nature, or cultural values or negative impact of anthropogenic objects and activities on the environment. This category of protected areas includes the zones of ecological protection: general ecological protection (resorts, maritime, underground water watering places, surface waters, protection of intensive karst), buffer protection (state strict reserves, state parks and state reserves, heritage objects), physical protection (heritage objects), and visual protection (visual protection of heritage objects).
Areas of the restoration protection priority (restoring and sustaining) are the territories where natural resources important for activities and society are stored, restored, sustained, enlarged and used in restricted mode. The restorable and genetic sites are attributed to this category. Restorable sites are intended to protect, restore, enlarge and use the natural resources in restricted mode. Genetic sites are intended to preserve reproducible plants and other natural genetic resources.