Estonia is situated within the bounds of East-European plain. The height of surface is gradually rising from the coasts of the Gulf of Riga and the Gulf of Finland along the east and south-east lines. Average surface heights are 50 meters above sea level. West sections and islands have average heights less than 20 meters above sea level. In post-glacial time a stable surface rising is going on with the speed around 1,5 meters for 100 years, a coastal zone is becoming shallow, some islands joined to the continent.
The climate is transitional from maritime to continental. Winter is relatively mild, summer is reasonably warm. Average temperature in July is around 16° С on the coast and around 17° C in country’s inner districts; average temperature in February is from –4° C on Saaremaa island to –8° C in Narva, in the north-east. Annual precipitation is varying from 510 mm on west islands to 740 mm in highest parts of the south-east.
Estonia has got a wide river network. The rivers of north and west Estonia (The Narva, the Pirita, the Kazary, the Pjarnu and others) flow directly into the gulfs of Baltic sea, and the rivers of east Estonia flow into inner cisterns: into Virtsjarv lake in the south (Pil’tsamaa) and Peipus (Emaigi) and Pskov in the east. The longest river – Piarnu has an extension of 144 km and flows into the Gulf of Riga of Baltic sea. The fullest rivers are the Narva through which a drain of Peipus lake goes to the Gulf of Finland, and the Emaigi. Only the Emaigi is navigable lower Tarty city. During spring floods the water level in the rivers is increasing significantly (up to 5 meters).
There are more than 1150 lakes and 250 artificial ponds. The lakes are mostly of glacial origin and occupy around 4,8% of the territory. The countries largest lake is Peipus that is situated in the east and makes a natural and historical border with Russia. The area of Peipus is 3555 square km, of which 1616 square km belong to Estonia. The largest inner lake of Estonia is Virtsjarv. Its area is 266 square km.
Estonia is situated in the zone of mixed coniferous-broad-leaved forest. Little native forests are kept. Caespitose- calcareous soils are the most fertile. Once there broad-leaved forests grew, nowadays they are occupied by arable lands. On the whole about 48% of country’s area is under the forests. Forestmaking breeds are the most typical - a pine-tree, fir, warty and downy birches, asp, oak, maple tree, ash, elm, linden. Mountain ash, bird cherry tree and willow grow in undergrowth.
Forests are mostly spread in the east of the country – in the central and south Estonia, where they are represented by fir-groves and mixed coniferous-broad-leaved forests. Pine forests grow in sandy oils in the south-east of the country.
Flora of Estonia
There are 1560 kinds of flowering, gymnosperms and pteridophyte. About three fourth of them are centered in west coat sections and on the islands. Moss flora differs with a great amount of breed kinds (507 kinds), flora of lichens (786 kinds), mushrooms (about 2500 kinds) and algaes (more than 1700 kinds)
The breed variety of Fauna is not high – about 60 species of mammals. Elks are most numerous (about 7000 individuals), roes (43 000), hares and wild boars (11 000). In 1950 a maral, a red deer and a racoon dog were introduced. A brown bear (about 800 individuals) and a lynx (about 1000 individuals) are in the largest wooded forestland in many districts of Estonia. As well there are foxes, martens, badgers and squirrels in the forests. fitchew, ermines, weasels are spread. On the coasts of wells there are otters and European mink. A hedgehog, common shrew and a mole are also common.
The avifauna is mostly variable. It counts 331 species, 207 species build their nests in Estonia (about 60 ones are in Estonia all the year round). A wood-grouse and hazel hens are the most numerous (in coniferous forest), a woodcock (in swamps), a black grouse (on meadows), and woodpeckers, larks and kestrels as well. Under the protection there are such rare birds as erne, golden eagle, serpent eagle, osprey, white and black stork, grey crane. eider, tufted duck, shoveler, merganser, scoter and sea-gulls build their nests on the islands of west archipelago. Birds are most numerous in the period of spring and autumn mass flight towards summer nesting-place or wintering in tropical lands.
It’s possible to meet 3 species of lizards and 2 species of snakes including viper.
There are more than 70 breeds of fish (carp, salmon fishes, whitebait, whitefish, bream, roach, perch, pike perch, ling, burbot, trout, crucian, tench, sazan, sprat, cod, flounder, eel and others). Many of them are food fish.