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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Estonia

Land use (Estonia)

Why should we care about this issue

Topic
Land Land
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The intensity of land-use changes is a transboundary and multi-effect environmental problem, leading to changes in ecosystems and causing the loss of biodiversity, pollution of water, and more.

Estonia’s landscape has a diversity of habitats, a long and varied coastline, and many lakes, islands and mires. The agricultural landscape can also be characterised by high diversity. During the Soviet time Estonia had large-scale and intensive farming, now the agricultural land is much more fragmented.

Landscape changes in Estonia result from human activities like broadening highways and harbour districts, building cottages and recreation areas near water-bodies, more intensive urban sprawl and forestry during recent years.

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Built environment indicators

Area of built-up land

Area of built-up land

Figure 1. Area of built-up land. Source: Estonian Environment Information Centre www.keskkonnainfo.ee 

 

Area of mining activities

Area of mining activities

Figure 2. Area of mining activities. Source:  Estonian Environment Information Centre www.keskkonnainfo.ee 

 

Restored area indicator

Area of recultivated mining land

 Figure 3. Area of recultivated mining land

 

Figure 3. Area of recultivated mining land. Source:  Estonian Environment Information Centre www.keskkonnainfo.ee 

 

 

Agricultural area indicators

Sown area

Figure 4.  Sown area.

Figure 4.  Sown area. Source: Estonian Environment Information Centre www.keskkonnainfo.ee 

 

Area of fallow land

Figure 5. Fallow land


Figure 5. Fallow land. Source: Estonian Environment Information Centre www.keskkonnainfo.ee 

 

Natural and semi-natural area indicator

Forest stands older than 100 years

Figure 6. Forest stands older than 100 years

Figure 6. Forest stands older than 100 years Source: Estonian Environment Information Centre www.keskkonnainfo.ee 

 

Read more:  Estonian Environment Information Centre www.keskkonnainfo.ee 

 

Land-cover changes 2000-2006

The Corine Land Cover (CLC) Change 1990-2000 database shows that the total area of detected changes was 1 215 km2, around 2.7 % of Estonian territory; most of the changes are in agricultural, forest and semi-natural areas. Changes occurred mostly within the first-level class, for example, changes from pasture to complex cultivation patterns within agricultural areas. As a result of the land reform, this decade could be characterised by less activity in the agricultural sector and more active forestry – clear cuts. Changes in other categories were minimal. 

Assessing the CLC Change 2000-2006 database statistics, the total area of detected changes was 1 041 km2, about 2.3 % of Estonian territory. Most of the changes were to forest and semi-natural areas. Transitional woodland on mineral land showed the greatest increase of 658 km2. This change was mostly from forests and shows the extent of clear-cuts.

Changes from agricultural landscapes to transitional woodland have decreased in comparison to the previous period.

Just more than 218 km2 of transitional woodland has changed to forests that show reafforestation of previously clear-cut areas. This is a situation where land cover only changes temporarily – from forest to clear-cut areas and back again to forest – without changes in land use.

The percentage increase of soil sealing has not been significant – less than 0.5 % of mainland territory – but unlike the changes in forests these change are irreversible. Arable land taken for house-building cannot be returned to agricultural use.

 

Read more: Estonian environmental review 2009 http://www.keskkonnainfo.ee/publications/4263_PDF.pdf

 

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

The total area of Estonia is 45 227 km2, of which the mainland is 43 200 km2. Approximately 50 % of the territory is covered by forests and agricultural land and mires cover a further fifth of the territory. The population as of January 2009 is 1 340 415 and the average population density is 31 inhabitants per km2. The urban population is around 70 % (01.01.2008) and rural about 30 %.

Figure 7. Population in 1970–2008

Figure 7. Population in 1970–2008. Data: Statistics Estonia.

 

Despite the decreasing population, housing, services and related infrastructure have been the main cause of land-take for urban and other artificial areas.

During the period 1991- 2005, near Tallinn  about 5 600 new houses were built: about 1 900 in 2005, about 900 in 2004, about 300 in 2001 and only 100 per year before 2000.

Forty-six per cent of the new built-up areas are situated on former arable land, 28% on former discontinuous urban land and 16% on natural grasslands.

The main pressure on the Estonian environment is caused by the oil shale-based energy production. Estonia has the largest accessible oil shale deposits in the world. Over 80 % of the oil shale mined is used for the production of electricity and heat.

Transport is also an important driver of land-use changes. The increasing number of vehicles is resulting in expansion of the traffic infrastructure.

Assessing Corine Land Cover (1990, 2000 and 2006) database statistics on the first-level class Agricultural areas change has been minimal.

