Sand dune - Country Report, Lithuania

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This article on the sand dunes of Lithuania, is a revised country report from the 'Sand Dune Inventory of Europe' (Doody ed. 1991) [1]. The 1991 inventory was prepared under the umbrella of the European Union for Dune Conservation [EUDC]. The original inventory was presented to the European Coastal Conservation Conference, held in the Netherlands in November 1991. It attempted to provide a description of the sand dune vegetation, sites and conservation issues throughout Europe including Scandinavia, the Atlantic coast and in the Mediterranean.

An overview article on the distribution of European sand dunes provides links to the other European country reports. These represent chapters from updated individual country reports included in the revised, 2nd Edition of the 'Sand Dune Inventory of Europe' prepared for the International Sand Dune Conference “Changing Perspectives in Coastal Dune Management”, held from the 31st March - 3rd April 2008, in Liverpool, UK (Doody ed. 2008)[2].

Status: New text 2008. Author: Eva Remke


The coast of Lithuania has a range of large sand dunes stretching for about 70km from Smiltyne to Sarkuva. The larger of the dunes, such as the Sklandytoju, the Angiu Kalno, and the Urbo Kalno are up to 1,000m high and enclose lagoons and forests.

Distribution and type of dune

From the Latvian border south to Klaipeda the Lithuanian coast is bordered by sand and gravel beaches 30 to 110m wide, backed by foredunes. Beyond Klaipeda is the mouth of the Kursiu Marios lagoon, then Kursiu Nerija barrier spit, the longest in the Baltic (98km long, up to 4km wide), stretches in a gentle curve south to the cliffed coast of the Sambian Peninsula. It is bordered seaward by a sandy beach up to 80m wide. Most first dune ridges from the sea are artificial. Nearly the whole Curonian Spit has a protective dune with ca. 10-12m in height and 70-120m in width (leaflet Protective Dune - 1803-2003, Kursiu Nerija National Park). Behind this dune, a deflation area occurs called “palve”, covered by species-rich, dry grasslands. Of its former 1,200m wide strip in 1938, only 50m remained 60 years later. The main dune area is overgrown with trees or has been afforested (Stankeviciute, 2000)[3].

The Curonian Spit is well known for its large-scale shifting sand dunes. The most important and well-known site at the Lithuanian part of the National Park lies within Nagliu Strict Reserve. It is covered by different successional stages of open, sparsely covered dry grasslands.



This primal dune exits only rarely in the Pajuris Regional Park. Typical species are Leymus arenarius (L.) Hochst., Salsola kali, Cakile baltica and Honckenya peploides (Motiekaityte 2000)[4]

Yellow dune

The main association of the white dune is Leymo-Ammophiletum arenariea with the typical species Ammophila arenaria, Lathyrus maritimus, Festuca arenaria, Leymus arenarius and Anthyllis maritima (Motiekaityte 2000).

Dune grassland

Typical species of this dry, short grassland are Corynephorus canescens and Jasione montana especially at the Curonian Spit and Gypsophila paniculata, Koeleria glauca and Galium verum at the Pajuris Regional Park (Motiekaityte 2000). Festuca sabulosa and Tragopogon heterospermus are common in both areas.

Dune heath

A typical Atlantic decalcified fixed dune with Calluna vulgaris and Empetrum nigrum exists only in small remnants in Lithuania coastal sites. Empetrum nigrum and Salix rosmarinifolia occur more often.


Shrubs mainly consist out of Rosa rugosa and Salix daphnoides (Motiekaityte 2000).


The main dune woods are lichen rich pine forests, sometimes with an understory of Empetrum nigrum or Deschampsia flexuosa (Motiekaityte 2000).

Important sites


This spit of land is dominated by high sand dunes dotted with pines; inland the water is brackish whilst the Baltic Sea borders the north side. Entry point to the Curonian Spit.

