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Folder Charasteristic of the seacoast

    Beaches commonly are formed by easily washed out sediments (sand, gravel and pebble) and are directly submerged to regular sea and wind influence. Walking along the water line from Nida to Ainaži, we can observe sandy, stony, pebble and gravel beaches. Their width varies from 5-10 to 50-100 meters and even more. Most widespread are sandy beaches where in comparison with the other beaches higher species and habitat diversity is observed. Most characteristic plant species are Cakile baltica, Salsola kali and Honckenya peploides. These plants commonly grow scattered or in small groups. Most of plant species grow on low wet beaches where annual plants dominate, like Chenopodium sp. and Atriplex sp. Well developed beach communities are in August and September when the species composition has stabilised; spotted or in some places continuous plant cover is observed. Differently develop habitats in stony beaches where perennial vascular plants dominate (Laime 2000).

    Dunes are wind flown sandy ridges. Near the sea both open dunes and those covered by trees and shrubs occur. In open dunes two zones are distinguished - primary dunes and grey dunes. Primary dunes are located most close to the sea and commonly border with the beach and where sand flooding takes place. Primary dunes are characteristic only in those sections of coast where sand accumulation takes place. Total length of primary dunes in Latvia is about 240 km (Anon. 1993). Development of primary dunes starts from embryonic dunes that are small up to 50-cm high sandy formations with scarce vegetation. Characteristic species are Leymus arenarius, xCalammophila baltica, Honckenya peploides and Elytrigia x littorea. With the continuation of sand accumulation and plant cover development these primary dunes develop into foredunes. Their medium height is 1-3 m although 5-6 m or even higher occur. Mainly there are coastal sections where is only one foredune, in medium 50 m wide.In places where sand accumulation processes are more active 2 or 3 foredunes develop that can be 100 and more meter wide. Grasses dominate on foredunes, the most common are Ammophila arenaria, Calamagrostis epigeios, Leymus arenarius and Festuca arenaria. In Latvia foredunes with shrubs are characteristic, mainly with willows, like Salix viminalis and Salix daphnoides. They are planted to stabilise dunes or have arrived on their own.

    On beaches and primary dunes 282 plant species grow (Laime 2000). Data obtained from the studies of the botanists of the University of Latvia, Faculty of Biology from 1989 to 2002. Many species are weeds, garden escapers and invasive plants. Comparing the flora of beaches and primary dunes in different sections of the coast it was found out that more rich is the coast of the Gulf of Rīga, especially between Rīga and Kolka. Near the Gulf of Rīga 240 species occur, on the coast near the Baltic Sea from Nida to Kolka 113 species. It can be due to the diversity of coastal habitats and it concerns mainly Kurzeme part of the Gulf of Rīga.

    A grey dune is a secondary type of dunes that develops from primary dunes. Grey dunes are relatively stable. Bryophytes, lichens and low vascular plants as well as separate trees and shrubs form the plant cover. On grey dunes in Latvia 163 species of Pteridophyta and Spermatophyta grow, 30 bryophyte species and 44 lichen species from which 23 are Latvian Red Data Book species (Laime, Rove 2001). Special attention must be paid to those species whose habitats are mainly connected with grey dunes and which have a small distribution area, like Dianthus arenarius subsp. arenarius.
    Grey dunes in Latvia are a rare and specially protected habitat (Anon. 2001) and are distributed unevenly, mainly near the coast of the Baltic Sea. Width of grey dunes varies from several metres up to 30-50 metres. Near the coast of the Gulf of Rīga the medium width of grey dunes is 5 metres. Near the coast of the Baltic Sea it is between 5 to 10 metres. Grey dunes are found in Užava (width up to 50 metres) and in the north of Pāvilosta (width about 100 metres).

     Dune slacks is a part of the coastal habitat complex and are characteristic for the coastal sections with low beaches as well in the ecotone zone between foredunes and grey dunes or dune forest. Rare are dune slacks with calcareous rich fen species (Laime, Pakalne 2000). Buffs are characteristic for the seacoast in Latvia that have developed under the influence of abrasion and wash away (Ulsts 1998). Especially interesting are bluffs with springs and calcareous plant species as well as sandstone outcrops.

