Latvia

Salaca River Basin

Description of case study area

The territory of case study is the River Salaca Basin. Major ecosystem type is temperate and sub-polar broad-leaf forests and woodlands. Major habitats and land cover types are: raised bogs; aquatic ecosystems (salmonid river with diverse habitats); coastal meadows; and agroecosystems. The River Salaca Basin (length 95 km, basin area 3570 km2) covers the major part of the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve. Salaca is the one of the purest and unpolluted river in Latvia and the fourth biggest salmon spawning area in the Baltic. The River Salaca Basin is important as internationally approved lotic system with high landscape and biological diversity. From this point of view the protection of biological diversity form possible threats caused by climate change are of especial importance.

Results in the case study area

Since the staff of the University of Latvia and the North Vidzeme (Ziemelvidzeme) Biosphere Reserve have been involved in the research activities over the years, the long-term ecological observations give source of information on possible ecosystem response to the climate change process in the Salaca River basin.
The most significant climate change impacts in the Salaca River Basin that have been observed are changes in the water level regime character (the occurrence of spring floods and low water periods), changes in temperature regime, the decrease of the number days with snow and ice cover, changes in extreme weather event frequency (winter storms in coastal area), changes in the river basin vegetation cover and species (e.g. overgrowing of the River Salaca water surface), fish habitat losses and consequently the decrease of the recreational and tourism attraction value of the River Salaca and its tributaries.

annual mean air temperatures
Figure 1: Long-term trend of annual mean air temperatures in the basin of the River Salaca (data of LEGMA)

Salaca water discharge
Figure 2: Changes of the River Salaca water discharge Q (m3/s) during winter and summer seasons (mean monthly data from sampling station Lagaste, 1927-2004)

Length of ice cover days
Figure 3: Length of ice cover days. 1- Daugava; 2-Lielupe; 3- Gauja; 4- Salaca; 5- Venta. Data were smoothed with a 6-year moving average.

In the case study area several stakeholders are involved in tackling problems linked to climate change impacts, for example, administrators and scientists from the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve, State institutions and agencies in the region (Regional Environmental Board, Fire and Rescue Service, Road Administration, Rural Development Service), spatial planners from Riga and Vidzeme Planning Regions etc.

ASTRA workshop
Figure 4: ASTRA workshop with stakeholders in the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve in Salacgriva, Limbazi District on 26.11.2007

ASTRA workshop with stakeholders in the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve in Salacgriva, Limbazi District on 26.11.2007

Within the ASTRA project the climate change impacts and adaptation measures relevant for highly valued protected areas have been studied. The development of adaptation measures has been initiated and promoted by the ASTRA team. Sea level rise map for the coastal zone has been created using sea level rise model (data of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) generated within ASTRA project.

Draft proposals for spatial development policy have been elaborated with the aim to avert damages of coastal erosion. It has been suggested that following activities have to be taken in the coastline tourism and environment protection zone:

sea level rise
Figure 5: Sea level rise map for the coastal zone at the River Salaca mouth (data provided by the ASTRA project and Ziemelvidzeme Biosphere Reserve, prepared by A.Locmanis, 2007)

Riga Planning Region Spatial Plan
Figure 6: Riga Planning Region Spatial Plan (2005-2025): Perspective transport infrastructure. The yellow arrow indicates potential climate change problem area in the River Salaca basin in connection the the location of Via Baltica motorway (Riga Planning region, 2006)

Coastal zone at the Gulf of Riga
Figure 7: Coastal zone at the Gulf of Riga in 2006 (photo: I.Druvietis)

The lower part of the River Salaca
Figure 8: The lower part of the River Salaca after the removal of overgrown sediments, July 2006 (photo: I.Druvietis)

The middle part of the River Salaca
Figure 9: The middle part of the River Salaca (Skanaiskalns), July 2006 (photo: I.Druvietis)

Description of project partner:

Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences of the University of Latvia is founded in 1944. At present faculty covers three study lines - geography, geology and environmental science. The total number of students is 750, staff of the faculty, including research personnel is 75; total number of research papers per year are approx. 140. Staff of the faculty participates not only in around 30 national and many EU as well as USA funded projects, but also in applied projects. The Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences is one of the main institutions in Latvia dealing with studies of long-term changes of climate and its variability. It has also experience on spatial and natural resources studies. The studies are carried out by Department of Geography and Department of Environmental Science focussing on climate change impact to inland water ecosystems and coastal processes at the Baltic Sea and Riga Gulf. Faculty is closely cooperating with the Institute of Biology, the Institute of Aquatic Ecology and other research institutions as well as with Ministry of Environment and the Northern Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve.


Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences (left)
and Students in the field practice (right)

 

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