All the Mid-Congress field trips will take place on (date TBC) to four main destinations:
At the end of the field trip day all participants are invited for mingling at an outdoor Midsummer’s Eve celebration. Any participants preferring to leave for Tallinn will be taken back after the field trips. The Mid-Congress field trip programmes connected to the main topics of the Congress are presented below.
Field trip 1. Peat extraction and forestry on extracted peatland
Large drainage operations peaked in Estonia in 1969–1975, when approximately 150,000 ha of forest land was drained. In total, ca 700,000 ha of forest land is affected by drainage in Estonia.
Rae peat extraction area and the exhausted peatlands are located 10 km from Tallinn. The experimental area on the Rae drained and fertilized peatland was established in the 1950s to study factors that affect forestation of peatlands and to investigate possibilities for afforesting of oligotrophic peat soils. The uniqueness of the experimental area lies in the fact that the virtually sterile peat soil has managed to grow stands (silver birch, Scots pine, Norway spruce) of 50–65 years.
The wastewater sludge of the Tallinn Wastewater Treatment Plant was applied to study the effect on afforestation. Different tree species (black alder, silver birch, Norway spruce, hybrid aspen) were planted in 2004. Today all species have grown into productive stands.
The field trip will continue to Aegviidu Nature Visitor Centre that is located in the heart of Kõrvemaa – an area of peatlands, large forests and unpopulated natural landscapes. On Sõõriksoo nature trail one can explore damp forests, bog landscapes, peatland with old peat pits, and signs of animal and bird activity. More than 100 years ago Sõõriksoo bog was one of the most productive peat-cutting areas in Estonia, where peat was cut manually and the bog provided nearly 50% of national peat production (fuel, thermal insulation material etc). Today, old peat pits have revegetated spontaneously.
Availability: one group of 50 people.
Field trip 2. Berry plantation on extracted peatlands
The attempts to cultivate cranberries on exhausted peatlands started in Estonia in the 1960–1970s when due to the drainage of peatlands natural areas suitable for growing mire berries decreased. At the beginning small-scale experimental plantations were established to test the suitability of growing native cranberries from different mires for cultivation, later the fields have been expanded to industrial cultivation on large areas.
Farm Marjasoo, translated the Berry Bog Farm, specializes in growing wild berries on extracted peatland (13 ha). The farm is situated in the middle of a pine forest near the largest lake in Estonia – Lake Võrtsjärv. The farm started in 1988 with the cultivation of cranberries, later blueberry fields were added, and experiments with cowberries have been made as well. All three species are suitable for cultivation; cranberry and cowberry, though, need larger investments to ensure stable crops. A unique know-how for choosing the plants and maintaining peat fields has been developed on-site. An excellent lowbush blueberry propagation collection and fine local cranberry sorts are growing in the farm Marjasoo with an annual production of 100–150 tons.
Participants will be introduced to what has been done on the farm in about 35 years followed by a visit to the plantation. Results of the experiments made in the plantations will be introduced and discussed, incl. common cranberry (Oxycoccus palustris) cultivation, low-bush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) cultivation and the possibility of organic production of wild berries on extracted peat fields.
Walking boots are recommended, total walking distance ca 1–2 km.
Availability: two groups of 40 people.
Field trip 3. Vegetable and other crop production on peatlands
Typically, peat soils are found in mires but are becoming increasingly prevalent in agriculture as they are being drained for production. Peat soils vary greatly in acidity and fertility, affecting their suitability for crop production. Peat soils that are less acidic will have larger amounts of plant available nutrients. The biochemical and microbiological properties of peat are highly suitable for the vital function of plants. Thanks to its structure, peat provides an extremely suitable environment for plant roots.
Estonian mires have been reclaimed for agriculture purposes: at present, 125 000 ha soils with peat horizon are in good agricultural condition in Estonia. The best way to preserve the carbon stock is to use agricultural peat soils as permanent grasslands. Studies confirm that almost one third of the drained peat soils used in Estonian agriculture may have been damaged to such an extent by today that they are no longer classified as peat soils.
