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80% of Lithuania’s territory belongs to the ancient woods. Due to its geographical location, the country is dominated by broadleaf and mixed forests.
Lithuania — where nature belongs to itself, and is allowed to develop without any human influence.
Ural owls are typical old forest residents. Researchers claim that there are only eighty to hundred breeding pairs left in Lithuania, due to an intense deforestation, imposed by people. The latter presents one of the greatest threats to these sedentary night travelers, choosing to settle inside the hollows of old-growth trees.
The exotic western capercaillie, once an ordinary inhabitant of Lithuanian pine forests, and now — a rarely seen feathered dweller. The drastic decrease in the number of capercaillies in Lithuania was caused by a gradual destruction of the territories it inhabits. Famous for their wedding ritual, capercaillies gather in the same areas called wedding venues, year after year to seduce females and mate. If the ritual territory isn’t destroyed, it’s used by capercaillies for decades.
Grey-headed woodpeckers are known as one of the most colorful forest birds. Like many other members of the genetic bird family, it needs mature masses of trees, rich in dead wood. It especially likes thick snags, of which there are hardly any left in Lithuania. As grey-headed woodpeckers tend to forge new hollows every year, its apartments remain for other forest animals, such as sparrow owls, bats and dormice.
One of the most mysterious inhabitants of the ancient woods is the secretive black stork. There are just over 500 pairs in Lithuanian forests, which makes around 10% of the entire European population. Even so, it has declined by as much as 30% over the past two decades, and the number one cause of extinction is a shortage of old-growth deciduous trees.
Coral tooth fungus mostly grows in moist forests, on old veteran trees or coarse woody debris. These elegant forest dwellers allow you to enjoy its ephemeral beauty for only one season, if it shows up at all. In Lithuania, you can find it in just twenty places. The number is caused due to a removal of large, coarse woody debris from old-growth and mixed forests, which are necessary for the survival of these fungi.
Tree lungwort is one of the largest and probably one of the most impressive lichens in Lithuania. Although still found in relatively many places, its population is rapidly declining. Genuine shrubs of this luxurious lichen can only be found in small fragments of Lithuanian ancient forests, untouched by human activity for a long time.
Orange polypore is a bright, yellowish-pink sponge mushroom, found on old large oaks. Although it’s often confused with a common edible mushroom - chicken of the woods, it’s considered a rare species, that grows only in about thirty places. These spectacular mushrooms flourish on old-growth or recently fallen oaks in ancient forests and its fragments.
Lynx, like all members of the cat family, has the ability to run extremely fast, though only for short distances. In order for them to survive, old, dense forests with numerous wind fallen trees are a must. Only in such forests can they sneak behind their victims and create lairs, suitable for giving birth to kittens. Lynxes have been included in the Red Data Book of Lithuania since 1979, with the current population of these elegant predators reaching a mere number of hundred individuals.
80% of Lithuania’s territory belongs to the ancient woods. Due to its geographical location, the country is dominated by broadleaf and mixed forests.
Slash and burn agriculture is widespread in Lithuania, during which the forest is burned and various cultivated crops are grown in its place.
Such farming methods are actively practiced for about seven hundred years, during which Lithuanian forests are reduced by almost half — up to 55%.
Nevertheless, Lithuanian forests still cover about two thirds of its territory.
Country's forests are increasingly used for industrial purposes. One of them is the transport of timber to the West for shipbuilding. Given that roads and railways are still lacking in many wooded areas, timber is transported by simply letting rafts flow downstream in watery rivers.
It’s believed that one of these water transport routes also continued across the river Žeimena. There underwater archaeologists discovered as many as 20 metal axes, which were made between the 15th and 18th centuries and are thought of as being used for cutting down oaks, growing nearby.
Industrial felling continues to intensify. With the development of industry in Central and Western Europe, there’s a shortage of wood. The latter begins to be shipped from the Eastern Europe.
In the second half of the 19th century, a construction of the St. Petersburg - Warsaw railway is built throughout Lithuania. An intensive trade in forest and timber begins.
The First World War led to an intensive deforestation, especially on the eastern outskirts of Lithuania, near the St. Petersburg - Warsaw railway.
In 1914 - 1916 a narrow-gauge railway was built for timber transportation to Marcinkoniai, through the depths of Dainava forest. The locals dubbed it the ‘French Road’ — due to Germans using French war prisoners to build it.
Strict nature reserves are the only areas in Lithuania, where forests have the potential to turn into ancient woods. As of now, they make up only 1.225% of Lithuanian forest territory.
Although the average age of the trees within can reach three hundred years, in Lithuanian reserves it only manages to get to the age of seventy five.
