This weekend, many of us will be heading out in search of wildflowers for Midsummer celebrations. Before you go, we encourage you to learn about this month's protected species - the Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica L.), so it doesn't accidentally end up in a Midsummer wreath or festival decorations.

Photo by Niepokój Zbigniew

The plant usually stands 70-100 cm tall, with linear leaves up to 40 cm long, sword-shaped, shorter than the stem, arranged in two rows in a rosette, and slightly grooved at the base. The flowers are large and striking, usually 2-3 in a fan-shaped inflorescence.

The outer tepals are bent downwards, dark blue with lighter blue stripes inside. The inner tepals are erect, closed, and dark blue. The style is short, with three petal-like lobes. The Siberian Iris blooms in May and June, so you might come across it while exploring nature at this time!

Photo by Derek Ramsey

The species is widespread in Central and Eastern Europe, mainly in temperate and moderately warm zones. In Latvia, the species is relatively rare and unevenly distributed, primarily found in the Coastal Lowland of Western Latvia, Eastern Latvia, and the Daugava River valley and its tributaries in Central Latvia. In Latvia, the species grows near the northern edge of its range.

Map by Jānis Ukass

The Siberian Iris is found in wet and marshy floodplain meadows and outside floodplains, as well as in shrublands. It is mainly threatened by the plowing and drainage of natural grasslands, overgrazing, and the encroachment of natural grasslands. The destruction and fragmentation of natural wet meadows contribute to the decline of its populations and genetic diversity. Given its ornamental value, its habitats are also damaged due to the harvesting of plants and flowers.

From May 22-24, 2024, Andris Čeirāns, an amphibian and reptile expert from the LIFE for Species project, attended the LIFE project platform conference titled "Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) Challenges and Opportunities in Europe." The event, organized by the Steps for LIFE project, took place in Santander, Spain. The conference attracted over 50 participants from nearly 30 LIFE and other EU program projects, as well as representatives from various stakeholders such as the European Commission, IUCN, WWF, ARC TRUST UK, and others.

A.Čeirāns (in the middle) at the speakers desk in day 1

The event aimed to facilitate the exchange of experiences regarding methods and monitoring techniques used in amphibian and reptile conservation. A. Čeirāns participated in the legislative and policy framework working group session as a keynote speaker, delivering an oral presentation on the protection of threatened herpetofauna in Latvia. His presentation emphasized IUCN-based taxon evaluations and criteria for a provisional list of protected species ("The Protection of Threatened Herpetofauna in Latvia, with an emphasis IUCN-based taxa evaluations and proposals for the protected species list criteria"). Additionally, the conference provided opportunities to engage in discussions within other working groups focused on the impact of climate change on protected areas, control of invasive amphibian and reptile species, and mitigation of anthropogenic impacts.

Key Conclusions and Insights:

  1. Similar Conservation Methods: In Latvia, similar methods for amphibian and reptile conservation are used as in other parts of Europe.
  2. Common Challenges: Europe faces common challenges in amphibian and reptile conservation related to land ownership, long-term sustainability of project outcomes, insufficient financial resources, among others.
  3. Species Status: Although commonly found amphibian and reptile species in Latvia are in relatively good condition compared to many Western European countries, less attention is given to particularly threatened species.
  4. Adoption of IUCN Criteria: While Latvia lags in using IUCN criteria for developing its lists of protected species, there are plans to introduce a new flexible approach for adapting the protected species list.
  5. Effective Communication: Latvia has good communication and feedback between experts and state nature protection agencies.

On May 28th and 29th, a seminar on the identification and protection of mosses was held in Ķemeri National Park, organized by the Nature Conservation Agency and the Institute of Biology at the University of Latvia as part of the LIFE FOR SPECIES project.

The seminar began with a lecture by Andis Kalvāns, a leading researcher at the Geological Processes Research and Modeling Center of the University of Latvia, on the practical application of hydrogeological data in the work of nature experts. This helps to better assess the impact of planned activities on groundwater and surface water, and consequently on moss habitats. In the following presentation, environmental consultant Anete Pošiva-Bunkovska introduced guidelines for experts, commissioned by the Nature Conservation Agency, on assessing the impact of forest roads and drainage systems on moss habitats.

Līga Strazdiņa, a moss expert from the Institute of Biology at the University of Latvia and the LIFE FOR SPECIES project, discussed planning conservation measures for mosses with various ecological requirements. Agnese Priede, a long-time researcher at Ķemeri National Park and expert in the LIFE-IP LatViaNature project, initiated a discussion on the planning and best practices of restoring the hydrological regime of bog habitats, with examples from the Ķemeri Mires, where habitat restoration work has been carried out under the LIFE projects "Restore" and "Protection of Wetlands in Ķemeri National Park."

