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The Dainava Forest (Lithuanian: Dainavos giria) is the largest forest in Lithuania. Located in Dzūkija region (also known as Dainava) in southern Lithuania, it covers the total area of 1,450 km2 (560 sq mi) of which 1,145 km2 (442 sq mi) is covered by trees. A large part of the forest is protected by the Dzūkija National Park.
The Dainava Forest mainly consists of pine trees. There are some birch, spruce, black alder groves. Soils are sandy, light, densely covered by cup lichen. The forest is rich in edible mushrooms, billberries, cranberries, and cowberries. Collection of these mushrooms and berries are an important part of the local economy. The fauna includes many endangered species, such as the gray wolf, wood grouse, black grouse, hoopoe, Eurasian eagle-owl, osprey, mountain hare, stoat, Coronella austriaca, great capricorn beetle, and Lucanus cervus.
Most rivers belong to the basin of Merkys River, including the Ūla, Katra, Grūda, Varėnė, and Skroblus. These rivers are characterized by their clear, cold water, and numerous tributaries. Also, there are some tiny thermokarst lakes and bogs, including Čepkeliai Marsh, the largest bog in Lithuania.
Dainava Forest is the most sparsely populated region of Lithuania. Some of the villages were little affected by agricultural reforms and have preserved traditional folk architecture, which is now preserved as monuments. These villages include Marcinkonys, Zervynos, Latežeris, Lynežeris, Perloja, Musteika.
- Dainavos giria. Tarybų Lietuvos enciklopedija, T. 1 (A-Grūdas). Vilnius, Vyriausioji enciklopedijų redakcija, 1985, 374 psl.