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Folder Agricultural Biodiversity

Agriculture land plays an essential role in the maintenance of biological diversity in Latvia. It determines the nature conditions, like hilly relief, diverse wetlands, lakes and rivers, also the low agriculture intensity in considerable areas during the last 50 years.
In Latvia agriculture land covers 2.5 million ha or 39.3% from the country area: 1.7 million ha or 67.4% covers arable land, 0.8 million ha or 31.4% - meadows and grasslands but orchards comprise 1.2% from agriculture land (Data from 1995). About 4.1% from the land used for agriculture include roads and buildings.
There Dynamics of Weed Species number and composition in the corn-fields of Latvia  and researches on some  invasive species - Hogweed Heracleum sosnowskyi distribution are carried out in Latvia by Latvian Agriculture University.
In total in Latvia there are about 15 000 ha of grassland habitats of international or national importance.
Agriculture land is a habitat of international importance for migrating birds, especially cranes and geese. Up to now in the country in total about 150 migrating birds are known from valuable agriculture lands, 15 from them are included in the List of Important Bird Areas in Europe (Racinskis, Stipniece 2000). These areas are protected according to the Bonn Convention that Latvia ratified in 1999. Migrating birds are negatively influenced by the decrease of cropper fields in the areas that are good rest places for birds as well as field interruptions and road margin and ditch overgrowth with shrubs.


Development tendences

In Latvia both regions with wide continuous drained fields where intensive use of herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers takes place occur as well as extensively managed mosaic agriculture landscape. In the last 50 years considerable agriculture land areas (up to about 2 million) have been abandoned. At present they have overgrown with shrubs and broad-leaved trees of different age forming a mosaic landscape with slight human influence.
At the beginning of 1990-ties with change of political and economic policy essential human influence upon nature took place. As a result of land reform almost all the agricultural land and half of the forests became a private property. Therefore, substantially increased the use of forest resources. In the last years in separate regions, especially in Zemgale increases the intensity of agricultural activities. In the areas with agriculture intensification the maintenance of important landscape elements, valuable habitats and field edges is endangered.


Threats to ecosystem

According to the National Programme of Biological Diversity, the main priority of the conservation of biological diversity is the protection of natural grasslands. Especially valuable are flood-plain meadows.
In most of these areas adequate management activities are not carried out. Therefore, special management activities are needed for the area of 13 500 ha. Area of natural grassland decrease and as a consequence characteristic plant and animal species quickly disappear. This situation is favoured by overgrowing with shrubs after the traditional management of grasslands (mowing and grazing) is stopped, as well as the opposite process - more intensive use of management methods as well as grassland transformation into arable land or perennial grasslands. Large grassland areas discontinue ditches and shrub zones and that is not suitable for wading birds.
Grassland animals, especially birds threaten early mowing (mowing in areas important for birds not earlier than July 1 but traditionally it takes place in the middle or second part of June). Essential threat is mowing without using methods to protect the animals (here: recommendations for grassland management that is favourable for birds).
Small wetlands in agriculture lands are endangered by drainage as most of the intensive managers want to use all the area of their agriculture land. Problem is small wetlands overgrowing with shrubs. In most cases the presence of small shrub clumps is a factor favouring biological diversity but in wetlands with enough open water area for waterfowl breeding (commonly more than 0.5 ha) presence of shrubs eliminate a possibility for rare wading birds and waterfowl and to breed.