On the second day of the seminar, Ilze Ķuze, a senior expert at the Nature Conservation Agency, presented best practices for establishing micro-reserves to protect moss habitats. Moss expert Uvis Suško talked about the diversity and habitats of mosses in Ķemeri National Park. Ķemeri National Park is one of the richest areas in Latvia for rare and protected moss species, due to its great variety of natural conditions. The park has recorded 45 protected moss species and 58 species listed in the Latvian Red Book.

To enhance experts' skills in recognizing protected moss species, Uvis Suško and Līga Strazdiņa conducted practical sessions in natural forest habitats and indoor laboratories on both days of the seminar. During these sessions, various protected and endangered species were examined, such as the EU-protected species Dicranum viride, and specially protected species Frullania tamarisci, Riccardia multifida, Antitrichia curtipendula, and others.

As noted by the LIFE FOR SPECIES project coordinator Jēkabs Dzenis: “Many endangered and protected species depend on the moisture conditions in their habitats. Human activities such as the creation and renovation of drainage systems, road construction, and mineral extraction can significantly alter moisture conditions over large areas, thereby affecting the habitats of endangered moss species. Thus, the seminar provided experts with the opportunity to enhance their knowledge on identifying moss species, assessing impacts on them, and planning conservation measures to ensure the preservation of moss habitats.”

As May comes to a close, we enjoy sunny, warm weather that invites everyone to explore and appreciate the diversity of Latvia's nature. Keen nature observers might spot this month's protected species - the Duke of Burgundy, as these butterflies fly from late May until mid-June.

Photo: Karmena Roze

The wingspan of the Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) is 29-31 mm for males and slightly larger for females at 31-34 mm. The upper side of the wings is a rich rusty brown with a beautiful dark pattern, while the underside is brown with red spots, and the hindwings may have white spots. The wing patterns of males and females differ only slightly.

Photo: Karmena Roze

Duke of Burgundy butterflies are active during the day and feed on flower nectar. The caterpillars' host plants are primarily primula species, particularly Primula veris, from which the species likely gets its Latvian name. There is one generation per year (in the south, there may be two generations). Females lay 1-2 eggs on the underside of the host plant's leaves. The caterpillars hatch after 2 weeks and develop from June to August, overwintering as pupae.

The Duke of Burgundy is widely distributed in Western Europe, from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) and the United Kingdom to the Balkans and the Urals. The species has been found in the Scandinavian Peninsula (southern Sweden), as well as in Estonia and Lithuania. In Latvia, most of the species' current habitats are concentrated in the northwestern part of the country, from Kandava to Slītere.

Distribution map of the Duke of Burgundy in Latvia. Author: Jānis Ukass

The Duke of Burgundy inhabits open habitats such as forest edges, woodland clearings, and roadsides, preferring habitats with varied terrain and calcareous soil.

This species is protected in Latvia. The main population is found in specially protected natural areas - Čužu Mire and Slītere National Park. The species is threatened by ecosystem changes and degradation.

In the project, the Duke of Burgundy has been assessed as a highly endangered species with a very high risk of extinction in the wild (EN).

If you ever spot a Duke of Burgundy in the wild, report your observation to the Nature Conservation Agency or the portal. We would also be happy to receive reports and photos of sightings on our Facebook page.

“Safeguarding Biodiversity: Red Lists and Beyond”


Date: September 18-20, 2024
Location: Riga, Latvia (EU)

Safeguarding biodiversity remains a topical challenge of our time, thus we would like to announce the upcoming international conference: "Safeguarding Biodiversity: Red Lists and Beyond." This conference will convene from September 18th to 20th, 2024, in the city of Riga, Latvia, and it is organized by the Institute of Biology at the University of Latvia in collaboration with the Nature Conservation Agency.

Find out more in our second announcement file or the conference website!

Call for abstracts and application:

Participants are invited to submit abstracts on research and discoveries relevant to the conference topics and workshop. The abstracts can be submitted by filling out this application form.

We kindly encourage all potential attendees to apply in time, as the number of participants in person (face-to-face) will be limited. Participants will be approved in the order of submission of their abstracts.

For inquiries and updates, please contact us at

As we enjoy the spring sunshine on the coast, so do seal pups. Although grey seal pups are the most commonly seen on Latvian beaches, this time we are highlighting a rarer species – the ringed seal (Pusa hispida).

