The Annotated Ramsar List: Estonia


The Annotated Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance


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The Convention on Wetlands came into force for Estonia on 29 July 1994. Estonia presently has 17 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 304,778 hectares.

site; date of designation; region, province, state; surface area; coordinates
site; date de désignation; région, province, état; superficie; coordonnées
sitios; fecha de designación; región, provincia, estado; área; coordenadas

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.

Alam-Pedja. 17/06/97; Tartu, Jõgeva, & Viljandi Counties; 34,220 ha; 58°28'N 026°13'E. Nature Reserve, Natura 2000, IBA. A large, mostly flat wilderness area with a complex of mires separated by unregulated rivers and associated floodplain meadows and surrounded by extensive forests, including swamp forest or carrs of special botanical value. The area is a very important spawning site for several fish species, an important stop-over site for numerous species of migrating waterfowl, many of them threatened, and it supports a rich assemblage of mammals. The site is used for traditional berry-picking and small-scale fishing and plays an important role in groundwater hydrology and maintenance of water quality. A visitor's centre was opened in 2008 including two nature trails. (The site was extended in 2012 from originally 26,000 ha). Ramsar site no. 905. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Emajõe Suursoo Mire and Piirissaar Island. 17/06/97; Tartu County; 32,600 ha; 58º23’N 027º18’E. Mire Reserve, Zoological-Botanical Reserve. A large wilderness area of various types of peatland, rivers, lakes, coasts, and islands. Vegetation consists of fens, swamps, swamp forests, peat bogs, mixed forests, reedbeds, and agricultural areas. The site is an important spawning area for various fish species. Numerous species of vulnerable waterbirds use the site for breeding, molting or staging. The site supports several amphibian, fish, plant and bird species that are vulnerable, endangered or endemic. Human activities include fishing, farming, hunting, seasonally intensive berry picking, and boating. An extremely important area for the hydrology of Lake Peipsi. Ramsar site no. 906. Most recent RIS information: 1997.

Endla. 17/06/97; Jõgeva, Järva, Lääne-Viru Counties; 10,110 ha; 58°52'N 026°09'E. Nature Reserve, Natura 2000 (SPA and SCI), IBA. A freshwater ecosystem of peat bogs, swamp forests, freshwater lakes, and rivers. Vegetation includes dwarf pine shrub, reedbeds, and threatened orchid species. Numerous species of vulnerable or endangered waterbirds use the area for breeding. Human activities include agriculture and sport fishing, and the site is an important area for water supply, conservation education, and scientific research. Educational facilities include a visitors centre, nature trails and watching towers. (The site has been extended in 2012 from originally 8,050 ha.) Ramsar Site no. 907. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Haapsalu-Noarootsi. 08/02/11; Lääne County; 27,450 ha; 59°08'04''N 23°27'29''E. Limited-Conservation Area, Nature Reserve, Landscape Reserve, SPA, SCI, IBA. A wetland complex situated on the northwestern coast comprising vast shallow Baltic Sea areas, inlets and bays, coastal lagoons, coastal meadows, and reedbeds as well as mud- and sandflats. The site is important as a wintering, staging, moulting and breeding site for 225 different bird species, including Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis, Common Eider Somateria mollissima and globally threathened Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus. At least 20% of the water birds migrating over the Baltic Sea (up to 2 million individuals) pass through this site. It is also one of the biggest spring spawning grounds in western Estonia for freshwater fish such as Pike Esox lucius. Several rare and nationally protected plant species can be found as well as species protected on the European level like Fen Orchid Liparis loeselii. Threats to the site include the overgrowing of coastal grasslands due to abandonment, impacts of waste water from Haapsalu town, and an increase in invasive alien species. Two conservation projects have recently been carried out in the site to restore valuable habitats and enhance ecotourism facilities. A Nature Information Centre has been set up in Haapsalu and the site can be visited for hiking, bird watching, camping, and boat trips. Ramsar Site no. 2022. Most recent RIS information: 2011.

Hiiumaa Islets and Käina Bay. 17/06/97; Hiiu Country, Hiiumaa Island; 17,700 ha; 58º48’N 022º58’E. Landscape Reserve, Ornithological Reserve, Biosphere Reserve, IBA. Shallow watershelf sea with small islets, mudflats and bays. Vegetation includes coastal meadow, saltmarshes, reedbeds, juniper and Alnus glutinosa and Pinus sylvestris coppices. The site supports endangered orchid-rich communities and a unique and endangered broad-leaved forest (Quercus-Tilia-Acer community) and is an important spawning area for several fish species. Numerous species of waterbirds breed, and internationally important numbers of migrating birds stop over at the site. Human activities include tourism, environmental education, agriculture, fishing, and extensive cattle grazing. Ramsar site no. 908. Most recent RIS information: 1997.