 

Figure 8. Change of agricultural areas, arable land and number of households, 2001–2007

Figure 8. Change of agricultural areas, arable land and number of households, 2001–2007. Source: Estonian environmental review 2009, Statistics Estonia

 

Intended use of land

Figure 9. Intended use of land

Figure 9. Intended use of land. Source: Statistics Estonia, unit hectares

 

Area of mining activities

Figure 10. Area of mining activities

Figure 10. Area of mining activities. Source: www.keskkonnainfo.ee. Data: Corine Land Cover.

 

Read more: Estonian environmental review 2009 http://www.keskkonnainfo.ee/publications/4263_PDF.pdf

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Main trends according to the Estonian Environmental Strategy 2030 are:

  • polarisation of the use of land – some of the land is disused, while some is used too intensively in terms of technology used per hectare, incl. the concentration of human settlements in coastal areas;
  • agricultural use of land has decreased by one-third over the past decade;
  • increasing application of environmentally sustainable cultivation methods in agriculture;
  • Dry perennial weeds – grass plants – increase the hazard of fires in disused lands;
  • construction of new roads and communications networks contributes to the fragmentation of natural landscapes;
  • urban sprawl is accelerating near larger cities and along major roads;
  • natural habitats are being destroyed due to the intensification of the use of land. Semi-natural habitats are disappearing as a result of the termination of active use of land;
  • land is subsiding above underground oil shale mines, causing changes in the water regime and difficulties in management.

 

Major problems according to the Estonian Environmental Strategy 2030 are:

  • destruction and fragmentation of valuable landscapes and biotic communities, incl. habitats;
  • formation of wastelands – swamped areas, areas overgrown with brush, etc.;
  • prevalence of high-density population in coastal areas;
  • littering of landscapes – an abundance of abandoned industrial sites;
  • decrease of the number of species of biota.

 

Source: Estonian Environmental Strategy 2030

http://www.envir.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=1101230/inglisekeelne.pdf

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Sustainable Estonia 21 http://www.envir.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=166311/SE21_eng_web.pdfis an integral conception which is clearly focused on the sustainability of long-term development of the Estonian state and society to 2030. The general development goal of the country is to integrate the requirement to be a successful in global competitor with a sustainable development model and the preservation of the traditional values.

Ecological balance according to Sustainable Estonia 21 – the maintenance of an ecological balance in the nature of Estonia – is the central precondition for the country’s sustainability. It is also Estonia’s contribution to global development, following the principle that requires a balance both in material cycles and in flows of energy at all levels of the living environment.

The Riigikogu – Estonia’s parliament – approved the Environmental Strategy 2030 on 14 February 2007.

This aims at defining long-term development trends for maintaining a good status of the natural environment, while keeping in mind the links between the environment and economic and social spheres and their impact on the natural environment and people. This strategy has two main objectives for land.

 

Objective 1 - use of land:

Functionality and sustainable utilisation of natural and cultivated landscapes.

Lines of action:

  • formulation and implementation of a landscape policy, considering the principles of the European Landscape Convention; if necessary, drafting the relevant legislation, instructions and action plans;
  • development of an information and monitoring system for landscapes to enable informed decisions to be made;
  • setting up a system of incentives, benefits and regulations to encourage multifunctional and sustainable use of land.

 

Objective 2 - preservation of the diversity of landscapes and biodiversity

Preservation of multifunctional and coherent landscapes. To preserve the coherence of landscapes of different types and the multifunctional nature of landscapes, the landscape policy must be more integrated into the policies of different areas of activity – nature conservation, heritage conservation, forestry, agriculture, construction, etc.

The coherence of landscapes is primarily ensured by an integrated approach to landscape types with different functions – cultivated landscapes, heritage biotic communities, disturbed landscapes, natural landscapes – keeping the need to preserve the diversity of landscapes and biodiversity in mind.

 

Lines of action:

  • long-term planning of nature conservation, taking into account other fields of activity and based on the need to preserve coherent and multifunctional landscapes and on the priorities of the nature conservation development plan;
  • setting up a balanced system of benefits to ensure the preservation of the diversity of landscapes and various types of habitats;
  • improvement and development of supervision and organisational systems for the purpose of managing the use of land beyond protected areas and thereby promoting the preservation of the diversity of landscapes and species;
  • development of a system to ensure the provision of high-quality, systematic nature education and continuing training to various target groups to support practical nature conservation.

 

Source: Estonian Environmental Strategy 2030

http://www.envir.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=1101230/inglisekeelne.pdf

 

Read more:  Ministry of the Environment www.envir.ee

Disclaimer

The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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