The ringed seal, measuring 130-175 cm in length and weighing only 50-60 kg, is the smallest seal in the world. This species typically lives for 25-30 years, but some individuals have been recorded to surpass 40 years. The seal’s rough, greyish fur (lighter on the belly) features irregularly shaped (mostly oval) spots surrounded by light rings, with a generally unspotted mid-back. It is distinguished from other seals by its small size, blunt snout, “cat-like” facial profile, and unique body coloring. Viewed from the front, its nostrils form a V-shape.

Diet and Habitat

The ringed seal mainly feeds on small fish, it also eats benthic fish and crustaceans. Seals spend most of their lives in the water, feeding. They give birth and rear their pups on ice, where they also rest.

In the Baltic Sea, ringed seals use rocks and cliffs in coastal waters for resting. During the ice-free period, they live pelagically and individually, occasionally resting on stones. They rarely come ashore.


Ringed seals are polygamous: during the mating season in April and May, each male has a territory of several square kilometers, which it defends from other males and overlaps with the territories of several females. Females reach sexual maturity at 3-6 years old and usually give birth to one pup each year. Pups are born in February or early March on ice. The nursing period lasts 6-8 weeks, with the mother being the sole caretaker. Mating occurs while females are still nursing. The gestation period lasts 10.5-11 months.


In the early 20th century, the ringed seal was the most common seal species in the Baltic Sea, but excessive hunting caused a sharp population decline. Today, the greatest threats are global warming, which reduces sea ice, pollution from plastics, organochlorine compounds, and heavy metals, fishing activities, and other human impacts on the sea. In Latvia, the species is classified as critically endangered (EN).


The ringed seal is a protected species in Latvia and the European Union. In 2021, a protection plan for seal species in Latvian waters was developed, with one goal being to resolve conflicts between seals and fishermen. It is crucial not to disturb seals when they are near the shore.


Map by Jānis Ukass

The ringed seal is primarily found in the Arctic. The southern boundary of its range in the Baltic Sea is the Gulf of Riga. In Latvian waters, it feeds, while its resting places are in Moonsund, Estonia. It mainly inhabits the open part of the Gulf of Riga, less frequently coastal waters, the lower reaches of large rivers, and coastal lakes connected to the sea.

Interesting Fact

Isolated post-glacial relict populations of the ringed seal have remained in the Baltic Sea, Ladoga, and Saimaa lakes, forming distinct subspecies (in the Baltic Sea – Pusa hispida botnica).

If you ever spot a ringed seal in the wild, report your observation to the Nature Conservation Agency or the portal. We would also be happy to receive reports and photos of sightings on our Facebook page.

Continuing our established traditions, we have created new activity sheets for young nature explorers for Easter!

Printable files for all materials, as well as activity sheets prepared for previous holidays, are available here:

We would be delighted to receive photos of your completed and colored activity sheets on our social media channels (Facebook; Instagram).

Both previously prepared and future activity sheets will also be available in the "Materials" section of our website. The activity sheets have been developed as part of the D2 activity.


The quail is a small bird from the pheasant subfamily, measuring only 16 - 18 cm in length. The bird's weight is also minimal, typically ranging from 70 - 140 grams. The heaviest weights are observed before migration begins and at the end of the breeding season. It is also noted that female quails are often slightly heavier than males.

Quails are adorned with a mottled yellow-brown plumage, featuring a mix of lighter and darker stripes. The underside is white, and males have a white stripe above the eyes, resembling eyebrows. This terrestrial species mostly prefers a diet of various seeds and small invertebrates.

The quail has a wide distribution range and can be found across most of Europe, parts of Western Asia, and Africa. It is a migratory bird.

Quails inhabit terrestrial environments in temperate climates and tropical zones. They are most commonly found in grassland habitats, especially in very long and thick grass. The species does not favor forest edges and meadow margins as much but can be seen in cereal fields. Quails are challenging to spot in the wild as they hide in crops or long grass and are reluctant to fly. To avoid potential threats, quails prefer to run rather than fly. If startled, they will usually take to the air for a short distance before landing elsewhere in the grass to hide again. Therefore, quails are more often heard than seen, especially recognizable by the males' singing, most commonly heard in the mornings and evenings.

Map by Jānis Ukass

In the wild, quails do not have monogamous relationships, as males mate with several females. Females also mate with multiple males, though less frequently.

In the nesting areas, male quails arrive first and announce their presence with loud singing. When a female arrives, the pair selects a nesting site. The male performs a courtship dance for the female with low-slung wings, ruffling the feathers on his neck and chest.

The quail's nest is built in long grass. A wild quail egg weighs approximately 8.5 grams, is greyish or light brown with brown speckles. A typical clutch contains 8—13 eggs. The incubation period lasts 17—20 days. In Europe, nesting most often occurs from May to August. Young quails are capable of flight at just under 2 weeks old.