Curonian Spit 26,461ha with deciduous & coniferous forest, swamps, wet meadows is a National Park;

Pajuris ca. 3,000ha with Coastal cliffs, wet and dry meadows, deciduous forest, lakes is a Regional Park

The Curonian Spit National Park was established in 1991. Today it covers a total area of 26,461ha, with ca. 37 % dry land, 16 % lagoon and 47 % Baltic Sea area. 74 % percent of the dry land are forests and only 19 % open sand areas. The forests are mainly pine forests (80 %, Pinus sylvestris, P. montana) and only 13 % are covered by birch (Betula pendula). The rest has alder (Alnus glutinosa), spruce (Picea abies), Robinia pseudoacacia etc. (info out of an official information leaflet of the CSNP 2001-2002).

The main mammals occurring in the CSNP are elk, wild boar, roe deer, foxes, hares and racoons. In total 37 species occur. There are 960 vascular plant species listed for the park, with 26 of them listed in the Red Data Book of Lithuania. The number of mushrooms and lichen species are ca. 350.

[Covering an area of 18,000ha, the Kursiu Nerija National Park was designated to protect the unique scenic beauty of the Kursiu Nerija, a narrow peninsula separating the Kursiu Marios (Curonian Lagoon) from the Baltic Sea. The peninsula, a sandy stretch of land extending 98km, with the width varying from 400m to 3.8km, formed some five to six thousand years ago, as sand accumulated in the shallower waters along the Baltic coast.

Up to the 15th century, both deciduous and coniferous forests covered the spit. Later, however, large portions were felled. Erosion and severe sand-shifting followed this activity. The moving sands swallowed up 14 villages. In 1825, G.D. Kuvertas started the first reforestation project to try to stop the sand drift. Now property on the spit is protected by about 7,000ha of forests, most of them pine woods, see [1]


Threats to white dunes are recreational pressures and spread of invasive species like Salix daphnoides and Gypsophila paniculata (Motiekaityte 2000). In the Pajuris Regional Park situated between Palanga and Kleipeda the white dune hasn't changed its appearance during the last 60 years, but species diversity is twice as low as at protected sites at the Curonian Spit National Park due to intensive recreational activity (ibidem).

Vast areas have been afforested with Pine trees during the Soviet period. Furthermore, due to a decrease in land use vegetation of other open areas slowly shifts to older successional stages, finally forest. Further loss of habitat extent is still a threat.

New text: Eva Eva Remke, Biological Station, Biologenweg 15, 18565 Kloster/ Insel Hiddensee, Germany and Bargerveen Foundation Dep. of Environmental Science & Dep. of Animal Ecology Faculty of Science Radboud University Nijmegen P.O. box 9010 NL-6500 GL Nijmegen The Netherlands



  1. Doody, J.P., ed., 1991. Sand Dune Inventory of Europe. Peterborough, Joint Nature Conservation Committee/European Union for Coastal Conservation.
  2. Doody, J.P., ed. 2008. Sand Dune Inventory of Europe, 2nd Edition. National Coastal Consultants and EUCC - The Coastal Union, in association with the IGU Coastal Commission.
  3. Stankeviciute, J., 2000. Vegetation of Lithuanian seacost sand communities, structure, chorology, and succession. Doctoral thesis, Biomedical Sciences, Botany, Vilnius.
  4. Motiekaityte, V., 2000. Changes of sand dune plan communities of the Lithuanian coastal zone in the 20th century. Ekologija Nr, 1, Vilnius, 7-15.

Other important literature:

Paul, H., 1953. Morphologie und Vegetation der kurischen Nehrung. II. Entwickllung der Pflanzendecke von der Besiedlung des Flugsandes bis zum Wald. Nova Acta Neopoldina N.F., 16, 261-378.

See also

The main author of this article is Doody, Pat
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Doody, Pat (2019): Sand dune - Country Report, Lithuania. Available from,_Lithuania [accessed on 15-07-2024]