The temporal and spatial changes of land use are important while studying the rural landscapes on both the regional-geographical and environmental scales. In the Baltic Sea region with nine countries (including Russian Federation, represented by Kaliningrad oblast, the utilised agricultural land (UAL) makes about 34 % of total region area on the average. The current research revealed the trends of different shrinking rate of UAL in nine studied countries from 1993 to 2008: it varied within the range between 3 % in Denmark and 43 % in Estonia. Research focus was given to the changes in ratio between arable land and area under meadows and pastures: it increased from 6.5 to 10.9 during 15 years period (1993–2008) on the average, that shows the increase in land use and farming intensity even the UAL area was shrunk.
Definitions and sets of indicators as wellas approaches on sustainable development are compiled, discussed and evaluated inthis paper. The researched region embraces forfive urban and district municipalities in western Lithuaniaand Latviain the total area of 1393.93 km2. The scheme of steps of assessmentof sustainability with selected sets of indicators relevant for the sea shoreregion of Lithuania and Latviais presented and discussed.
There are 33 rural, 18 semi-rural and 9 urban municipalities in Lithuania according to three criterias: 1) part of population living in rural areas; 2) population density and 3) distance of municipality from large towns/cities. Šilutė district municipality together with Rusnė ward has been studied in detail to search the main problems of sustainable development of these rural territories of Klaipėda region. System analysis approach and method of integrated sustainability index were applied with suplement of social inquiry fulfiled in Rusnė ward. The indices selected for calculations and comparison of rural and semi-rural municipalities, including Šilutė district, were social, economic and environmental: for Šilutė 4 different indices in each group were selected, for Rusnė ward – 3 indices. The integrated sustainability index was calculated for all rural municipalities of Lithuania and Rusnė ward. The research period for Šilutė and other municipalities was 2006-2012, and for Rusnė ward 2008-2012. Research has revealed that the main problems with sustainability in the studied territories are of social character. According to the Integrated sustainability index, Šilutė district municipality was somehow lower than other rural municipalities of Lithuania, and even in Rusnė ward this index was a little higher during 2011–2012, than in Šilutė district municipality.K