Kaunas District covers an area of about 153,000 hectares of the southern part of the Central Lowland of Lithuania where the lands of Suvalkija, Aukštaitija (literally Highlands), and Samogitia converge, and the large rivers of our country Nemunas, Neris and Nevėžis confluence with each other.
The district is sort of embossed in between of two large forest masses: in the west it is embedded into Kazlų Rūda forests, and in the east it is clung onto forests of Pravieniškės and Būdos. The western part of the district is mostly overgrown with forests, in the northern part the forests of Varluva, Babtai, Padauguva and Karalgiris are situated; in the southeast part – Dubrava Wood. 30% of the lands of the district are overgrown with forests, this equates to the average forest coverage in Lithuania.
Water bodies cover approximately 5% of the territory. There are no lakes in the district but it is rich with rivers, streams and dams. Kaunas Lagoon (6,350 hectares) is the largest of them, and the valleys of the rivers Nemunas, Neris, Nevėžis, Dubysa and Jiesia stand out by their high steep banks. Very little natural marshes are left, currently they cover less than 5% of the territory. All larger marshes, such as Ežerėlis and Novaraistis raised bogs, were drained, fully exploited or are still being exploited.
Agricultural lands cover more than a half of the territory of the district (53%), meadows and pastures are used intensively. Kaunas District is one of the most populated districts in the country. The district surrounds Kaunas, the second largest city of Lithuania, with its suburbs. Therefore, the remnants of the wildlife are sheltered by river valleys and forests between Ežerėlis, Novaraistis and Braziūkai villages. Narrow lines of natural habitats on the river sides unfortunately are very sensitive and vulnerable. Kamša forest, Jiesia and partially Dubrava Wood, all of them the oases of nature which are rich with rare species of plants and animals, already lie within the boundaries of ever growing Kaunas city and its suburbs.
About 1,000 species of spontaneous herbaceous plants and about 64 species and forms of trees and shrubs, and more than 61 species listed on the List of extinct and endangered species of Lithuania are found in the territory of the district. The class of insects consists of more than 30 species found in Lithuania, and 21 species of rare insects were recorded.
13 species of amphibians and 7 species of reptiles live in more remote areas, two of them are very rare. Considerable variety of birds: apart from migrating birds and those that live next to the human, even 50 rare species of birds that are listed on the List of extinct and endangered species of Lithuania hatch in the territory of the district.
Even 53 out of 70 specifies of wild animals that live in Lithuania are found in Kaunas District, and 12 species that are listed on the List of extinct and endangered species of Lithuania, of them 8 species are bats. More than 35 species of fish breed in the rivers and ponds, and 4 of them are very rare.
The biological variety of the district is under protection in three regional parks: Kaunas Lagoon Regional Park (in the larger part of the territory of the district), Panemuniai Regional Park and Dubysa Regional Park (in small strips of the district), and in 15 nature reserves:
In Landscape Nature Reserve:
Landscape Nature Reserve (in Raudondvaris and Užliedžiai Elderships) – the erosive former river valley, corn crakes (Natura 2000 site important for bird protection).
Jiesia Landscape Nature Reserve (in Garliava and Rokai Elderships) – the ourtcrops of the river valley.
Liekė Landscape Nature Reserve (in Zapyškis Eldership) – the valley of the downstream part of the river.
In Entomological Nature Reserve:
Nerėpa Entomological Nature Reserve (in Raudondvaris Eldership) - caddisfly Philopotamus montanus.
Ringovė Entomological Nature Reserve (in Vilkija Eldership) – populations of southern butterflies.
In Botanical Nature Reserves:
Paštuva Botanical Nature Reserve (in the Eldership of Vilkija Neighbourhoods) – habitats of rare plants;
Arlaviškės Botanical Nature Reserve (in Taurakiemis Eldership) – one of the oldest juniper forests in Lithuania that is situated on the coast of Kaunas Lagoon (44,68 hectares).
In Ichthyological Nature Reserves:
Dubysa Ichthyological Nature Reserve (in Čekiškė Eldership and the Eldership of Vilkija Neighbourhoods) – spawning areas of the vimba bream.
Karklė Ichthyological Nature Reserve (in Raudondvaris Eldership) - spawning areas of trout.
In Aluona Hydrographic Nature Reserve (in Babtai Eldership) – erosive deep river valley.
In Geomorphological Lapės Nature Reserve (in Lapės Eldership) - arroyos of moraine ridge, hilly landscape.
In Botanical Zoological Nature Reserves:
Kamša Botanical Zoological Nature Reserve (in Ringaudai Eldership) – various fauna and flora.
