Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve

Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve (Estonian: Alam-Pedja looduskaitseala) is the largest nature reserve in Estonia.[2] It is a vast wilderness area which covers 342 km2 (85,000 acres)[2] and consists of a complex of 5 large bogs separated by unregulated rivers, their floodplains, and extensive forests.[3] The nature reserve aims to protect diverse ecosystems and rare species, mainly through preserving the natural development of forests and bogs and securing the continuing management of semi-natural floodplain grasslands.[3]

Alam-Pedja is situated in Central Estonia northeast of Lake Võrtsjärv, in a lowland area called the Võrtsjärv Basin. It spans over three counties - Tartu, Jõgeva and Viljandi. The area has an especially low density of human population, comparable to that of wolf, bear and lynx.[4][5] The nature reserve was established in 1994. It is recognized as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention and since 2004 it is a designated Natura 2000 site.[3]

The name Alam-Pedja, translating as Lower-Pedja, comes from the nature reserve's location on the lower reaches of the Pedja River.

Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve
Alam-Pedja logo
Map showing the location of Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve
Map showing the location of Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve
Nearest cityTartu
Coordinates58°28′26″N 26°10′11″E / 58.47389°N 26.16972°ECoordinates: 58°28′26″N 26°10′11″E / 58.47389°N 26.16972°E
Area342 km2 (85,000 acres)
Official nameAlam-Pedja
Designated17 June 1997
Reference no.905[1]


Alam-Pdeja jõgede muster
Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve from air

The first human inhabitants came to the area of the present nature reserve in the Stone Age. Permanent settlements were established on the shores of Lake Big Võrtsjärv, predecessor of the current lake, which covered large lowland areas to the north and northeast. Fishing was the main occupation which attracted inhabitants to this area for centuries.[4]

Human activities influenced the area most in the 19th century, when interest in using its natural resources (mainly wood and fish) grew significantly. The main driver behind exploiting the large forests of the area was glass industry, which needed huge amounts of firewood. The first glass workshop was established in Utsali in 1760. In the beginning of 19th century the Võisiku or Rõika-Meleski glass and mirror manufacture on the banks of Põltsamaa River near the western border of the current nature reserve was the largest industrial enterprise in Estonia, employing around 540 people in 1820.[4] After the First World War the majority of glass factories were shut down and intensive forest cutting stopped.[4]

Alam-Pedja Kirna 2007
Floodplain of the Pedja River near Kirna

From 1952 to 1992 Soviet Air Force managed a relatively small bombing range in the northern part of the area. The small village of Utsali was cleared of people for that purpose. The large buffer zone of the bombing range, covering nearly half of the territory of today's nature reserve, ensured the protection of the natural landscape.[4]

The nature reserve was officially established in 1994 with the help of Estonian Fund for Nature.[6] In 1997 it was included in the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance and since 2004 it is part of the European Union Natura 2000 network.

Currently the nature reserve has less than 10 permanent inhabitants, and no roads traverse the area.[3] Before the Second World War, 120 people lived in Palupõhja, a village on the left bank of Emajõgi; in 2001, it had five.[4]


Alam-Pedja satellite image
Satellite image of Alam-Pedja

Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve covers large portion of the Võrtsjärv Basin, a vast bowl-like lowland area, which following the last Ice Age was inundated by the waters of Lake Big Võrtsjärv.[4] When the lake formed in early Holocene the water level was 4–5 m higher than today.[7] The lake started receding after 7500 BP, when an outflow to the east developed via the Emajõgi Valley.[7]

The nature reserve is largely a wetland, including a complex of five large bogs and floodplains of the large rivers (Emajõgi, Põltsamaa and Pedja). Wetlands cover 82% of the nature reserve's territory.[8] The only types of lakes found in the nature reserve are oxbow lakes and more than 2000 bog pools.[4] Lots of floodplain meadows have traditionally used for haymaking. However, in recent decades the extent of floodplains mowed has greatly decreased, threatening species associated with such valuable semi-natural landscapes. Continuing management of floodplain meadows is one of the main aims of the nature reserve.[3]

Most of the forest in Alam-Pedja are also wet. Alluvial broadleaf and old-growth forests are particularly valuable.

