Curonian Spit National Park - Lithuania
Curonian Spit National Park
Coastal dunes and sandy shores
Kuršių nerija, the Curonian Spit, is a narrow strip of sand stretching 98 kilometres along the Baltic Sea in western Lithuania. The Curonian Spit is a unique and vulnerable, sandy and wooded cultural landscape on a coastal spit which features small Curonian lagoon settlements. The Spit was formed by the sea, wind and human activity and continues to be shaped by them. Rich with an abundance of unique natural and cultural features, it has retained its social and cultural importance. Local communities adapted to the changes in the natural environment in order to survive. This interaction between humans and nature shaped the Curonian Spit cultural landscape. The history of the Curonian Spit is dramatic: 5,000 years ago, a narrow peninsula (98 km in length and 0.4-3.8 km in width), the Great Dune Ridge separating the Baltic Sea from the Curonian Lagoon, was formed on moraine islands from sand transported by currents, and later covered by forest. After intensive logging in the 17th and 18th centuries, the dunes began moving towards the Curonian Lagoon, burying the oldest settlements. At the turn of the 19th century, it became evident that human habitation would no longer be possible in the area without immediate action. Dune stabilisation work began, and has continued ever since. By the end of the 19th century, a protective dune ridge was formed along the seashore to prevent inland sand migration, and the Great Dune Ridge was reinforced using trees and brushwood hedges. Currently, forests and sands dominate the Curonian Spit. Urbanised areas (eight small settlements) cover just about 6% of the land. One part of the 50 kilometres long Curonian Spit belongs to the Republic of Lithuania. The other to the Russian Federation. With its still drifting sand dunes, the sea side forests cherishing the hundred-years-old pine trees, dunes covered by a mountain pines’ carpet planted by hand, white sand beaches and the old fishermen villages.
General Characteristics, Purpose, History
In order to preserve the valuable landscape complex, Curonian Spit National Park was established in 1991. The Curonian Spit is part of “Natura 2000”, a network of protected territories in Europe, connecting its most valuable natural habitats. It also belongs to HELCOM, which seeks to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea through intergovernmental cooperation. Since 2000, the Curonian Spit has been on UNESCO's World Heritage List under cultural criteria "V" (an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture [...], or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change).