During the field trip, an overview of amelioration and cultivation of agricultural peat soils in Estonia will be given and organic farming on peatlands, e.g. growing of vegetables (carrot) and oilseeds (rape, turnip rape) will be introduced.
Comfortable walking boots are recommended, total walking distance ca 1–2 km.
Availability: one group of 25 people.
Field trip 4. Mire restoration sites and cultural-educational programme in Sirtsi and Tudusoo bog Nature Conservation Areas, North-East Estonia
The Tudusoo mire Nature Conservation Area (NCA) is located in north-eastern Estonia on the eastern slope of the Pandivere Upland. The relatively intact raised bog areas are surrounded and partially degraded by forestry drainage system established in the 1970s. The EU LIFE MIRES ESTONIA project started restoration activities in 2018. Mire habitats and hydrology is being restored by closing the drainage network with various measures and implementing different forest cover manipulations. Special care is taken with forest manipulations because of numerous protected species’ habitats within the drainage network. Participants will visit the newly renovated nature trail that leads to the Tudu bog lake where the educational program will be introduced, including an overview of mire related cultural values. Also, the transitional mire type will be visited nearby the Tudu Lake.
The Sirtsi NCA consists of a range of mires in the NW–SE direction with a bog, rich in hollows and pools in the middle and quagmires on the edges. This mire complex is negatively influenced by peat extraction and the surrounding forest drainage system. The Sirtsi restoration area includes a former peat mining field with a dense drainage network and a completely destroyed vegetation and forest drainage area. Sphagnum fragments were spread and experimental oil shale ash treatment was implemented in autumn 2018 on the former extraction field. During the field trip, participants will be introduced to different approaches related to infilling ditches or dam building on extracted peatlands, also an intact raised bog will be visited. Methodologies of monitoring will be introduced.
Rubber boots or good hiking boots are recommended. The total walking distance is ca 4 km in a natural and restored mire area and on a wooden nature trail. Distance from Tallinn approx. 2 hours.
Availability: one group of 20 people.
Field trip 5. Mire restoration area in Soosaare bog, Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve, Central Estonia
Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve is located in Central Estonia, northeast of Lake Võrtsjärv. It covers 34,490 ha and is a Natura 2000 site that is recognized as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. Wetlands (five large mire complexes, swamp forests, and floodplains) cover 82% of the nature reserve’s territory. The restoration area (ca 120 ha) is a former peat extraction field at the edge of the large Soosaare bog. EU LIFE MIRES ESTONIA project financed restoration activities in 2017–2018. The monitoring of the water level, amphibians, birds, and butterflies is ongoing. Drones are used for monitoring changes in the vegetation cover in addition to traditional botanical observations. During the field trip, participants will be introduced to different restoration techniques of the damaged bog and an intact bog with lots of bog pools will be visited.
Rubber boots or good hiking boots are recommended. The total walking distance is ca 4 km in a natural and restored mire area. Distance from Tallinn approx. 2 hours. The field trip will be guided by specialists from the Estonian Fund for Nature and the Univesity of Tartu.
Availability: one group of 20 people.
Field trip 6. Tourism on peatlands in the Soomaa National Park
The Soomaa National Park was established in 1993 to protect intact bogs, meandering rivers, floodplain meadows, and a variety of forests. Participants will be able to experience all these nature values during the field trip. Part of this day is a slow and relaxing canoe trip (6 km) downstream of Raudna River with a stop in the Lemmjõgi floodplain forest – a periodically flooded alluvial forest with broad-leaved trees, such as elms, oaks, lindens, ashes, maples.
After a field lunch, the Ingatsi nature trail (3 km) will guide participants up the highest and steepest bog slope known in Europe, reaching up to 8 meters, to Kuresoo bog (11,000 ha). This is one of the largest bogs in Estonia, almost unaffected by human activities. The West-Estonian type of plateau bog is characterized by large open areas that serve as an ideal resting site for migratory geese and cranes. Discussions about nature tourism’s impacts, both positive and negative, will conclude this day.