Piliuona Botanical Zoological Nature Reserve (in Taurakiemis Eldership) – rare bird species, their hatching areas and rare plant species.
In Ornithological Nature Reserves:
Novaraistis Ornithological Nature Reserve (in Zapyškis Eldership) - the location of clusters of migratory winches and other waterfowl (Natura 2000 site important for bird protection).
Arlaviškės Ornithological Nature Reserve – bird species listed on the List of extinct and endangered species of Lithuania (the territory important for the protection of habitats).
Rare forest habitats and communities of plants that grow in raised bogs are under protection in Dubrava Reserve Area.
Kaunas District can also be proud of its three state protected parks: Girionys, Raudondvaris and Obelynė Parks.
The largest in Lithuania landscape park (104,45 hectares) was founded in 1961 under the project of the famous landscape architect A. Tauras on the coast of Kaunas Lagoon, in Girionys (Samylai Eldership). A variety of the rarest introduced trees and shrubs flourishes and flaunts in Girionys Park. In addition to 360 already existing species, another 500 species and forms of trees and shrubs are planned to be planted. Visitors can admire 10 species of spruce, species of Balkan and Siberian pines, various silver firs, tsuga, Oregon pine, juniper, false cypress, thuja. 153 species of deciduous trees and shrubs are registered: the sessile oaks, the Japanese white birch, and magnolia, species of beech, weigela, medlar, the American elm. This park is of great value for science and training, it provides seeds of rare plants, decorates the surroundings of Kaunas, is a great place to rest.
Raudondvaris Park is in Raudondvaris town, on the slopes of the rivers Nemunas and Nevėžis, it covers an area of around 13 hectares. It was founded in 1832 by T. Tyszkiewicz. Old trees survived to the present day, though new green areas of the park were planted, new paths were built. The park is dominated by oaks, maples, poplars, linden trees. Species of elderberry and silverberry grow in the park.
Obelynė Park is very interesting from a botanical point of view. Park development works started in 1920 near Ringaudai village, it covers an area of 6,5 hectares. Thanks to the efforts of professor T. Ivanauskas, Obelynė has become one of the richest dendrological collections in the country. In 1958, the park was declared a natural monument. More than 300 various species and forms of trees and shrubs have been accumulated in the arboretum. It is highly dominated by conifers – 59 species and forms: silver, Siberian, European, balsam, Caucasian, and Japanese firs, 15 foreign species of spruce, 6 species of larch. European yew and its hybrid strain – Japanese yew are true relics of the park. Some of the oldest trees on the planet - Ginkgo biloba and the dawn redwood – grow in the Obelynė Park.
250 species and forms of deciduous trees can be found in the collection of the park: oak, birch, beech, hazel of various forms, 6 species of walnut tree, mulberry, hydrangea, 5 species of bird cherry, Manchurian thorn tree, various climbing plants. This park is a great place for students to learn.
The Biosphere Proving ground of Babtai-Varluva forests (in Babtai Eldership) to preserve the populations of middle woodpecker and white-backed woodpecker, and the Biosphere Proving ground of Padauguva forest (in Vandžiogala Eldership) to preserve the populations of three-toed woodpecker and white-backed woodpecker were approved and founded by the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania of 2005.
A number of natural heritage objects of national importance are under protection in the elderships of Kaunas District: Drąseikiai outcrop situated on the right bank of the river Neris in Lapės Eldership; Žiegždriai outcrop and Kalniškiai conglomerates outcrop in Samylai Eldership, the twins of Dubrava - pine and oak wound up around each other – grow in Dubrava forest; the stone of Karalgiris lies down on the ground in Babtai Eldership, by the road that leads to Čekiškė.
The following natural heritage objects were declared the objects under protection of the municipality: Žiegždriai linden in Samylai Eldership (No TS-231, 3 November 2005), and Vaičiūnai maple that grows the plot of Audrius Vaičiūnas in Vincentava village of Zapyškis Eldership (No TS-343, 29 August 2013).
The Giant Oak that grows in Bakšiai forest, the Twofold Oak of Nevėžis in Dasiūnai village, the broadly branched and still full of life Mother Linden in Braziūkai village of Zapyškis Eldership, Šilagiris Pine that grows hidden deep in Šilagiris forest in Zapyškis Eldership, and the still alive Karveliai oak in Pypliai village of Ringaudai Eldership – all these objects can be mentioned as places of interest (they have not been yet legitimized as objects under protection of the municipality).
Giedrė Juknienė, the Chief Specialist of the Environment Division