Curonian Lagoon

The Curonian Lagoon – the largest European lagoon – is a shallow water body (total area 1584 km2, mean depth 3.8 m; maximum depth 5 m). Situated in the southern part of the Baltic Sea, the lagoon receives water from the River Nemunas, the third-largest contributor (after the Vistula and Oder) of total nitrogen and phosphorus to the Baltic Sea). The salinity of the water in the northern part of the lagoon fluctuates between 0.1 and 7 PSU; marine, brackish and freshwater species inhabit the lagoon.


Biodiversity and protection

The whole Lithuanian part of the Curonian lagoon has been designated as NATURA 2000 area (both habitat and bird directive protected territories). The northern part of the Curonian Lagoon is designated as a Baltic Sea Protected territory by HELCOM. The Curonian spit along with the adjusting portions of the lagoon is designated as a National park both in Lithuania and Russian federation. In 2000, the Curonian Spit cultural landscape was as well inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Two of the oldest ornithological stations in area are there in Lesnoje (Russia) and Vente (Lithuania) Bird protection is important as migratory routes South-Nord pass the Curonian lagoon. There are 62 protected bird species in the area of the lagoon. There are also 2 protected areas is adjacent to site – Luzija and Tyru high moors designated as  protected territory according to the Habitats Directive and Tyru high moor designated as  protected territory according to the Bird Directive. The Nemunas delta has separately the regional park protection status with several strict reserves inside.  


Protected territories in the Curonian lagoon


Ecosystem services

Research activities are mainly focused on provisioning services associated with the main socio-economic activities of the delta (fishing (including recreational), reed harvesting, water transport ecotourism), including supporting service such as biodiversity. Quite recently ecosystem services of the Nemunas delta region (including the Curonian lagoon) were analyzed using the DPSIR framework (Rashleigh, Razinkovas & Pilkaitytė, 2011). Recent developments also have focused on the biogeochemical services of the Curonian lagoon including denitrification. 


Conceptual model for the Nemunas Delta region DPSIR model of ecosystem services


Ecosystem restoration

Most of the ecosystem restoration activities were focused on the eutrophication control in the lagoon. Considering the huge drainage basin of the Curonian lagoon the measures were taken at national and even international level according to the BSAP developed by the HELCOM.  Local measures also included replanting of reeds and revitalization of polder system in the Nemunas delta.


Current modeling activities

There are several models implemented in the Curonian lagoon area. Full 3D hydraulic circulation  model (SHYFEM) capable to reproduce changes in the salinity induced both by dredging in the port area and foreseen climate projections. Ecosystem ECOPATH/ECOSIM model focused on commercial fisheries is implemented in the Curonian lagoon.


Remote sensing

There are multispectral aerophotogrammetric data available for the Lithuanian part of the Curonian lagoon and neighboring areas that has been used for the reed bed mapping. Multispectral RS images are routinely available through the INFORM FP7 (2014-2017) project.


Transfer to stakeholders

As the Curonian lagoon is a cross-border system there were a number of activities tackling stakeholders on both sides of the border. During the implementation of ASTRA project (Curonian lagoon and spit was a case study area for Lithuania) several climate change awareness products were developed (forest fire awareness, eutrophication projections).  Within the ARTWEI (2010-2013)  project an integrated Baltic lagoons WebGIS system was constructed providing integral data management and spatial modeling tools.


Expectations from Eco-potential H2020 project

Our priorities in the ECOPOTENTIAL project are to assess holistically the network of protected territories already existing in the case study area from the ecosystem perspective. The connectivity approach could be also useful investigate the role of protection mechanisms in the spatial/temporal structure of ecosystem services. As the SE Baltic lagoons are expected (and already are according to TS data) to be heavily affected in the future climate projections the mitigation measures focused on PA should be considered.


Tables of ecosystem services/functions


Click here to download a poster of the protected area.