Good walking boots are recommended. Transport from Tallinn approx. 2 hours. The field trip is guided by local nature guides from Soomaa.
Availability: two groups of 45 people.
Field trip 7. Peatland use and restoration
Tolkuse bog (area 5,500 ha, max peat depth 5 m), located on the SW coast of Estonia, is formed due to a land uplift that separated shallow bays (lagoons) from the sea ca 8,000 years ago. As a remnant of ancient times, the formation of coastal sand dunes – one of the highest in Estonia – boarders Tolkuse bog from the west. The surrounding relief is causing the seepage of groundwater to the bog, the influence of which can be seen in the vegetation. It is assumed that the peculiarities of hydrology are also causing a faster than average peat accumulation rate in Tolkuse bog (1.6–1.9 mm yr-1) as compared to other Estonian bogs (ca 1 mm yr-1).
The signs of human activity are apparent in different places in the Tolkuse bog. A canal dividing the bog to Northern and Southern parts was dug already in 1856 after that bog pools in the middle of the bog were drained. A peat quarry (block mining by hand) was operating in the Southern part of the bog already at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1967, another peat mine was opened in the Eastern part of the bog where peat was milled until 1995. By that time, the Tolkuse bog was already strictly protected and the preparations to open a new peat mine in the Western part of the bog were canceled. In 2018, a restoration project was launched aiming to close the ditches and to raise the water level in the Tolkuse bog.
During the field trip, participants are going to see the coastal sand dunes on the Western side of the Tolkuse bog and will then walk along a boardwalk to the middle-part of the bog to see what has been left off the drained pools. Next, you will see the area where preparations were made for peat extraction and where tree coverage has recently been removed and ditches blocked as restoration measures (walking will be on wet ground). There will be a short bus ride to the Eastern side of the bog to see the extracted peat mine and the canal dug through the bog in the 19th century (walking on wet ground). Different restoration methods will be seen and discussed.
Distance from Tallinn approx. 2 hours. The total walking distance is ca 4 km. Rubber boots or good hiking boots are required.
Availability: two groups of 45 people.
Field trip 8. Endla Nature Reserve
The Endla Nature Reserve is located in Central Estonia. Peatland studies started here in 1910 when the Experimental Mire Research Station was founded. The main assets of the nature reserve (established in 1985, an area covering 10,161 ha) is the diverse wetland habitats, representing bogs, overgrowing lakes and the karst springs on the SW slope of the Pandivere Upland. There are several lakes, relicts of an ancient lake, the largest of which is Lake Endla. There are eight raised bog massifs separated by rivers, boggy forests and lakes. The average thickness of the peat layer is 3–4 m, while in Männikjärve bog the thickness of the peat and lake sediments layer can reach up to 9.4 m. The convex bogs have well established hollow-ridge-pool systems. Since 1997, the nature reserve belongs to the Ramsar sites and since 2004 to the EU Natura network of protected areas. The center of the nature reserve is located in the Tooma village where the old mire school hosts a small museum.
There are several hiking trails that give the visitors the opportunity to get acquainted with forest communities, wooded meadows, and bogs, to watch birds and learn about local plants. The Männikjärve hiking trail takes participants to a 1–1.5-hour walk around Lake Männikjärv, through the coniferous forest and finally follows a 1.4 km-long boardwalk across the treed ridge-hollow-pool bog to a watchtower. There are more than 130 protected species of animals, plants, and fungi recorded here.
Participants will visit the spring giving the beginning to the Varangu River. The mainspring is nearly 300 m long and over 100 m wide, with over 30 m of various sources. Some smaller springs are in 4–15 m wide funnels and some tiny springs are covered with moss. The water pH in springs is 7.3–8.0, the discharge of springs is 250–760 l/s.
