Estonia names 3 new Ramsar Sites


The Ramsar Secretariat is very pleased to announce that Estonia has designated three extensive mire complexes as its newest Wetlands of International Importance, bringing that country's Ramsar total to 16 sites covering an area of 262,998 hectares. The Convention presently lists a total of 1,974 Ramsar Sites, with an area of 190,763,717 hectares. Ramsar's Assistant Advisor for Europe, Kati Wenzel, has prepared brief summary descriptions of the new sites, based upon the Ramsar Information Sheets submitted with the designations, and the photographs are by Agu Leivits:

Agusalu.27/01/10; Ida-Viru County; 11,000 ha; 59°05'N 027°32'E. Nature Reserve, Natura 2000, IBA. Part of Estonia's largest mire complex Agusalu-Puhatu, consisting of bogs, transition mires and fens characteristic for the biogeographic region. Coniferous as well as alluvial deciduous forests surround the mire complex. The site supports many regionally and nationally protected bird species such as Hazel Hen Bonasa bonasia, Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola, and Willow Grouse Lagopus lagopus. It is the most important breeding place in Estonia for Greenshank Tringa nebularia and acts as a refuge for mammals with large habitat requirements, including Wolf Canis lupus, Lynx Lynx lynx and Brown Bear Ursus arctos. Moreover, the Flying Squirrel Pteromys volans can be found in the site. In terms of flora, nationally red-listed species occur, among them several orchid species. The complex plays an important role in the recharge and discharge of groundwater and the maintenance of water quality, especially due to its proximity to an oil-shale mining area. Besides the gradual move of oil-shale pits towards the site, the surrounding area is also threatened by the intensification of forestry and by drainage activities. Traditional picking of cranberries and mushrooms as well as small-scale forestry are practiced within the site. Ramsar Site no. 1999. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Leidissoo. 27/01/10; Lääne County; 8,178 ha; 59°06'N 023°44'E. Nature Reserve, part of Natura 2000 (SCI and SPA), and IBA. Part of an extensive wilderness area in northwestern Estonia, it consists of a variety of mire types and habitats of European interest and supports many bird species listed under the European Birds Directive annex I, including the Black Stork Ciconia nigra and Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus. Most typical are poor fens with Sweet Gale Myrica gale and transitional mire plant communities. A relatively large (ca. 100 ha) Great Fen-sedge Cladium mariscus fen occurs, as well as small patches of endangered rich fen communities supporting endemic Alpine Saw-wort Saussurea alpina subsp. esthonica. The site acts as a refuge for animals with large habitat requirements such as Wolf Canis lupus and Lynx Lynx lynx, for which it is also a breeding site, and Brown Bear Ursus arctos which hibernates in the site. Leidissoo plays a significant role in maintaining the hydrological balance and water quality of the region, and traditional berry and mushroom picking as well as small-scale hunting are practiced within the site. Threats include the intensification of forestry and the drainage of surrounding areas. Ramsar Site no. 1998. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Lihula. 27/01/10; Lääne & Pärnu Counties; 6,620 ha; 58°39'N 023°56'E. Landscape Reserve, Natura 2000 (SCI and partly SPA), Pan European Ecological Network, part of IBA. A large intact mire complex, characteristic for the EU Boreal biogeographic region, consisting of open plateau bog surrounded by open and wooded fens as well as peatland forests. The site plays a significant role in maintaining the hydrological balance and water quality of the region and provides important wetland habitats for specific flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species. It acts as a feeding and resting site for migrating cranes, geese (Anser fabalis, A. albifrons), and Ruff Philomachus pugnax, and many bird species occuring and breeding in the site are of European interest, such as Montagu´s Harrier Circus pygargus and Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria. Furthermore, the site supports populations of large mammals including Wolf Canis lupus, Lynx Lynx lynx, Brown Bear Ursus arctos, and Elk Alces alces. Traditional berry and mushroom picking as well as small-scale hunting are practiced within the site. Threats to the site include the intensification of forestry, the drainage of surrounding areas, and the abandonment of semi-natural meadows. A management plan is awaiting approval, and a bog nature trail is planned on the northern edge of the mire. Ramsar Site no. 1997. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

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