For the shallow water part of the Gulf of Rīga typical are wetlands with tall vascular plant growth where Phragmites australis, Scirpus tabernaemontani and Bolboschoenus maritimus dominate. Most of these wetlands border with moist beaches and coastal meadows. Widest wetlands are located between Ainaži and Salacgrīva as well as between Bērzciems and Roja.


Typical plant species on beaches and primary dunes


Cakile baltica

Baltijas šķēpene

Atriplex littoralis

jūrmalas balodene

Agrostis stolonifera

ložņu smilga

Salsola kali

kālija sālszāle

Equisetum arvense

tīruma kosa

Tussilago farfara


Juncus articulatus

spožaugļu donis

Juncus bufonius

krupju donis

Sagina nodosa

mezglainā gaurenīte

Primary dunes

Ammophila arenaria

smiltāju kāpuniedre

Leymus arenarius

smiltāju kāpukviesis

X Calammophila baltica

Baltijas kāpuniedre

Calamagrostis epigeios

smiltāju ciesa

Festuca arenaria

smiltāju auzene

Elytrigia x littorea

jūrmalas vārpata

Hieracium umbellatum

čemurainā mauraga

Artemisia campestris

lauku vībotne

Honckenya peploides

pelcīšu honkēnija

Salix daphnoides

smilšu kārkls

Characteristic species of grey dunes

Pteridophyta and Spermatophyta

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

parastā miltene

Artemisia campestris

lauka vībotne

Carex arenaria

smilts grīslis

Corynephorus canescens

iesirmā kāpsmildzene

Dianthus arenarius

smiltāja neļķe

Festuca sabulosa

kāpu auzene

Galium mollugo

mīkstā madara

Galium verum

īstā madara

Hieracium umbellatum

čemurainā mauraga

Jasione montana

kalnu norgalvīte

Koeleria glauca

zilganā kelērija

Pulsatilla pratensis

pļavas silpurene

Salix rosmarinifolia

ložņu kārkls

Sedum acre

kodīgais laimiņš

Thymus serpyllum

mazais mārsils

Epipactis atrorubens

sarkanā dzeguzene

Empetrum nigrum

melnā vistene

Honckenya peploides

pelcīšu honkēnija

Viola canina

suņu vijolīte

Viola tricolor

trejkrāsu vijolīte


Brachythecium albicans

noras īsvācelīte

Ceratodon purpureus

purpura ragzobe

Dicranum scoparium

slotiņu divzobe

Hypnum cupressiforme

ciprešu hipns

Pleurozium schreberi

Šrebera rūsaine

Racomitrium canescens

sirmā sarmenīte

Racomitrium ericoides

ēriku sarmenīte

Tortella inclinata

nokarenā vijzobīte

Tortula ruralis

noras vijzobe


Cetraria aculeata


Cetraria ericetorum


Cladonia chlorophea


Cladonia fimbriata


Cladonia furcata


Cladonia glauca


Cladonia gracilis


Cladonia mitis


Cladonia portentosa


Cladonia rangiferina


Cladonia rangiformis


Cladonia verticillata


Hypogymnia physodes


Peltigera canina


Peltigera didactila


Peltigera rufescens



    Seacoast habitats are important habitats for feeding and migration of many animal species. In the coastal zone at least half of the Red Data Book bird species appear, like Tadorna tadorna, Haemotopus ostralegus, Pluvialis apricaria, Calidris alpina schinzii etc. Most of them are registered during migration (Ādamsons 1986, Lipsbergs 1985, Pēterhofs 1984). It concerns also bats. During autumn migration, for example in Pape ornithological station all 15-bat species found in Latvia were observed (Pētersons 1997). Sandy beaches and foredunes are considered as a typical habitat for Bufo calamita. Up to know several isolated populations are observed at the seacoast (Bērziņs 1984, 1987, 1988). At the seacoast, especially in places washed by seawater quite high insect diversity is observed. Several rare species appear there, like Laphria gibbosa, Laphria flava and Cicindela maritima.