Recent land use inventory

The most recent land use inventory of the Curonian Spit was generated based on two sources: CORINE land cover (CLC) and satellite image analysis. CORINE land cover is a project of the European Union, in which an assessment of land use on the territory of the European Union and other participating countries has been carried out since 1985. The land use is divided into 44 different land use classes. The data used in the project is based on the most recent version of the data from 2018. For the satellite image analysis, use was made of ESRI's in-house data, which is regularly updated, so that the maps available are not older than three to five years. Spatially, both sources could be used simultaneously in the northern part of the Curonian Spit, while in the southern part only the evaluation of the satellite images was available, since the Russian Federation does not participate in the CORINE land cover project.

The data used thus show land use after 2016, about 30 years after the 1984-87 map sheets of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR. The changes in land use on the Curonian Spit occurred in two separate states after Lithuania became independent in 1991.

The total area of the Curonian Spit based on the data from CLC and satellite imagery was calculated to be 167.53 km². This represents a decrease of 3.71 km² from the area of the Curonian Spit on the previous map (1984-87: 171.24 km²). Thus, the value is close to the mean value of the area of 166.39 km² obtained from the maps since 1834. In the distribution of the different landforms, significant changes from the previous representation can be observed on the most recent maps. The percentage of sandy areas has decreased once again and is only 11.95%. This is the lowest value of all the maps used here. The highest value was still 80.16% in Schroetter's map, which was created at the end of the 18th century. As late as 1860, the share of sandy areas in the total area of the Curonian Spit was about 50%.

The largest decrease, both as a proportion of total area and in absolute area, is for grassland (including sparse tree population). It decreases from 21.86 km² (1984-87) to 0.18 km² (0.3% share of total area), less than 1% of the previous value. This represents a continuation of trends in the previous two periods in that the area of grassland had already decreased from 34.82 km² (1960-66) to 21.86 km² (1984-87), almost halving the percentage of total area from 21.22% (1960-66) to 12.77% (1984-87). Another significant decrease in the percentage of area concerns the areas of wetlands, marshes and breaks. This decreased from 3.66 km² (1984-87: 2.14%) to 1.37 km² (2018: 0.82%) during the period examined here, which is only one third of the initial value.

In particular, the shares of two landscape elements in the total area have developed positively. First, the decrease in areas with herb/shrub cover (including gray dune) from the previous period has not continued. On the contrary, there is a slight increase in the area to 14.46 km² or 8.63% (1984-87 13.77 km² or 8.04%). The share of forest areas in the total area has continued to increase significantly. This is a continuation of the trend from the previous period, when the share of forest land was already 59.91% (1984-87). By 2018, this share increased by 14.51 percentage points to 74.42% of the total area, an increase of 22.09 km² to a total of 124.68 km². The area share of settlement areas and their immediate surroundings remained almost constant during this period, amounting to 2.86% of the total area in 2018 (1984-87: 4.73 km²; 2018: 4.78 km²).

If one looks at the developments in the map image, the first thing that stands out is the great dominance of forests, which are interrupted only in a few places by other types of landscape. The small-scale land use structure, which was still predominant until 1960-66, has finally given way to a forest-dominated structure consisting of a few large areas. The areas with sparse tree cover, which existed until 1984-87 and were still distributed over the entire spit, have become completely covered with forest in 2018. This can be understood as the result of decades of efforts to reforest the Curonian Spit. The gray dune with herb and shrub cover between Juodkrantė and Preila is now also much smaller. The forest has taken over parts of the other areas here as well. However, between the areas with herbaceous and shrub cover here, there are individual free sandy areas again. Before the map of 1960-66 the whole area, which was much larger at that time, was still a free area of sand.

The sandy areas between Morskoye (Russian Морское/ German Pillkoppen) and Nida (German Nidden), as well as south of Morskoye, have continued to shrink, in accordance with the trend already shown in the period from 1960-66 to 1984-87. The grassland areas, which were shown in the previous map, have also completely disappeared here. Instead, the free sandy area between Nida and Morskoye is now bordered by herb and shrub cover. In previous epochs, this development repeatedly resulted in the transformation of further areas into gray dunes. This strip of herbaceous and shrubby vegetation is absent from the area south of Morskoye. Similarly, the southernmost free sandy area between Rybačij (Russian Рыбачий/ German Rossitten) and Lesnoi (Russian Лесной/ German Sarkau) has shrunk. Here, too, a strip of herb and shrub cover can be found, which already clearly dominates in the northern and southern parts.

The only agricultural area on the Curonian Spit continues to be located south of Rybačij (Russian Рыбачий/German Rossitten). The wetted area in the very south of the Curonian Spit, east of Zelenogradsk (Russian Зеленоградск, German Cranz) has also been preserved.

Overall, the appearance of the Curonian Spit has changed significantly again in the period between 1984-87 and 2018. The result of the change is the absolute dominance of forest areas. It is in a line of development with previous developments that have seen a steady increase in forestareas. The small-scale cover patterns that were dominant until 1960-66 have now almost completely disappeared.


Square kilometre


Herb/shrub cover (incl. grey dune)






Water area






Settlement area and immediate surroundings



Grassland (incl. sparse tree population)



Agricultural land










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