Kamanos strict nature reserve is located in the northern part of Lithuania and is surrounded by agricultural areas. It occupies the Kamanos mire (2434 ha) and the surrounding forest. Medium thickness of the peat layer in the mire is 3,8 m, but in some places it is as thick as 7,2 m. The most interesting formations in the raised bog are secondary bog pools, surrounded by the sloughs. More than 120 bog pools stretch in 12 sloughs. In the northern part of the mire there is only one bigger lake - the Kamanos Lake (6,6 ha).
Kamanos bog hydrology was heavily affected by humans. First drainage ditches were dug already in the XIX century. In the beginning of the XX century one ditch was dug to the very Kamanos Lake, and water level in it decreased significantly. Many new forest draining ditches were excavated and the old ones renovated in the eighties and nineties. The overall length of drainage ditches is more than 73 km. 14 km have been blocked since 2004.
Open mires. Active raised bog dominates in the area (991 ha), while other mire types cover significantly smaller areas. Open raised bogs are mostly covered by the Sphagnetum magellanici communities. Moss layer is usually dominated by Sphagnum magellanicum, Sphagnum fuscum. Thin layer of grasses and scrubs consists mainly of Andromeda polifolia, Oxycoccus palustris, Calluna vulgaris, and Eriophorum vaginatum. The Eriophoro-Trichophoretum cespitosae communities with dominant Trichophorum cespitosum are very rare. One site of this protected plant community is situated near the lake Kamanos. The most characteristic bog hollow communities are the Sphagno tenelli-Rhynchosporetum albae. These mire communities are dominated by Rhynchospora alba and Drosera rotundifolia in herb layer; moss cover consists of Sphagnum cuspidatum. Patches of open peat are usually scattered in the hollows. Area of active raised bog is permanently decreasing. Other oligotrophic communities of the Schweuchzerio-Caricetea class are rare and cover small areas. Small areas of low-growing sedges (Caricetum limosae, Caricetum lasiocarpae, Caricetum rostratae) can be found around lake, lakelets and in swamps, hollows.
Woodland. The biggest areas in Kamanos reserve are covered by bog woodland from the class of Vaccinietea uliginosae. Typical Ledo-Pinetum areas have well-developed grass layer where semi-shrub species are abundant (Ledum palustre, Calluna vulgaris, Rubus chamaemorus, and sometimes Chamaedaphne calyculata). Due to drainage the area of bog woodland is increasing approximately 13 ha annually at the expence of active raised bog. Areas of bog woodland affected by drainage exhibit changes towards other habitat types including atypical western taiga on peaty soils and pine forest Vaccinio uliginosae-Pinetum. Such types of woodland are usually found at the margins of bog woodland.
Mesic pine forests (Peucedano-Pinetum) are only found on sandy soils in southeastern part of Kamanos reserve. They are characterised by typical field layer consisting of Vaccinium myrtillus, Vaccinium vitisidaea, Melampyrum pratense, Luzula pilosa, Maianthemum bifolium, Calamagrostis arundinacea. Moss layer is abundant with Hylocomium splendens, Pleurozium schreberi, and Dicranum polysetum. Bog margins and isles are covered by forest communities dominated by deciduous or coniferous tree species, but most often canopies are mixed. Spruce and birch forests prevail; smaller areas are covered with pine, alder or other woods.
Herb rich spruce forests (Melico nutantis-Piceetum) developed in plains on fresh humus rich soils. Tree layer is accompanied with Quercus robur, Populus tremula, Betula pendula, Fraxinus excelsior, and Tilia cordata. Understory is usually rich in Corylus avellana. Grass/scrub layer is also rich in species. Such spruce forests are found in north-eastern part of the strict nature reserve. Eu-Piceetum spruce forests inhabit wet sites neighbouring the bog, especially in the southern part. Tree layer and understorey of such communities are dominated by Picea abies. Thin shrub layer usually consists of Frangula alnus, Sorbus aucuparia, and sometimes Corylus avellana. Eu-Piceetum is replaced by wet spruce forests in the sites with constantly high ground water table. Birch (Betula pubescens) is constantly present in the canopy of such forest.
