Importance of Soomaa
Soomaa was included in the important nature protection areas of Europe in 1997 becoming a CORINE biotope area. Since June 17, 1997 it is also in the RAMSAR list of international wetlands and in 1998 it was suggested that the Soomaa National Park should be included in the world natural heritage listed by UNESCO.
In the year 2009 Soomaa National Park became a meber of PAN Parks network - standing for european wilderness. On the same year Soomaa was awarded by European Commission in the contest "Tourism in protected areas" as a supreme nature holiday destination - European Destinations of Excellence.
Importance: Soomaa National Park is the most valuable part of the remaining extensive wilderness area in southwest Estonia. Kuresoo Bog is one of the two best surviving large bogs in Estonia with species diversity amongst the highest. The alluvial meadows and forests that cover the riverbanks are of great botanical value. Approximately 200 species have been recorded, including Gladiolus imbricatus, Iris sibirica and Sedum telephium. The unique swamp forests (carrs) surrounding the site are also of special interest. The site regularly supports more than 1% of the individuals in relevant populations of Cygnus columbianus and Grus grus, and the composition of bird species in these bogs, especially Kuresoo, is one of the most representative in Estonia. Species recorded include Aquila chrysaetos, Numenius phaeopus (more than 100 pairs), Pluvialis apricaria (ca 150 pairs) Calidris alpina schinzii, Falco columbarius, Lagopus lagopus and Circus pygargus. During the autumn migration, it is a stopover and roosting site for Grus grus (approximately 1,000) and Cygnus columbianus (approximately 500), and during spring migration (approximately 2,000) for C. columbianus. Crex crex is still numerous on floodplain meadows (50-100 pairs). It is an important spawning ground for the fish Esox lucius.
Wetland Types: Xp, Xf, W, U, Ts, Tp, M
The site is a large, flat area comprising of an integral complex of four bogs, wooded meadows and unregulated rivers with floodplains that cross the area. There is one relict lake (6 ha) which is dystrophic, and numerous bog-pools. The peatland areas are composed of 75% bogs (of a transition type between maritime and continental; mainly open-grass bogs and dwarf-shrub bogs; partly pine bogs), 20% transition bogs, and 5% fens (which due to lack of drainage, have survived in their original state).
Biological/Ecological notes: The bog flora contains elements of both marine and continental bog types. The forests belong to a variety of site types, including those in an original (natural) condition where, for example, Epipogium aphyllum, Gypsophila fastigiata and Astragalus arenarius grow. The adjacent forests also support good populations of birds which include Dendrocopos leucotos, Ciconia nigra, Aquila pomarina and Tetrao urogallus. Thirty-six species of mammals have been counted, including Canis lupus, Lynx lynx, Ursus arctos, Alces alces, Lutra lutra, Castor fiber and Pteromys volans.
Hydrological/Physical notes: In the bogs, bedrock is covered by sand and lake sediments, and by peat deposition to a depth of 3 - 6 m, reaching a maximum of 9.5 m. The bogs of Soomaa have the highest marginal slope in Estonia (up to 6 m). As the Halliste River flows into the Navesti River at 160° ("against" the stream), it causes annual floods over a vast area. The absolute amplitude of the water level is almost 5.5 m.