Responsible institutions

Governmental institutions

Science institutions

Non-governmental institutions



Legislation and policy

For conservation of the biological diversity most important is the National Programme of Biological Diversity with which legislation must be agreed so far it concerns the use of agriculture land. Needs of the maintenance of the biological diversity are incorporated in "Countryside development programme SAPARD".
 Most important normative acts are as follows:
  • Ramsar Convention. On Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, Ramsar, 1971 (ratified in 1995)
  • Helsinki Convention. On Protection of the marine Environment of the Baltic Sea area, Helsinki, 1974, 1992. (ratified in 1994)
  • Bern Convention. On Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, Bern, 1979 (ratified in 1996)
  • Bonn Convention. On Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, Bonn, 1979 (ratified in 1999)
  • Rio de Janeiro Convention. On biological diversity, Rio de Janeiro, 1992 (ratified in 1995)
  • EU Directive on Conservation of Wild Birds 79/409/EEC (1979)
  • EU Directive on Conservation of Species and Habitats 92/43/EEC (1972)
  • The Law on the Protection of Environment (1991, 1997)
  • The Law on Specially Protected Nature Territories (1993, 1997)
  • The Law on Melioration (1993)
  • The Law on Agriculture (1996)
  • The Law on Protected Belts (1997)
  • The Law on Environmental Impact Assessment (1998)
  • The Law on Conservation of Species and Habitats (2000)
  • Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers on Water Use Permits, (15/22.04.1997)
  • Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers on the General Protection and Use of Specially Protected Nature Territories (354 /1997)
  • Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers on the Environmental State Monitoring (198/1997)
  • Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers on the Territorial Planning (62/1998)
  • Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers on the Lists of Specially Protected and Limitedly Exploitable Specially Protected Species (396/14.11.2000)
  • Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers on the Lists of Specially Protected Habitats (No 421/05.12.2000)
  • Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers on establishment, protection and management of micro-reserves No.45 (2001)
  • Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers on Biological Agriculture (in preparation)


Management and protection activities

In Europe the Agri-environment Programmes being an important part the continuous agriculture development become more widespread. These programmes as obligatory are planned also in the new EU Regulations of Rural Development in a Programme Agenda 2000. Also in Latvia the National Project of Agri-environment Development is elaborated. Recommendations developed in the project are included in various EU support programmes for rural development in candidate countries - parts of SAPARD plan. The Cabinet of Ministers Republic of Latvia and European Commission Plan has approved the plan. Project results are applied in the description of the 5th priority-support sub-programme "Environment Friendly Agriculture Methods".
Support for the Agri-environment activities in Latvia will be available in selected pilot areas. Highest priority is given to local communities with considerable areas of biologically valuable grasslands.
Taking into consideration quite large areas without great agriculture chemistry application that still have a high biological diversity it is important to elaborate the optimum strategy for the long-term agriculture development decreasing threats to the natural habitats and their flora and fauna. Planning support activities for agriculture and rural development financed by Government resources and EU structural funds various priorities and varied further development scenarios must be given to different territories.
The following Species Conservation Action Plans had been prepared - for Corncrake Crex crex, for Great Snipe Gallinago media, for Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila poparina, also Report on Cranes Grus grus and Agriculture.


Research and monitoring

With rapid decrease of biological diversity in agriculture lands and forests in the EU countries intensive research is carried out to develop mathematical models for habitats and landscape elements to evaluate the overall species diversity as well as separate species. In 1995 a project concerning agriculture landscape was started in Latvia:
  • Latvian -Danish co-operation project "Biodiversity management in Latvian farmland, a decision support system" (1995, 1997-2000). Project was realised by the Latvian Fund for Nature in co-operation with the Danish expert company "Ornis Consult". Support for research was received also as a grant from the Latvian Scientific Council (leader J. Priednieks). This is the only research in the frame of which the monitoring of bird species nesting in agriculture lands was started.
  • In addition, research of separate species, like corn-crake, snipe, white stork were started (see separately about these species).
  • Latvian Agriculture Environment Programme project and the correspondent part in the SAPARD Programme was elaborated in the Latvian Fund for Nature in co-operation with the Ministry of Agriculture and co-ordinated experts from several countries co-ordinated by the Dutch company "Avalon". Project title "Agri-environmental programmes in Central and Eastern Europe", financed by Dutch Government MATRA Programme.

Folder Grasslands (meadows and pastures)
Folder Hogweed and its distribution in Latvia
Folder Nezāļu sugu skaita un sastāva dinamikas pētījumi labību sējumos
Folder Putni Latvijas agroainavā