Nevertheless, it’s possible to find forest fragments with an average lifetime of almost two hundred years, yet they make up less than one percent — 0.0009% of Lithuania’s land.
Due to mass felling, many species that require constant, slow-changing conditions, found only in old forests, are rapidly declining. Around 80% of protected forest insect species are in great danger, due to the lack of dead wood, which also threatens many species of fungi that decompose it.
The remaining community of plants, animals and microbes depend on these two species, enabling an uninterrupted chain of life, with each link providing one another with food and housing.
Although the oldest and most valuable forests are situated in hard-to-reach places for loggers, it cannot be saved without human protection. It depends only on us — will future generations be able to see the ancient woods of Lithuania?
The idea of establishing a foundation to preserve the old-growth forests of Lithuania arose after seeing the public interest in the documentary "Ancient Woods". Director, Mindaugas Survila, set aside the money it made, 60 thousand euros, towards purchasing the first forest plots, positioned to become the first public, Lithuanian ancient forest.
Further activities of the foundation will be based on privately donated funds, dedicated to the acquisition of forest plots. In this way, forests will be protected from felling and the first ancient forest in Lithuania will be established.
The movie "The Ancient Woods" hits cinemas.
The Ancient Woods Foundation | „Sengirės fondas“ is established.
Lithuania's most valuable forests are selected for buyout based on strict 50+ criteria.
27.5 ha / 98 ac forest plot in Švendubre forest massif, Druskininkai district.
This is the largest single parcel of land preserved so far in a culturally and naturally significant place - Raigardas Landscape Reserve near Druskininkai.
The legendary Raigardas valley is surrounded by pine forests on all sides, the birch forest in the centre, and the Nemunas valley is full of oxbow lakes and streams. Ornithologist Marius Karlonas has recorded about 120 species of breeding birds in the valley alone, and over 160 different avian species in total.
The area is home to biologically valuable stands of 161-year-old spruce and 150-year-old pine trees, and the stream running through the middle of the site is flanked by mature alder trees. According to the Foundation's scientists, if the forest is allowed to continue to develop naturally, it will only increase the number of fungi, lichens, and invertebrate species associated with living (dead) wood. As it is a large, continuous parcel, such a forest will better support the stability of ecological conditions that are important for the survival of species.
The Foundation's community has made a significant contribution to the conservation of the forest: those who have supported the forest throughout 2022 by donating a portion of their income tax, regular supporters of the Foundation, businesses, and those who have actively responded to the call to conserve this unique place. In total, over 1,230 environmentally-minded people and over 30 business organisations.
Although the forest belongs to a protected area - the Raigardas Landscape Reserve - and is a Group II forest, no logging will take place under the Foundation's care, allowing the formation of natural ecosystems that are critical for many species of life.
5.08 ha / 12.5 ac forest plot near Žiogeliai and Randamoniai, Druskininkai district.
This forest is located in the Dzūkija Dainava Forest, next to the Nemunas River, near the ethnographic village of Žiogeliai. It is among the most valuable massifs selected by the Foundation's scientists on the basis of 50+ criteria. The place is spectacular - and although the terrain makes it a challenging place to explore, the beauty and the abundance of biodiversity are what makes it so beautiful. The northern part of the site slopes down to the river Nemunas, the terrain rises and falls, a ravine meanders through the site, and springs abound.
The conservation of this forest has been made possible by philanthropist Mykolas Dumčius, a physician, and by the business sponsor Nordic Investment Bank.
The parcel is adjacent to another smaller parcel that was previously purchased, belongs to the Dzūkija National Park, as well as PAST (Important Bird Areas), Natura 2000, and part of the parcel is designated as a Key Forest Habitat - alkaline lowland wetlands, dry heaths, and a Habitat of European Union importance - herbaceous spruce forests and aloes, a priority habitat of importance for Lithuania. Some of the pine forest reaches 130-140 years old, the spruce forest is about 120 years old. A mature stand with dead (living) wood will undoubtedly enrich the abundance and diversity of woodpeckers in the area. And as the property reaches the river Nemunas, it is important for otters, beavers and nesting sea eagles on the other bank.
The forest has a rich flora of spore-forming vascular plants, with six species of ferns recorded during the initial survey: Athyrium filix-femina, Dryopteris filix-mas, Dryopteris carthusiana, Phegopteris connectilis, Gymnocarpium dryopteris and Polypodium vulgare. Gametophytes of ferns have also been observed in the grove.
This forest was not a nature reserve, so the threat of logging was imminent - the forest adjacent to the Foundation's parcel was clear-cut in the winter of 2021-2022.