Deciduous forests are mainly found in wet and waterlogged sites. Black alder carrs (Carici elongate- Alnetum) develop in waterlogged sites in the vicinity of raised bogs. Water usually covers the surface with well-developed hummocks and temporarily dries out only during dry periods. Small swampy depressions are covered with tall sedges and other hygrophyte species as Carex elongata, Carex acutiformis, Carex vesicaria, Carex elata, Carex canscens, Lycopus europaeus, Thelypteris palustris, and Filipendula ulmaria. Alluvial alder forests (Circaeo-Alnetum) are sometimes found on soggy gleyic soils with high water table, but only occasionally flooded. The canopy of these woods is dominated by Betula pendula, Fraxinus excelsior, Picea abies, and Populus tremula. Herb layer is characterised by thriving both hygrophilous and nemoral species growing on small elevations.
Broad-leaved deciduous forests are very rare in the reserve. The Liepų isle is distinguishing, where Tilia cordata growths (Tilio-Quercetum) are found, as well as small Populus tremula and Betula pendula stands with prevailing nemoral herb species, which are situated in several sites near the raised bog.
Water bodies. Complexes of water vegetation are closely connected to the raised bog. There are 12 swampy areas with numerous lakelets surrounded with Caricetum limosae communities. Floating sphagnum carpets dominated by Sphagnum cuspidatum or sometimes Sphagnum palustre replace these communities in certain places. Nuphar and Nymphaea clusters occur in these waterbodies. The lake Kamanos is also surrounded by quaking bogs. Nuphar beds cover parts of the lake. Ditches surrounding the raised bog (particularly more shallow) are filled with Menyanthes trifoliata and Calla palustris vegetation. Deeper ditches are covered with floating Lemna trisulca and Spirodella polirhiza carpets.
Grasslands. The diversity of grasslands in the strict nature reserve is relatively small. Bigger areas of managed grasslands are only in the buffer zone. Compact stripes of grasslands are found near forest edges or in small openings in the forest. Some larger areas of artificial grasslands are situated near Peiliškiai village. The most valuable grassland communities are Sesleria uliginosa and Carex flacca swards developed on peaty soils rich in carbonates. Similar, but somewhat more acidic sites are occupied by Molinia caerulea communities that are comparably richer in species, however these swards are very rare. Both natural and artificial mesic grasslands are similar to the Festucetum pratensis communities. They are usually dominated by Festuca pratensis, Phleum pratense, and Carex flacca; Ranunculus acris, Lathyrus pratensis, and Centaurea jacea are also constantly present. Helictotrichon pubescens dominated meadows of the Festuco-Brometea class form narrow stripes on the elevations with sandy podzolic soils. Helictotrichon pubescens is accompanied with abundant Tragopogon pratensis, Galium mollugo, Rhinanthus minor, Melampyrum nemorosum, Abietinella abietina.
Kamanos reserve contains the largest mire (2,434 ha) in the northern Lithuania, one of the largest bog areas (1.825 ha) in the country. Due to more than three decades of strict protection of its core zone, it is one of few reference sites in the region with low disturbance and unmanaged forests.
Kamanos site provides important habitats for a significant number of threatened and rare species. Wetland habitats are of the most value providing ground for numerous wetland dependent species. Golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria) is a symbol of Kamanos reserve. In the middle of the XXth century the bog used to accommodate the biggest number of these birds (64 pairs) in the country. Currently it is second-third most important site for this bird in the country.
Habitats of Community importance
In total there are 13 habitat types registered in the site, however the most relevant of them are:
91D0* Bog woodland - 1208,1 ha (4th biggest in the country);
7110* Active raised bog - 990,5 ha (3rd biggest in the country);
9050 Fennoscandian herb-rich forests with Picea abies - 484,3 ha;
9080* Fennoscandian decidous swamp woods - 440,3 ha (7th biggest in the country);
9010* Western taiga - 127,9 ha;
7140 Transition mires and quaking bogs - 54,4 ha
Habitat directive Annex 2 species corresponding to criteria for establishment of SCI:
scarce fritillary (Euphydryas maturna) (1 of 16 known sites in the country);
lady's-slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus);
great crested Newt (Triturus cristatus);
pond bat (Myotis dasycneme);
eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx);
grey wolf (Canis lupus);
european otter (Lutra lutra);
marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia);
large white-faced darter (Leucorrhina pectoralis)
large copper (Lycaena dispar)
Bird species of community importance:
Bird species corresponding to criteria for establisment of SPA:
montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus) - up to 4 pairs (1,3-2 % of population in the country);
black grouse (Tetrao tetrix) - up to 50 singing mails (1,6-2,5 % of population in the country);
corncrake (Crex crex) - up to 6 pairs,
golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria) - up to 7 pairs (14-16 % of population in the country),
wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola) - up to 6 pairs.