Laidevahe Nature Reserve. 31/03/2003. Saaremaa County. 2,424 ha. 58º18'N 022º49'E. IBA, Nature Reserve, Biosphere Reserve. A mosaic wetland complex with broad diversity of lagoons, shallow coastal lakes, more than 40 islets, coastal saltmarshes, and extensive reedbeds, part of the core area of the West Estonian Archipelago Biosphere Reserve (1990). Among the wetlands occur patches of boreo-nemoral broadleaved forests, alvars and dry meadows. When water levels are low, mudflats are exposed and several islets connect with each other. The site preserves representative examples of several wetland types of the Boreal biogeographic region within one complex, and it is a refuge for many rare and endangered plant and bird species. Two migratory species - the Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis and the Dunlin Calidris alpina schinzii - are present with more than 1% of their biogeographic populations, and the site is an important foraging, spawning and nursery ground for a long list of fish. Among the main human uses are small-scale farming and forestry, livestock grazing, reed harvesting, subsistence fishing and hunting. Famous cultural monuments situated nearby are Püha Church and Valjala Castle. An Estonian traditional, but threatened, race of horses is bred nearby. Overgrowing of meadows due to a decrease in grazing and mowing rates is seen as a potential threat, as are intensification of commercial and recreational activities and privatization of land. A master "green" plan for local municipalities, including references to Laidevahe, has been adopted by the authorities, and a separate management plan for the reserve is to be drafted by June 2003. The Estonian Native Horse Conservation Society and the Society for the Protection of Seminatural Communities have initiated restoration of coastal meadows and pastures within the site. Ramsar site no. 1271. Most recent RIS information: 2003.

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.

Luitemaa. 27/01/10; Pärnu County, 11,240 ha; 58°10'N 024°35'E. Nature Reserve, IBA, Natura 2000. A mosaic wetland complex located on the southwestern coast of Estonia with a diversity of coastal and inland habitats including shallow sea, capes and islands, coastal meadows and reed-beds. Dunes, mires, dry and wet forest stands are characteristic of the site and many of its habitat types are listed under the EU Habitats Directive. The site supports a diverse number of internationally and nationally threatened species of birds as well as a number of threatened mammals, amphibians, reptiles and plants. Luitemaa ("land of dunes") is also a refuge for animals with large habitat requirements and as such is important as a breeding site for Wolf Canis lupus and Lynx Lynx lynx, as well as a hibernation site for Brown Bear Ursus arctos. It regularly supports more than 20,000 waterbirds, including Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis (>15000), Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope (>10000) and Eurasian Teal Anas crecca (>10000). The site is furthermore an important spawning ground for internationally threatened fish species like Sea Trout Salmo trutta and River Lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis. Peat excavation was stopped at the site; however, the abandoned area is in need of restoration. The Nature Reserve is important for ecotourism, especially for bird-watching. A management plan is in preparation. Ramsar Site number: 1962. Most recent RIS information: 2011.

Matsalu Nature Reserve. 29/03/94; 48,610 ha; 58º45’N 023º40’E. A wetland consisting of Kasari delta, Matsalu Bay, coastal and alluvial flooded meadows, reedbeds, forests and the shallow Moonsund waters with islets. An important waterbird nesting and migration site for species such as Grus grus (15,000 counted one evening), Branta leucopsis, Cygnus cygnus and Anser anser (400 nesting pairs, about 5,000 migrating). The site is also important for raptors and carnivores. Rich in flora, there are 700 species of vascular plants with six species under protection, including Malus sylvestris, Prunus spinosa, Oxytropis pilosa. The Reserve is used primarily for fishing, traditional grazing, haymaking practices, and on a lower scale, for forestry and hunting. Originally designated by the former Soviet Union, 11 October 1976. Ramsar site no. 104. Most recent RIS information: 2003.

Muraka. 17/06/97; Ida-Viru County; 13,980 ha; 59°08'N 027°06'E. Nature Reserve, Natura 2000 (SPA and SCI), IBA. The site, one of the few extensive wilderness areas surviving in northeastern Estonia, consists of an integral complex of various bog types, fens, primeval forests, peat areas, bog-pools and temporary streams. The species diversity of fauna is one of the highest for mires in Estonia. Bog communities include continental as well as maritime vegetation types. The area is one of the few places in Estonia where Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus is regularly seen and where Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus breeds. The site plays an important role in groundwater hydrology and maintenance of water quality. Human activities include berry-picking and hiking. (The site has been extended in 2012 from originally 12,400 ha.) Ramsar Site no. 909. Most recent RIS information: 2012..

