The Dovine River Basin covers an area of approximately 588.7 km2 and is located in the southern part of Lithuania (see Figure 1). The basin is one of the small catchment areas of the larger Neman river basin, which covers around 75% of the territory of Lithuania and is the 4th river basin in size in the whole Baltic Sea Region.
The Dovine river catchment (see Figure 3) consists of a network of rivers and water bodies formed by five big lakes (Dusia 23,3 km2, Zuvintas 9,3 km2, Simnas 2,4 km2, Giluitis 2,4 km2, Amalvas 1,9 km2) and a number of rivulets and small lakes. Within the borders of the basin lies one of the oldest and most unique protected areas of Lithuania –Zuvintas Biosphere Reserve. A part of the reserve is protected by the RAMSAR convention since 1993 and in 2011 the reserve was enlisted into UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme.
In 19th and 20th century, land reclamation and wetland drainage projects were carried out in order to expand agricultural lands and make us of fertile lands in the Dovine river basin. Therefore, the natural hydrological cycle was interrupted, many wetlands were drained and meliorated to provide space for agricultural lands.
Currently, most of the surrounding areas are productive agricultural lands (productivity is higher than the average of the country). The forest cover is scarce, i.e. approximately 16 % of the area (the average in Lithuania – 33%). As a result, the water quality in the lakes within the Dovine river catchment, is remarkably deteriorating and results in eutrophication of the water bodies within the catchment. Zuvintas lake (Figure 2) in particular and the whole wetland system in the reserve is under heavy pressure of leaching of nutrients mostly from agricultural activity in the basin, which is degrading the ecosystems and their values.