Travel time from Tallinn ca 2 h, walking distance ca 2–3 km, comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
Availability: one group of 40 people.
Field trip 9. Paljassaare coastal meadow bird conservation area and Pääsküla bog
Although most of the coastal zone of the capital city Tallinn has been urbanized, there are some semi-natural peatland areas left within the city boundaries. Man, the sea and post-glacial rebound have shaped the Paljassaare area, which is now the best birdwatching site inside Tallinn, only 15 min from the city center. The core of the area is a 70-ha large wetland with coastal lagoon lakes, wet coastal meadows, marshes and reedbeds that attract birds during migration and breeding. However, the military activities in the past have resulted in eutrophication that negatively affects the local biodiversity. In 2018–2024, an EU funded restoration project CoastNet LIFE is undergoing with the aim to restore the habitats of protected bird and amphibian species. The total walking distance of the field trip is 4 km and it takes 3 hours with visits to birdwatching towers. Bringing binoculars is encouraged.
The field trip will continue with visiting the Pääsküla bog (~9 km2, max peat depth 5.4 m), located on the western edge of Tallinn. The Pääsküla bog developed from infilling and overgrowing of the coastal lagoon ca 8,000 years ago, however, it has been drained since the 19th century. Historically, peat was extracted manually and since the 1920s with machines from trenches on bog edges for domestic heating. The former peat extraction area was used as Tallinn’s main waste disposal site in 1974–2003, thereafter closed and recultivated in 2007. Horticultural peat extraction is still continuing on a small scale. During the walk on the nature path (2–4 km), you can see the effect of drainage, old peat trenches and bog forest recovery from several burnings in 2002.
Both paths are easily walkable, no rubber boots are required.
Availability: two groups of 25 people.
Field trip 10. Restoration of alkaline fens
The status and activities carried out on the Läänemaa-Suursoo alkaline fen site under the LIFE Peat Restore project “Reduction of CO2-emissions by restoring degraded peatlands in Northern European Lowland” will be explored.
The aim of the LIFE project is to restore degraded peatland sites; measure the change in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from peatlands before and after restoration and model fluxes using the Greenhouse Gas Emission Site Types (GEST) approach; and provide guidelines for decision-makers and conservationists with best practice scenarios for peatland restoration and use in relation to the European Union climate policy and legislation.
Läänemaa-Suursoo with total area of about 3500 ha is a sedge-dominated alkaline fen that was drained at the end of 19th century and was used as a pasture for cattle and for hay mowing. It was abandoned after the World War II, but drainage system was left to the site. Nowadays the Läänemaa-Suursoo is under protection and also belongs to Natura 2000 network to protect several peatland habitat types: transitional mires and quaking bogs (7140), active raised bogs (7110*), alkaline fens (7230). The northeastern part of the Läänemaa-Suursoo mire system with abundant sand beach ridges forested by pine and burned several times during the last 30 years and narrow depressions between ridges with heath moors and Sphagnum dominated communities is in surprising contrast with sedge-dominated alkaline fen in southeastern part of the mire system.
During the LIFE project the water level is raised by infilling ditches and building dams. The objective of rewetting is to stop peat decomposition and afforestation on the vast disturbed fen ecosystem, and to maintain the complex of open fen, transitional mire and some fen and transitional mire forests. Comprehensive monitoring is also conducted on site in addition to restoration works. Georadar is used to study the spatial pattern of peat depth over the site. Plant species composition and coverage of vascular species is analysed. For water level monitoring divers are used. Samples for water and topmost part of the peat deposit are taken for their further chemical analyses. GHG fluxes are monitored with chamber method monthly during the growing season. Simultaneously with C flux measurements drone flights are performed according to which normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) is calculated. During this field trip, the first results concerning plant cover, water and peat chemistry, water level, carbon balance and NDVI will be presented.
Rubber boots are highy recommended.
Availability: one group of 20 people.
Field trip 11. Industry excursions. More information here.