The cognitive walkway Aukštumala
The Aukštumala cognitive walkway whose length is 1740 m has been set up in Aukštumala thelmological preserve. The preserve was designed to renaturalise and conserve the marshy ecosystem distinguished for lakelets complexes, specific biocenosis, rare and vanishing flora and fauna.
The walkway that meanders (over the former bolder pavement) consists of 11 one side stations equipped with information stands. Kūlgrinda (a stone pathway in a bog usually invisible) is a heritage of the 18th century. It was laid to enable the local marsh dwellers to connect the villages that now are non- existing. A part of these dwellers were the pioneers of Bismarck village. In all these villages lived about 2000 people. They grew potatoes and other vegetables and carried them to Eastern Prussia for sale, the others worked in peat turbaries. One can learn in detail about the previous life of the marsh dwellers on the Žalgiriai cognitive path which is on Šilutė - Rusnė road.
In the Aukštumala marshes very important habitats of the European importance have been found. They correspond to the NATURA 2000 classification and must be protected and conserved. These are natural distrophic lakes, active upper marshes, degraded upper marshes, naked peat sedge-like shrubbery, boggy woods, boggy deciduous woods. Quite a few plant associations have been encountered in the habitats. Two of them are from the Red Book of Lithuania. In the bogs of Aukštumala and in the adjacent woods 175 species of higher plants have been numbered of them 5 are brought in the Red Book.
Of the fauna there live 78 species of insects, 6 amphibians, 5 reptiles. 88 species of nesting birds have been observed there. Of them 17 are in the Red Book. The same number have been entered in the EU bird protection Directive. Of mammals there are 26 species. Of them 4 are in the Red Book. But in the Directive appendices 10 species have been included.
The Aukštumala marshes are poorly visited by people that is why it is such important sanctuary for a whole variety of animals.
The main danger threatening to the ecosystem of Aukštumala marsh preserve is its eutrophication which is caused by the intensive drainage as it gives rise to a negatively acting shift of marsh flora. Of the natural marsh of 2500 ha only about 900 ha have remained intact. This particular part has been announced as thelmological preserve. The rest alas will turn after its exploitation into a lake.
The Aukštumala marsh as well as the whole river delta have always been a matter of attention of scientists of diverse fields. In 1900 the German botanist Karl-Albert Weber thoroughly and comprehensively investigated the marsh and in 1902 published the first book in the world on thelmology “Vegetation und Entstehung des Hochmoors von Augstumal” which was the same year translated into the English language under the title of “C.A. Weber and the Raised Bog of Augstumal”. Therefore we can call this bog the cradle of thelmology. To preserve this nature complex cradle is the task of all times which was initiated by C.A. Weber.
The cognative path of Aukštumala bog renders a rare and favourable chance to get acquainted with the bog and its flora and fauna, to enjoy a different landscape, to experience a peculiar beauty of the marsh. The visitor will have a better idea about bogs. He will understand that they are not only impassable squelching swamps with treacherous soaking pitfalls that are awaiting tourists but also one of the few remaining shelters for particularly rare marsh plants and animals.
When visiting the place do not forget that vipers live there. Their bites may be detrimental to your health. Therefore do not touch these wonderful reptiles. Vipers have a variety of coloration hues and can be difficult to discern them from a grass-snake.