Conceptual Model of the Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research Platform of Engure Ecoregion, Latvia

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Abstract

The article discusses the results of the national project aimed at elaboration of a conceptual integrated model of the Engure LT(S)ER (Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research) platform of Latvia. The platform represents the drainage basin of costal Lake Engure (644 km2) together with the coastal marine zone of the Gulf of Rîga. The core zone of the ecoregion is the Lake Engure Nature Park (LENP), which is a Ramsar site. The conceptual model is a slightly modified version based on the DPSIR (Drivers-Pressures-States-Impacts-Responses) concept. The socioecological system was spatially demarcated and drivers were subdivided in two groups - external and local ones. The Engure ecoregion was subdivided into seven zones or sub-regions mostly demarcated by natural geological and geographical barriers. Each zone has a specific set of drivers and pressures as well as a specific ecosystem structure and elements of biodiversity. Analysis of the governing drivers and pressures was performed separately for each sub-region during three time periods: 19th century - beginning of 20th century, period of Soviet occupation (1940-1991), and period after restoration of independence of Latvia (1991 - up to now). Characteristics of the state of ecosystems and biodiversity are given. Responses of the socioeconomic component of the socio-ecological system are represented mainly by external factors to the ecoregion, including environmental legislation and funding necessary for research and ecological management. Two alternative scenarios of the development of the Engure ecoregion are discussed: (i) depopulation and land abandonment, and (ii) intensification of agriculture, small-scale industry and building construction. In both cases the present state of ecosystems and the structure of species diversity would be subjected to significant change. Sustainable development of the ecoregion can be provided only by implementation of certain environmental management measures accompanied by long-term socio-ecological research and ecological monitoring.

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