2.95 ha / 7.3 ac forest plot in Širvintos district, Špokiškis
Mindaugas Kanišauskas passed on the forest to the Foundation as a gift to nature. The land on which the forest plot is located had belonged to his family for about one and a half hundred years.
"I believe that this forest is already more valuable in a natural sense than in a material one. If there is an organisation or a group of people who care about it and will try to keep the forest as it is now, and it will only get better, that is the most wonderful thing", says Mindaugas about his generous decision.
Having nurtured a close relationship with nature since childhood, Mindaugas still finds peace and escape from the hustle and bustle in the forest. His great-great-grandfather also once worked the fields around him, and the plot is also dear to him as a link with his ancestral heritage. Thinking about the future of this patch of forest, the donor wanted it to remain as it is: untouched, without human interference. This led him to donate the forest to the Foundation, trusting in its mission to preserve the forest untouched and undisturbed by human activity for future generations. The donated plot is also named after his grandmother, Kazimira Kanišauskienė.
The donated forest area is a 70-year old oak woodland with white alder, understory covered with hazel and spruce, with a designated European Community Important Habitat (ECI Habitat) - alluvial forests. Over time, the site will become an undisturbed, centuries-old old forest. Although the forest area is rich in deciduous trees, they are as important to the ecosystem as pine and spruce forests.
19 ha / 47 ac, Žirgė forest, Moniškis, Utena district
In the most valuable part of the Žirgė forest grows an old deciduous forest with oaks, old aspens, ashes and limes dating back 130 years. The area is also rich in dead (living) wood. Beaver habitats and traces of ungulates have been detected.
It‘s a home for a few species from the Red Data Book — whitebacked woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), grey-headed woodpecker (Picus canus), also the area is important habitat for an eagle Clanga pomarina, because it's Lithuanian numbers make up more than 20% of Europe’s total population. There is the priority forest habitat (B.1 — broad-leaved forests) and the habitat of European Union importance (9020 — broad-leaved and mixed forests).
1.31 ha / 3 ac, Aukštaitija region (exact location withheld due to biosensitivity)
A small but very picturesque place with steep river slopes and ridges full of fallen trees as bridges. There is a protected bird's nest on the plot, also plenty of indicative species of key woodland habitats have been found: a very rare mushroom in Lithuania — Sclerencoelia fascicularis, protected fungi Rhodotus palmatusrare, rare lichens Pyrenula nitidella, Acrocordia gemmata, Reichlingia leopoldii, Nowellia curvifolia. Moreover, some key woodland habitats such as (D.3 — stream slope), habitats of EU importance (9180 — ditch and slope forests and 9050 — spruce forests rich in grass).
The new castle mound was discovered here in 2016 by the scientist of the foundation during his research in the region. This unique plot of land with a mound recognized as a national object of cultural heritage.
It was purchased with the help of community donations and a part of the prize that Mindaugas Survila, the founder, was awarded in 2021 — the Environmental Prize by President V. Adamkus.
12.53 ha / 31 ac, Galiniškis, Molėtai district
The plot is recognized as the key woodland habitat (H2 — Raguva, B2 — other broadleaved forests) and the habitat of EU importance (9020 — broadleaved forests), which, despite the high biological value and their rapid decline across Europe, have hardly any legal protection at all, so it is gratifying to preserve at least some of them.
The most valuable is the northern part of the forest, where there is a relatively old mixed deciduous forest of about 90 years old. There is a lot of dead (living) wood there and the irregularity of the terrain creates the area rich in micro-habitats and biodiversity.
The Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) used to breed in the area, and a rare lichen species Lobaria pulmonaria has been registered. This indicates the good condition of the area, the high biological value. More detailed biological research of the forest has already started.
The southern part of the plot was logged 30 years ago, so it is still healing its wounds and it will have to grow up to the full potential, but it is also very important as a buffer zone.
This forest has been fully purchased with the funds from a support initiative “Together with nature” by a corporate sponsor Žalia giria (Gelsva, UAB).
4.48 ha / 11 ac, Prienai district
This is the third plot in the Balbieriškis forest massif — the nice beginning of the larger massive of protected land to be formed. The forest belongs to the Oak Botanical Reserve and is just 500 metres away from the other two plots previously acquired by the foundation. Part of the site has also been recognized as a habitat of EU importance (9160).
This is a mature, mixed, self-sustaining, heterogeneous, multi stemmed, mosaic-structured forest. It is rich in oaks, with an admixture of aspen, alder, birch hornbeam and spruce. There is a number of fallen trees in various stages of decomposition in this forest area, which creates a variety of micro-habitats. Although the terrain is relatively flat, there are also wetter, sometimes waterlogged areas.
