Estonia ratified the Convention on Wetlands on April 21, 1993 and it came into force on July 29, 1994. In the same year, Matsalu Nature Reserve (first designated already in 1976 by the former USSR) was designated by Estonia as a Ramsar site and Estonian Ramsar Committee was established by the Minister of the Environment. In March 1997, National Programme on the Implementation of the Ramsar Convention was adopted by a governmental decree No 48. The Programme named nine additional Ramsar sites (which were added to the Ramsar List in the same year) and 14 potential areas (the Shadow List).
Estonia presently has 17 sites included in the Ramsar List. The total area of these areas is 304 778 hectares.
The EU Habitat Directive lists a total of some 40 wetland habitat types. Estonia has over 30 wetland habitat types that represent all of the five types of natural wetland forms described in general terms by the classification of the Ramsar Convention: marine (coastal wetlands), estuarine (deltas), lacustrine (wetlands associated with lakes), riverine (wetlands along rivers and streams), and palustrine (marshes, swamp forests, mires).
Of the various marine and coastal wetlands, the most characteristic are shallow bays, lagoons with shallow stagnant brackish water and coastal meadows located as narrow belts along the shoreline, which have developed as a result of the diverse conditions and coastal processes of the Baltic Sea. Also, reed beds are widespread along the coast (the best examples being Matsalu and Haapsalu Bays).
Twelve of 17 designated Ramsar sites in Estonia consist mainly or partly of mires, mainly bogs. Mires, wetland forests, inland water bodies and floodplains form a pattern of typical inland wetlands. The majority of pristine mires are ombrotrophic bogs, which in several places form large and complicated systems. Wetland forests are largely influenced by drainage but are still widespread. Several wetland forest types (mesotrophic and oligotrophic bog forests) are among the most common in Estonia, while at the same time floodplain forests have survived only very fragmentarily. Wet floodplain grasslands covering extensive areas along the lower courses of rivers are mostly of anthropogenic origin. The floodplain meadow of the Kasari River delta (4000 ha) is one of the largest open wet meadows in Europe, 2500 ha of which is actively managed. Of about 1200 bodies of fresh water, many are shallow, and several transitions between aquatic and wetland communities can be observed.
Ramsar Sites in Estonia
Currently only areas that have been protected under the terms of the Nature Conservation Act (2004) may be chosen as Ramsar sites. Consequently, all the territory of the Ramsar site has to be nationally protected as protected area or limited-conservation area or combination of them. The boundaries and area of most of the earlier nominated Ramsar sites have been revised and Ramsar Information Sheets (RIS) updated. As new protection rules for four areas designated in 1997 have still not been adopted, the information sheets are not updated and this causes problems in reflection of information in Ramsar Data Base and in Estonian Environmental Register.
All the Ramsar sites are included in the Natura 2000 network. The protection and monitoring of Ramsar sites is carried out according to the management plans of national protected areas. The Environmental Board is responsible for drafting and implementing of these plans.
Further information about the Ramsar sites in Estonia:
Transboundary Ramsar Site
Pursuant to Article 5 of the Convention Estonia and Latvia have designated North-Livonian Transboundary Ramsar site (consisting of Nigula and Sookuninga Ramsar sites in Estonia and Northern Bogs Ramsar site in Latvia).
Endla Nature Center
In Center-Estonia at the foot on the Pandivere upland there is a big Endla mire complex. In 1985 there was founded Endla Nature Reserve. Its greatest wealth are whole mire complexes, wet forests and varied network of surface water-bodies: lakes, rivers, brooks, bog pools, springs, ditches. The vegetation cover is very various and lots of protected plant and animal species live there. Tooma village in Jõgeva County is a birthplace of Estonian mire research, when in 1910 an experimental agricultural mire station was founded there. Unique set of data on mire hydrology and microclimate has been collected since 1950.