Alam-Pedja is the most important breeding area for great snipe in Estonia and the Baltic countries.[5] The greater spotted eagle is another threatened bird species breeding in the area.[3]


  1. ^ "Alam-Pedja". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b Estonian Nature Conservation in 2007 (PDF). Tallinn: Estonian Environment Information Centre. 2008. p. 31. ISBN 978-9985-881-56-9.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Official website of Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve". Archived from the original on January 30, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Ader, Arne; Tammur, Einar (1997). Alam-Pedja looduskaitseala = Alam-Pedja nature reserve (in Estonian and English). Tallinn: Estonian Environment Information Centre. p. 64. ISBN 9985-881-02-8.
  5. ^ a b Taylor, Neil (2007). Estonia. Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 1-84162-194-3.
  6. ^ "History of ELF". Estonian Fund for Nature. Archived from the original on June 9, 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
  7. ^ a b Raukas, Anto; Teedumäe, Aada, eds. (1997). Geology and Mineral Resources of Estonia. Tallinn: Estonian Academy Publishers. p. 436. ISBN 9985-50-185-3. Archived from the original on 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2009-02-14.
  8. ^ Arold, Ivar (2005). Eesti maastikud (in Estonian). Tartu: Tartu University Press. p. 367. ISBN 9949-11-028-9.

See also

External links


Emajõgi (Estonian pronunciation: [ˈemɑjɤgi]; meaning "Mother River") is a river in Estonia which flows from Lake Võrtsjärv through Tartu County into Lake Peipus, crossing the city of Tartu for 10 km. It has a length of 100 km.

The Emajõgi is sometimes called the Suur Emajõgi ("Great Emajõgi"), in contrast with the Väike Emajõgi ("Little Emajõgi"), another river which flows into the southern end of Lake Võrtsjärv.

Emajõgi is the second largest river in Estonia by discharge and the only fully navigable river.

Estonian Nature Fund

Estonian Fund for Nature (Eestimaa Looduse Fond) or ELF is an Estonian environmental non-profit organisation.

Jõgeva County

Jõgeva County (Estonian: Jõgeva maakond), or Jõgevamaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is situated in eastern part of the country and borders Ida-Viru County to the north-east, Lake Peipus to the east, Tartu County to the south, Viljandi County to the south-west, Järva County to the north-west and Lääne-Viru County to the north.

Laeva Parish

Laeva Parish was a rural municipality in Tartu County, Estonia. Since 2017, it has been a part of the larger Tartu Parish.


Lalsi is a village in Kolga-Jaani Parish, Viljandi County, in central Estonia. It's located about 7 km (4 mi) southeast of the administrative centre of the municipality Kolga-Jaani.

The Põltsamaa River passes through Lalsi on its northeastern side, the territory behind the river is occupied by the Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve.

Lalsi is home to Kolga-Jaani St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, which was built in 1872.

List of Ramsar sites in Estonia

This list of Ramsar sites in Estonia includes wetlands that are considered to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. Estonia currently has 17 sites designated as "Wetlands of International Importance". The total area of Ramsar sites in Estonia is about 2,818.6 square kilometres (1,088.3 sq mi), or about 1/16 of the whole country.

For a full list of all Ramsar sites worldwide, see List of Ramsar wetlands of international importance.

List of protected areas of Estonia

Protected areas in Estonia are national parks, nature reserves and landscape protection areas (nature parks).Estonia has five national parks, 167 nature reserves and 152 landscape conservation areas. In addition, there are 116 (118) protected areas with an old (Soviet-era) protection regulation and 537 parks. In total, 18.1% of Estonia are protected nature areas, with Lääne County having the highest percentage (32%) and Põlva County the lowest percentage of protected areas, about 9%.

Nature reserve

A nature reserve (also known as natural reserve, bioreserve, natural/nature preserve, or natural/nature conserve) is a protected area of importance for flora, fauna or features of geological or other special interest, which is reserved and managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research. Nature reserves may be designated by government institutions in some countries, or by private landowners, such as charities and research institutions, regardless of nationality. Nature reserves fall into different IUCN categories depending on the level of protection afforded by local laws. Normally it is more strictly protected than a nature park.


Palupõhja is a village in Elva Parish, Tartu County, Estonia, located on the Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve. It has a population of 4 (as of 1 January 2010).Palupõhja Nature School is located in the village.

Composer, conductor, music teacher and critic Eduard Oja (1905–1950) was born in Palupõhja.

Pedja (river)

The Pedja (Estonian: Pedja jõgi) is the fourth longest river in Estonia. Its source is near Simuna on the southern slopes of the Pandivere Upland. The river flows for 122 km through Lääne-Viru, Jõgeva and Tartu counties before joining the Emajõgi northeast of Lake Võrtsjärv. The last 4 km section of the river after confluence with Põltsamaa is known as the Pede. The largest settlement on the river is Jõgeva.

The Pedja is also the origin of the name of Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve, a large protected area on the river's lower reaches.


Valmaotsa is a village in Laeva Parish, Tartu County in eastern Estonia.


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