We study and take care of veteran trees for more than 15 years already. From 2001 to 2005, experts from Lithuanian Fund for Nature engaged in distinguishing woodland key habitats, we evaluated their quality and biodiversity. During the project not only the most valuable forest habitats were distinguished, but individual trees and groups of trees as well. In 2014, we evaluated condition and biodiversity of Kaunas oak forest and adjacent areas. The same year we implemented a project in which conservationists and experts from the Baltic region and Scandinavia exchanged experience. Thanks to this project, we started using pheromone traps for the research of the hermit beetle – the main indicator species of the ancient tree biodiversity. In 2017, upon the request of the Ministry of Environment, we started to search for unknown hermit beetle habitats in Lithuania. Areas with ancient and veteran trees were investigated: woodland key habitats, old manor parks, hard-to-reach forest sites. During this investigation hermit beetle was found in 13 completely new or long-forgotten sites.
The project "Ecological network for Osmoderma eremita and other species dependent on veteran trees" started in autumn 2017. The main research efforts during the project focus on the survey of veteran trees and their groups, evaluation of their condition, investigation of rare species dependent on veteran trees. The research is closely related to the hermit beetle which is an indicator, showing the value of veteran trees. Because of its demand for a particular habitat, special and sedentary lifestyle, this beetle is very rare. When traces of its activity are discovered, we realize that the habitat already exist for a long period of time, and it is inhabited by dozens or even hundreds of other protected species. Therefore, veteran trees inhabited by the hermit beetle have a special value for nature conservation.
Research of hermit beetle habitats
One of the project research activities is evaluation of 50 areas with veteran deciduous trees. The main purpose is to assess the dispersal and the fragmentation of the hermit beetle populations, to find out for how long the remaining sites were separated from each other. Selected areas were evaluated for their suitability for being a hermit beetle habitat, searched for pellets of the beetles, also condition of the veteran trees and their surroundings were assessed during the wintertime. The presence of the hermit beetle adults was verified with the pheromone traps and the DNA of the beetles from these areas was collected during the summertime. The data will be analysed by the scientists of Daugavpils University Nature Studies and Environmental Education Centre. The compiled data will help us to gather more precise information about the condition of hermit beetles in Lithuania as well as to plan better veteran tree management actions in the well-chosen places.
Mapping of veteran trees between Kaunas and Vilnius and evaluation of their condition
Another important activity of the project is to gather data about the veteran trees growing between the already known hermit beetle habitat sites and to estimate the possibility of protected species migration from one site to another. During the inventory every veteran tree in the territory of the ecological corridor is described according to a special methodology, their vitality is estimated and the needed actions for their preservation are described. This information will help us to choose the veteran trees that will constitute ecological network for species dependent on veteran trees, as well as to distinguish those that need arborist management. The arborist management will be pursued within other activities of the project.