In former schoolhouse where in 1928-1944 amelioration and cultivation of peatlands was taught is now Endla Nature Center. An exhibition of Endla Nature Reserve, Estonian mires and mire exploitation is opened, also study room and accommodation for study groups can be found there. The task is to increase awareness of the significance of the wetlands for biodiversity and people. Nature education programs by Keskkonnaamet (Environmental Board) are put into practice in various hiking trails- in bogs, forests, springs ect. In Word Wetland Day different events like artwork competitions for pupils, excursions, quizes are organized.
More information: http://www.keskkonnaamet.ee/?lang=endla
Matsalu Nature Center
Matsalu Nature Centre is located in Penijõe manor. Here you can visit small Matsalu National Park nature exhibition, watch slideshows or videos. Also it is possible to use the conference hall (for up to 50 people) and classroom. You can get additional information about the hiking trails, watching towers, catering and accommodation.
More information: http://www.keskkonnaamet.ee/matsa-eng
Soomaa Nature Centre
Soomaa National Park is situated in Transitional Estonia and was created in 1993. The area of national park is 390 km². The national park has been created to protect large raised bogs, flood plain grasslands, paludified forests and meandering rivers. Since June 17, 1997 Soomaa National Park is in the RAMSAR list of international wetland. Soomaa Visitor Centre was bilt in 1998 and center task is to increase awareness of the people by giving information about the national park and its biodiversity. From the visitor centre visitors will get information about national park valueas, hiking trails and camping sites.
There are possible to see videos about national park and find different booklets about park, Center has a library, rooms for seminars and exhibitions. At the moment Soomaa National Park Center operates mainly as information centre for visitors of national park, which among other information gives overview about Ramsar Convention.
More information: http://www.keskkonnaamet.ee/soom-eng
Vilsandi National Park Visitor Center
Vilsandi National Park is located on the biggest island of Estonia - Saaremaa, Kihelkonna and Lümanda commune and includes the island of Vilsandi, 160 other islands and islets, parts of Western Saaremaa and the Harilaid peninsula. Vilsandi National Park covers 238 km2, including 163 km2 of sea and 75 km2 of land. The Vilsandi National Park was developed in 1993 from Vaika Bird Reserve, which was formed in 1910.
The main objective of the Vilsandi National Park is to protect the coastal landscape and sea, the bird-rich islets and the cultural heritage. Vilsandi National Park is known as the "Bird's Kingdom". About 250 species of wild birds, out of which 114 are nesting species, have been recorded here. The area is an important nesting, stop-over and wintering site for birds.
Vilsandi Nattional Park visitor center is located in the Loona Manor, constructed in the 16th century. The information centre and exhibition pavilion work in the former cattle shed. The visitors can see a permanent exhibition which gives a good survey of the region's history and natural values. In the Loona stone house, fossils are exhibited. Most of them have been found in the national park.
There are some hiking paths and bird watching towers throughout the park. Nature education programs are put into practice in various hiking trails by Environmental Board and State Forest Management Centre.
More information: www.vilsandi.ee
Alam-Pedja Nature Center
A large, mostly flat wilderness area with a complex of mires separated by unregulated rivers and associated floodplain meadows and alluvial forests, surrounded by extensive forests, including swamp forests. Very important spawning site for several fish species, an important stop-over point for numerous species of migrating waterfowl.
The nature center is in Jõgeva county, Puurmani municipality, Jyrikyla village. There is an exhibition that gives good overview about the history and nature values of the protected area. There is possible to watch the videos and play games. The center provides teaching programmes for children and adults. There are 3 hiking trails that take the visitors to get aqcuainted with the local nature.
Center is managed in cooperation between Estonian Defence Union and Environmental Board.
More information: http://www.keskkonnaamet.ee/alam
Ramsar organization in Estonia
AA: Nature Conservation Department of the Ministry of Environment
NFP: Herdis Fridolin, Nature Conservation Department of the Ministry of Environment, herdis.fridolin(at)envir.ee
CEPA GOV: Maris Kivistik, Environmental Board, maris.kivistik(at)keskkonnaamet.ee
CEPA NGO: Marika Kose, Estonian Wetland Society, marika.kose(at)mail.ee
STRP NFP: Kai Kimmel, Environmental Board, kai.kimmel(at)keskkonnaamet.ee