Nigula Nature Reserve.17/06/97; Pärnu County; 6,398 ha; 58º00’N 024º40’E. Nature Reserve, Protected Area, IBA. Extensive bog complex of various types, fringed by deciduous forest. The site includes a relict lake, many pools and hollows. Ancient bog areas (9,000 years old) consist of a peat layer up to 8 m deep. The wetlands play an important role in groundwater hydrology and maintenance of water quality in southwestern Estonia. The site supports numerous species of summering waterbirds and acts as a stopover place for fall migrating birds, regularly supporting up to 40,000 Anser albifrons and Anser fabalis. The mammals Ursus arctos, Canis lupus, Alces alces, Lutra lutra, and Lynx lynx live in marginal parts of the mire. Principal human activities include research and small tourist excursions. Area significantly extended in 2007. Part of "North Livonian" Transboundary Ramsar site, with Sookuninga (Estonia) and Northern Bogs (Latvia). Ramsar site no. 910. Most recent RIS information: 2008.

Puhto-Laelatu-Nehatu Wetland Complex. 17/06/97; Läänemaa County; 4,640 ha; 58º34’N 023º33’E. Nature Reserve, Botanical-Zoological Reserve, IBA. A wetland consisting of a chain of lagoons, and a mire with shallow lakes and bogs, bordered by species-rich alvar, wooded meadow, and forest communities. The coastal area is a stopover for internationally important numbers of migrating waterfowl and provides roosting areas for geese and common crane. Human activities include scientific research, fishing, sheep and cattle grazing, agriculture, forestry, and limited tourism. Nutrient-enrichment is problematic. Ramsar site no. 911. Most recent RIS information: 1997.

Sookuninga Nature Reserve. 03/02/06; Pärnu County; 5,869 ha; 58°00'N 024°45'E; Nature Reserve; pSCI, SPA Natura 2000;IBA. A complex of six different raised bog massifs with hummock and hollow complexes as well with numerous pools. The site supports rare, vulnerable and endangered species of birds and plants, some of them occurring in great numbers or densities. Highly endangered and strongly protected are Black Stork, Golden Eagle, Lesser-Spotted Eagle, Great-Spotted Eagle and Lagopus lagopus Willow Grouse. The site also supports populations of large mammals including Canis lupus Wolf, Lynx lynx Lynx, Ursus arctos Brown Bear and Alces alces Elk. The site plays an important role in the recharge and discharge of groundwater as well maintenance of water quality in southwest Estonia and northwest Latvia. It also has a significant cultural and historical importance for its small scale battle grounds, burials, and war routes. Due to its remote location the area is sparsely inhabited, and the main uses are tied to forestry, berry and mushroom picking, and small-scale hunting - all at comparatively low intensities. Part of the North Livonian Transboundary Ramsar site with Latvia. Ramsar site no. 1748. Most recent RIS information: 2008.

Soomaa.17/06/97; Pärnu & Viljandi Counties; 39,639 ha; 58°25'N 025°05'E. National Park, Natura 2000 (SCI and SPA), Pan Parks wilderness area, IBA. A valuable wilderness area composed of a bog complex, fens, rivers with floodplain and wooded meadows, surrounded by extensive forests and carrs. The site is subject to annual floods over a vast area and comprises some of the best preserved large bogs in Estonia, with very high species diversity, including 524 species of vascular plants. Numerous species of waterbirds, many of them threatened, use the area for roosting and as a stopover point during autumn migration. 36 species of mammals like Otter Lutra lutra and Flying Squirrel Pteromys volans occur at the site. The site is important for groundwater recharge, the maintenance of water quality and flood control. Human activities include research, extensive forestry, small-scale agriculture and increasingly nature-based tourism, and a visitor's centre was constructed in 1998 which includes 10 educational trails and viewing towers. The site received the European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) award in 2009. (The site has been extended in 2012 from originally 37,169 ha.) Ramsar Site no. 912. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Vilsandi National Park. 17/06/97; Saare County, Saaremaa Island; 24,100 ha; 58º23’N 021º54’E. National Park, IBA. A large wilderness area comprised of a varied coastal landscape, archipelago, and brackish and freshwater relict lakes. Predominant vegetation consists of coastal meadows and includes, reedbeds, forests, and cropland. One third of the plant species present are rare for Estonia and include numerous endangered and vulnerable plants.Internationally important numbers of 249 species of waterbirds use the site for breeding, staging and wintering. Numerous species of mammals are present. Human activities include small-scale recreation and tourism, farming, forestry, and fishing. Ramsar site no. 913. Most recent RIS information: 1997.

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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