Estonia names 11th Ramsar site

Estonia names 11th Ramsar site

5 March 2003
Estonia

The Ramsar Bureau is pleased to announce that the Government of Estonia has designated Laidevahe Nature Reserve (2,424 hectares, 58o18'N 022o49'E), a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Important Bird Area, for inclusion in the Ramsar List. A mosaic wetland complex with broad diversity of lagoons, shallow coastal lakes, more than 40 islets, coastal saltmarshes, and extensive reedbeds, the new site is 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. (Site description by Sergei Dereliev, Ramsar.) Estonia now has 11 Ramsar sites covering 218,374 hectares. [30/04/03]