Kimmel K.,State Nature Conservation Center |
Kimmel K.,University of Tartu |
Kull A.,University of Tartu |
Salm J.-O.,University of Tartu |
Mander U.,University of Tartu
Wetlands Ecology and Management | Year: 2010
In Estonia, as in other countries, the area of wetlands has diminished remarkably due to different utilization for economic needs. Comparatively large areas of natural wetlands have, however, been preserved. The country's economic and political situation has changed rapidly since the regaining of independence in 1991 and accession to the European Union in 2004 brought about new challenges for the sustainable use of natural resources. This paper provides an update of conditions of wetlands in Estonia and, in part, represents an update of the relevant materials for Estonia that are described for the country when it was under the rule of the former USSR (Botch and Masing 1983, this volume). We review the diversity and status of wetlands in Estonia and describe the main problems and challenges of sustainable wetland use. Substantial progress has been achieved in Estonia in the area of wetland conservation and a significant proportion of valuable wetlands (a total of 33 wetland habitat types covering more than 300,000 ha) are legally protected and included in the integral and united system of protected areas. All Special Protection Areas and 80% of Special Conservation Areas in the Natura 2000 network represent a lesser or greater amount of wetland habitats. The main challenges of wetland preservation and use are: (1) management of drained wetland areas that have become sources of greenhouse gases; (2) attaining the sustainable use of peat resources and ensuring the restoration of cut-away peatlands; (3) maintenance of the traditional management of valuable semi-natural wetlands. In addition, the increasing pressure of various development projects and tourism on Estonia's wetland resources need to be evaluated. Wetlands are also seen as an important basis for sustainable development and about 100 wetlands in Estonia that are used for primary or secondary treatment of wastewater. Energy production from wetland plant biomass is considered to be a promising source for small-scale heating plants. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.