white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) - 10000,
Bean goose (Anser fabalis) - 500
tengmalm's owl (Aegolius funereus) - 1,
lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina) - 5 p,
short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) - 1,
eurasian pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum) - 6
european nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) - 23 p,
white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) - 1 p,
middle spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius) - 4 p,
black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) - 8 p,
ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana) - 2 p,
crane (Grus grus) - 14 p,
red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) - 10 p,
european honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus) - 2 p,
grey-headed woodpecker (Picus canus) - 4 p,
common tern (Sterna hirundo) - 6,
barret warbler (Sylvia nisoria) - 10 p,
woodlark (Lullula arborea) - 10 pairs,
spotted crake (Porzana porzana) - 1 pair
Altered hydrology is the main threat to habitats targeted by the project
First attempts to drain periphery of the Kamanos wetland were already in the XIXth century. The Paisle stream flowing from the Kamanos Lake was canalised as far as the edge of the wetland. In 1907 the Paisle ditch was deepened and dug as far as Kamanos Lake and decreased water level by more than 1 meter in it. This led to subsidence of peat layer around the lake by 1,23 cm1. In 1928-1934 most of the rivulets discharging from Kamanos bog were straitened and deepened. However the area was mostly affected by land reclamation projects carried out in 1958-1979, when the old network of ditches was completely renewed and significantly extended. Hydrological analysis carried out in 20062 revealed existence of 162 drainage ditches totalling 73,03 km. 63,99 km drain bog or lag zone directly affecting more than 2.200 ha. Furthermore it revealed partial renaturalisation of water level in the Kamanos lake (partly supported by several attempts to block the ditch) and some increase in peat layer in the central part of the bog, however eastern shore of the lake subsided further by 10 cm since 1937. This means that edges of the bog further subsided due to drainage. The study also provided evidence of vertical water discharge through the bog body (catotelm) and permeable mineral basis, what means that peripheral drainage has influence on hydrology of the central part of the bog not only by accelerating runoff through the surface layer (acrotelm). Vertical discharge could be the reason for the ground water levels in the central part of the bog decreasing to 35-40 cm from the surface during the driest years, what is atypical to natural bogs, where lowest water levels do not fall below 30 cm. Hydrological and peat characteristics are obviously affected up to 70 m from the drainage ditches, while less visible impact can reach as far as 200 m. Ground water lever there is 7-35 cm lower and surface peat layer (up to 20 cm) exhibits lower porosity, thus 1,5-2 times lower water permeability and humidity. Deeper peat layer (20-30 cm from the surface) density increased up to 1,8 times. Filtration coefficient in the deeper zone also increased several times mainly due to effect of rooting of trees. The described alterations result in weakening or even loosing of important peatland ecosystem functions, such as impact on climate, water quality and biodiversity, in the affected areas, which progress towards the bog centre. Changes in hydrological conditions are obviously reflected in vegetation, peat formation and microbial processes. It is calculated that tree cover on an average increased by 13 ha annually during last decades. This effect is most prominent in the areas mostly affected by drainage. Radial growth of pine increased 2-3 times, peat formation stopped, thermal and microbiological processes changed radically. Increased cover of trees led to shrinkage of the area of 7110* active raised bog habitat and decreasing number of related plant and bird species. For example, number of breeding golden plover pairs halved from 10-13 to 6-7 in 30 years, while in the middle of the XXth century 62 pairs were registered (Fauna of Lithuania, 1990). Similar succession towards drier pine forest takes place in 91D0* Bog woodland habitat areas affected by drainage. Most of 9080* Fennoscandian deciduous swamp woods habitat areas are substantially affected by drainage as well. The situation was slightly improved recently by blocking of 14 km of drainage ditches, however more serious conservation efforts are necessary in order to sustain and restore nature values.
Blocking of all 34 km of drainage ditches in Kamanos state strict nature reserve is the main aim of the project. Blocking will also facilitate rehabilitation of a segment (~1 km) of bog lag zone in the area used for agriculture. Special low ground pressure machinery will be used for transportation of materials to the sites of difficult accessibility ;
Additional activities will include raising awareness on peatland ecosystem services through public events, development and publishing of information material and voluntary actions dedicated to clearing shoots of trees for maintenance of open bog habitats.