Па-беларуску, калі ласка
Yelnia Peatbog

Location: Vicebsk Region: Miory, Sharkoush?yna Districts

Coordinates:   55°34 N 27°55 E  

Area: 23,200 ha

National Conservation Status:A national hydrological zakaznik was established in 1968. In 1981 the borders of the zakaznik were revised.

International Conservation Status:An IBA was established in 1998 (code BY002, criteria А4, В1, В2).Ramsar site (criterion 1а).

The site is Belarus’ largest and definitely the most famous complex of bogs and transition mires with numerous lakes bringing uniqueness to the monotonous mire landscape. Small islands covered by small-leafed and spruce forests are scattered across the complex. Most of the mire has been overgrown by low pine stands. However, relatively large open spaces with numerous small lakes and open pieces of water are also quite common. The wetland vegetation is typical of bogs and is represented by pine-shrub-Sphagnum and shrub-Sphagnum communities.

The Yelnia mire is located on the watershed of two river basins. Its central part is about 7 m higher than the peripheral parts. The peat layer can be as deep as 8.3 m, but is 3.8 m on average. Three rivers flow out of the mire, with no streams or rivers entering the complex. More than 100 lakes are located in the IBA, all of which are the scattered remains of a once large single lake.

The construction of numerous canals and ditches, as well as canalization of rivers, led to lowering of the groundwater table, which is one of the causes of the large and almost annual severe fires. The majority of the canals have been blocked now in frames of several project implemented by APB-BirdLife Belarus and affected areas are regenerating.

The difficult access and specific landscape of the mire – about 60% of forests are swampy and low-production – means that the site is not used greatly by people. Forestry occurs mainly along the periphery of the site and on the mineral islands. There is almost no agricultural use. The site is used for commercial and domestic collection of mushrooms and berries. Amateur fishing occurs on lakes of the complex.

A total of 98 bird species have been recorded, including 23 National Red Data Book species. Yelnia hosts scattered colonies of waders and numerous gull colonies, the latter found mainly on lakes. It is also a breeding ground for several typical bog species rare in Belarus, such as Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica, Willow Grouse Lagopus lagopus, Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus, Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus and Greenshank Tringa nebularia. Merlin Falco columbarius and Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus breed.

Yelnia is also an important stop-over ground for migrating geese and cranes in spring and autumn. At these times the following species are very numerous: Bean Goose Anser fabalis, White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons, Wigeon Anas penelope, and Garganey Anas querquedula. Less common are Greylag Goose Anser anser, Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus, Pintail Anas acuta, and sawbills. Due to its significance for migrating geese, Yelnia became the first site in Belarus where spring hunt on waterfowl was forbidden.

11 plant species growing on the mire and mineral islands are listed in the National Red Data Book. One can encounter Dwarf BirchBetula nana and Cloudberry Rubus chamaemorus.