On February 27, more than 70 nature conservation specialists convened at the National Library of Latvia for a seminar on bird conservation issues, organized by the Nature Conservation Agency (NCA) under the LIFE FOR SPECIES project.

The seminar was held to enhance the knowledge and unify the understanding of bird conservation issues among certified bird conservation experts and specialists from state institutions responsible for nature conservation, and to promote mutual cooperation. Gita Strode, the director of the Nature Conservation Department at the NCA, discussed setting priorities for planning and implementing conservation and management measures for specially protected natural areas. Meanwhile, NCA's Kurzeme Regional Administration expert, Kristaps Vilks, initiated a discussion on solutions for improving the quality of expert opinions. Anete Pošiva-Bunkovska and Gaidis Grandāns (SIA ELLE) introduced the upcoming guidelines for assessing the impact of forest roads and forest drainage systems, commissioned by the NCA.

To improve the process of creating microhabitats for forest-nesting birds, Daina Liepiņa, a representative of the State Forest Service's Forest and Environmental Protection Department, and Jānis Ķuze, a bird expert from the Latvian Nature Fund, shared their experiences and challenges in the microhabitat creation process, from field surveys to decision-making. Pēteris Daknis, a bird expert from the NCA's LIFE REEF project and the Latvian Ornithological Society, presented the results of an owl telemetry study, emphasizing the need for longer seasonal restrictions for the management of young forests in microhabitats and buffer zones created for owl protection.

Monitoring results play a significant role in planning bird conservation measures and assessing impacts. Therefore, Andris Avotiņš, an expert from the Latvian Ornithological Society and the LIFE FOR SPECIES project, introduced the raptor monitoring system and its results. Jānis Donis from the Latvian State Forest Research Institute Silava presented the latest analysis results on the impact of economic activities on the nesting success of the black stork. Monitoring results were also significant in the LIFE FOR SPECIES project's proposal for revising the list of protected species, presented to seminar participants by Viesturs Ķerus, a representative of the Latvian Ornithological Society. In the continuation of the seminar, Agnese Balandiņa, manager of the NCA's Ķemeri National Park Nature Center, initiated a discussion on the increasing impact of active recreation and tourism on the values of specially protected natural areas, including birds nesting in bogs.

February is the month of wetlands, so in its honor, we will explore a wetland plant species - Strawberry Clover (Trifolium fragiferum L.). It's noteworthy that this year wetlands have also been recognized as the habitat of the year in Latvia.

Phoyo by Stefan Lefnaer

Strawberry Clover got its name due to its inflorescence head resembling a strawberry, although some insist it's the fruit cluster that resembles a strawberry more. In the fruiting stage, when the corolla of each flower has fallen, the pink calyx swells and is covered with many hairs, resembling a strawberry.

The leaf of Strawberry Clover consists of three leaflets. It is a perennial plant, about 10 to 30 cm tall from the ground, and its color varies from soft pink to bright pink. Strawberry Clover blooms from June to September.

Hidden within the round, fluffy calyx is a small pod with one or two seeds. If the head of the calyx falls off, it can float on water to a new location – acting as a dispersal raft for the plant.

Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz

In Latvia, this plant is mostly found in coastal meadows and lagoon lake floodplain meadows - predominantly around Lake Liepāja, near Riga, and in the vicinity of Salacgrīva and Ainaži.

Interestingly, in Latvia, the plant has also been found in the Daugava valley near Daugavpils, which is peculiar because the area is far from the coast.

Map by Jānis Ukass

Overall, this species has a wide distribution range across almost all of Europe, the Caucasus, Western Siberia, Central Asia, and North Africa. In these regions, the distribution of Strawberry Clover is not as closely tied to coastal areas as it is in Latvia.

The spread of Strawberry Clover is currently negatively affected by the decrease in natural meadow areas in Latvia, which require mowing or grazing. In Latvia, the species is included in the list of specially protected species.

Interestingly, in Latvia, the plant has also been found in the Daugava valley near Daugavpils, which is peculiar because the area is far from the coast.

Photo by Stefan Lefnaer

Overall, this species has a wide distribution range across almost all of Europe, the Caucasus, Western Siberia, Central Asia, and North Africa. In these regions, the distribution of Strawberry Clover is not as closely tied to coastal areas as it is in Latvia.

The spread of Strawberry Clover is currently negatively affected by the decrease in natural meadow areas in Latvia, which require mowing or grazing. In Latvia, the species is included in the list of specially protected species.

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