A private benefactor, Gabrielius Gedvila, a lawyer living in the USA, a former Chief of Staff of President Valdas Adamkus, who founded the Dana Gedvila Fund in memory of his late wife, has donated USD 20k to purchase a forest parcel in Balbieriškis. As a thank you gesture, the grove was named after his wife.
1.69 ha / 4 ac, Prienai district
The second forest plot acquired by the foundation, bordering with another plot already protected, as well as with the state forest habitat, which allows for the easy spread of various species of fungi, lichens and other species. The plot is located in the Oak Botanical Reserve, and has valuable forest habitats such as bark beetle forests (9160) and alluvial forests (91E0). The stand is heterogeneous, with a diverse tree canopy dominated by linden (50 m) and spruce (90 m), with alder in wetter areas. There is a significant admixture of aspen, birch and oak. There are oak trees approx. 140 to 160 years old. The branches are strong and can easily support the nests of both eagles and black storks. According to current assessments, the forest is already valuable as a potential key woodland habitat.
This forest plot was purchased using the community’s 1.2% personal income tax donations received in 2020.
2.6 ha / 6 ac, Anykščiai district, Kiaulėnai forest
When visiting this forest, you can already see a lot of living wood (this is how we call dead wood) that is home for thousands of organisms of all kinds. Semi-ancient (~60-80 years old) forest, dominated by spruce, but most of the plot is beautifully mixed with birch and aspen, also oak, maple, black alders. It’s great that despite the young age, there are already some living wood. Abundance of fungi species indicates that the forest ecosystem is healthy and multidiverse.
Donor of this beautiful forest is Mrs. Janina Breivienė, and like her family ancestors, was born and grew up right next to this forest. Her family loved to take long walks to pick mushrooms and berries in the forest. Dr. J. Breivienė is an ophthalmologist, also one of the first members of independence movement Sąjūdis. She is an example to many with her thoughts, advice and moral attitudes.
3 ha / 7 ac, Prienai district
Balbieriškis forest massif is a large island of broadleaved and mixed forest in fertile fields between Žuvintas reserve and Nemunas loop regional park. The entire plot falls into the territory of the Oak Botanical Reserve.
Great natural value of the plot — the presence of 3 types of habitats of European Union importance — spruce groves rich in grass, bristlecone groves, alluvial forests. The variety of key biological elements indicates the forest being valuable not only for Lithuania, but for the whole Europe. This plot is a very mixed, mixed-aged, middle-aged forest growing in a relatively moist habitat. The drier part of the massif is dominated by linden, spruce, aspen, oak, hornbeam, while the wetter part is dominated by alder and birch. On the outskirts of the plot grows a relatively young, but already a very impressive 40-stem linden tree
This is the first forest plot acquired by the Foundation.
It is a relatively young (average age of trees — 75 years) mixed, fertile forest dominated by spruce, birch, aspen, black alder & hazel. A part of the forest is wet or temporarily wet, and is identified as a habitat of European Union importance. As individual trees die, large dead (living) wood gradually appears in the stand, allowing rarer deadwood-associated species to establish. At the same time, thinning stands are already forming, increasing the mosaic nature of the stand and the diversity of micro-habitats.
2 indicative species of key woodland habitats have been found on the plot — mosses (Ulota crispa) and lichens (Metzgeria furcata). In 2020, mating songs/call sounds of protected bird species — greyheaded woodpecker (Picus canus) and common crane (Grus grus) — have been recorded.
Professor Vytautas Smailys has donated his own forest for the foundation right after the announcement about it‘s establishment. Nature as a value comes from his childhood: “All thanks to Lithuanian forests for having the clean air and water.”
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Donate your forest
If you have a forest and don't know if it will fall into good hands, you can donate it to the Ancient Woods Foundation, which will ensure the preservation of it and the ecosystems that live within.
All of the raised funds are used for the purchase of private, old forest plots, protecting them from felling and human activities. Everyone, regardless of their contribution efforts, will be able to visit and observe the spectacular life of ancient woods.
Contribute with one-time or recurring donations. For recurring donations choose “Make this a monthly donation”.Support the foundation
Public Institution "Sengirės fondas"
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In the Payment Destination box, enter "Support to the Sengirės fondas" and your email address.
When filling in the personal income tax application form, enter the code of VšĮ „Sengirės fondas“: 305433631A memo on how to fill in a form
Submit or correct declarations until May 2nd.
If you know that an old, biologically valuable forest is for sale - be sure to share the information with us here:Forest proposal form
If you want to contribute with your professional knowledge, shoot us a message here:firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sincere thank you to everyone who contributed to the creation and preservation of the ancient Lithuanian forests.
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