The president of Estonia visited the mire restoration areas and new trail

The team of the LIFE Mires Estoniahas the pleasure and honour to report that the president of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid and her staff found an opportunity to visit the mires being restored on the initiative of the Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF), and the recently completed Tudu educational trail.

If one were to set up a quiz and ask how many incumbent presidents have visited mires under active restoration, Estonia would be able to answer that at least one of the presidents definitely has. Many countries sadly (no longer) have any mires and/or ways to restore them, and it must be said that many countries have no president, either. Estonia would get maximum points for the question.

 

The president Kersti Kaljulaid on Tudu trail

Mires in general and, sadly, Tudusoo in particular among them have been subjected to intense draining since the middle of the previous century. The total area of mires has decreased almost three times because of that. The mire inventory undertaken in 2013 by the Estonian Fund for Nature (Leibak, Paal) showed that treeless mires and treed mires constitute just over 5 per cent of the total area of Estonia (i.e. 2,400 km2). There are also about 2,000 km2 of mire forests in Estonia. Mires have completely disappeared in many other areas in Europe. In this context, it is very difficult to overestimate the value of mires – they have a special role to play as balancers of water levels, as carbon sinks particularly in the long-term perspective, as water purifiers, as a unique habitat. Besides, don’t we all love mire berries – the cranberries and cloudberries?

In a situation where there are few mires left, one possibility is to create such conditions in a drained mire which make it possible for the mire to recover. In the context of mire restoration, it entails raising the water level with dams and, in the case of restoring a treeless mire, also cutting down trees as an extreme measure. Even though the recent Biodiversity Strategy deems restoration of 30 per cent of habitats as an important solution to preserve the continuity of human life, it can be said that the restoration of mires is still a novel and is not particularly picturesque as an activity . Taking this into consideration, it is even more motivating when a head of state finds time and is willing to come straight to the mire to see how it is being restored and how such an undertaking is presented to the interested people on the educational trail.

President Kersti Kaljulaid opined that abandoned peat extraction areas should definitely be restored, because in their current condition they are carbon emitters and unsuitable as habitats. President Kaljulaid visited mire restoration areas located in a protected area and stated that we must pay more attention to our conduct outside the protected areas. ‘Even today I noticed how on one side of the road mires were restored using EU funds, and on the other side of the road EU funds were used to drain mires for agriculture. In nature, one cannot draw clear lines and separate parts from the whole. Ill-considered activity outside a protected area can damage the protected area. The fragmentation of landscapes supports neither biodiversity nor the integrity of our ecosystems.’ Approximately 70 per cent of the remaining mires are protected in Estonia, and the restoration works are being conducted in said protected areas. On private land, ditches are closed and water levels altered only with the landowner’s permission. A few landowners have given consent that their lands can be turned into wetter conditions. We still have a way to go before it becomes common knowledge why we need mires and how we all can help them recover. One way to achieve that is raising awareness about what mire restoration means.

Tudu or Järvesoo educational trail in the Tudusoo nature reserve is 0,7 kilometres in length and can be traversed in both directions. It provides a unique opportunity in Estonia to see up close how a formerly drained mire gradually regains the characteristic and the biota of a wetland. ‘Fingers crossed that the immediate experience of restoration work piques the visitors’ interest to come and see at least once a year how Tudusoo is recovering. Isn’t it fascinating to have an opportunity to observe the rebirth of such a rare biome – the mire? The “whys” and “hows” of the restoration work can be found on the information boards,’ says Piret Pungas-Kohv, environmental awareness expert at the Estonian Fund for Nature and one of the creators of the Tudu trail.

The educational trail has been built in such a way that accommodates wheelchair users and parents with baby prams. It is also equipped with a handrail and is thus suitable to the visually impaired. People on the trail are accompanied by an abundantly illustrated outdoor book that tells the story of the history of Tudu, the mire, its species, and the restoration works. In the book, adults are guided by Mihkel and his wife Mann, and Leet, an old friend of Mihkel’s father. Children get to converse with little ogres Modris and Kalli. Information in English and Russian is also displayed on boards along the trail. Those interested in pictures can focus on the illustrations and photographs of the species. You are very welcome to visit the trail.

Tudusoo is one of the six protected mire areas (7600 hectares all together) that are being restored under the initiative of the Estonian Fund for Nature. The restoration works constitute mostly of refilling and damming the ditches. The new educational trail was completed in cooperation between the Estonian Fund for Nature, the University of Tartu, the NGO Arheovision, the State Forest Management Centre, and the Environmental Board. The construction of the trail was supported by the EU LIFE Programme and the Environmental Investment Centre within the framework of the project Conservation and Restoration of Mire Habitats.

 

Photos of the president’s hike and the educational trail, to be used with the press release, author Kaidi Aher

Additional information:

Soo.elfond.ee

Video clip about mire restoration: https://youtu.be/GSM3pl-4BZM

Information boards at Tudu nature trail in English: https://issuu.com/elfond/docs/7_tudu-raja-infotahvlid-eng

Piret Pungas-Kohv

Wetlands environmental awareness expert, Estonian Fund for Nature

piretpk@elfond.ee

Tel +372 5344 0791

 

Jüri-Ott Salm

Head of the wetlands programme of the Estonian Fund for Nature

jott@elfond.ee

Tel +372 529 5933