Vegetation in the area of Sintautai

Daiva Patalauskaitė

The landscape in Sintautai area is a plain dissected by rivers and rivulets. Its agrarian part contains natural river valleys of Nova, Šešupė and Siesartis with small fragments of natural communities survived. Many of these communities had experienced the impact of intensive human activities.

The present investigations of Sintautai area vegetation have been performed with a goal to evaluate the present state of vegetation, to find sites with natural plant communities, to investigate them and assess their value.

The area have been studied during the summer of 2003 by a route method. Land use maps (M 1: 10000) and the Sintautai County map compiled by Lidija Kavaliauskienė at the Cartography Centre of Vilnius University Nature Faculty have been employed.
The natural communities detected were described applying the French-Swiss (Braun-Blanquet) vegetation research and classification principles.

Due to tree felling there are no mature forests in the area. The Penta valley having no steep slopes is overgrown with black alders and dense grass vegetation belonging to the wood stitchwort–black alder (Stellario nemorum–Alnetum glutinosae Lohm. 1957) association. This type of vegetation in the Nova valley extends only as a narrow belt at the pastures along the river channel. The present structure of forest vegetation is not settled yet and contains abundant pioneer species. The steep slopes of Nova and Šešupė were found to be overgrown with deciduous forests belonging to the lime–hornbeam association (ass. Tilio–Carpinetum betuli Traczyk 1962) listed in the Lithuanian Red Data Book, while slope ravines have elm–ash association (ass. Ulmo-Fraxinetum excelsioris Sjörgen 1971).

Forest edges and clearings also contain specific vegetation. The Klepai area still has some natural forest edges with plots of such communities as Cl. Trifolio-Geranietea sanguinei Th. Müller 1961, O. Origanetalia vulgaris Th. Müller 1961, All. Trifolion medii Th. Müller 1961 and, Ass. Trifolio-Agrimonietum eupatoriae Th. Müller (1961) 1962. The clover rich forest edges are interrupted by small colourful plots of steppe meadows (Cl. Festuco-Brometea erecti Br.-Bl. et Tx. 1943). Wood club-rush communities (ass. Scirpetum sylvatici Ralski 1931) can be seen in various-size plots along all the rivers in the former Sintautai rural area. The association of Phalaroidetum arundinaceae Libb. 1931 belonging to the class of common reeds (Cl. Phragmitetea australis R. Tx. et Prsg 1942, O. Phragmitetalia australis Koch 1926, All. Magnocaricion Koch 1926) is detected in many sites of the river banks .

To maintain the state of meadows, unlike forest communities, it is necessary constant human activities such as haymaking and/or grazing. Haymaking meadows, however, were found only in the Nova valley at Voveriai, where low mat-grass swards (Cl. Nardetea strictae Rivas Goday et Borja Carbonell 1961, O. Nardetalia strictae Oberdorfer ex Preissing 1949, All. Violion caninae Schwickerath 1944) were detected in narrow belts along the forest edges and relief depressions. The mat-grass swards in the Nova valley at Voveriai are accompanied by such communities of fertile European meadows as Cl. Molinio-Arrhenatheretea elatioris R. Tx. 1937, O. Arrhenatheretalia elatioris Pawłowski 1928, All. Arrhenatherion elatioris (Br.Bl. 1925) W. Koch 1926. The dog’s-tail communities (All. Cynosurion cristati R. Tx. 1947) in natural pastures of Voveriai were detected in small plots. Wetter sites contain small fragments of marsh marigold tall grass communities All. Calthion palustris R. Tx. 1937 em. Lebrun et al. 1949, ass. Filipendulo-Geranietum palustris W. Koch 1926. Large nice meadows at Širpauliai and Rūgiai in the Nova valley are not grazed and grown with shrubs over.

The important and valuable communities are distinguished and protected as the EU most valuable habitats. The land in Sintautai area is highly cultivated, nevertheless there are small plots of communities, as follows:

6510 – Hay mesophyte meadows. This habitat comprises lowland and medium wet fertile Arrhenatherion elatioris union meadows. Such EU high priority meadow habitats are detected in the Nova valley at Voveriai.

6230 – Species-rich mat-grass swards. They comprise acidic soil, dry or mesophilic habitats of Violion caninae mat-grass swards. Meadows of this type in SIntautai area are detected in Nova valley at Voveriai in a shape of narrow belts.