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Trip nr 5

Järvselja experimental forest

Cottage of SMEAR station (atmosphere-biosphere interactions)
Cottage of SMEAR station  (atmosphere-biosphere interactions). Photo: Kalev Jõgiste

Tour guides:

     Kalev Jõgiste,  Estonian University of Life Sciences


     Steffen Noe, Estonian University of Life Sciences


     Mait Lang, Tartu Observatory; Estonian University of Life Sciences



The primary aim is to show to the visitors of the nature conservation area what primeval forest looks like and how forests develop without human interference: tree trunks here are covered with moss, lichen hangs off their branches, and downed trees are decaying.


Spring in Järvselja Forest:bursting buds in Betula pendula
Spring in Järvselja Forest: bursting buds in Betula pendula. Photo: Ahto Kangur

Since 1921 Järvselja forest has served as a training and experimental station for academic forestry. Forest conservation, silviculture and other essential topics in forestry are covered with experiments and trials.


Järvselja is a small village in the south-eastern part of Tartu County near Lake Peipsi and is almost entirely surrounded by swamps and forest. The forests and wetlands of Järvselja, being part of the Emajõe Suursoo nature protection area, are known both in Estonia and abroad.


The territory is remarkable because of its old forest and bog areas, containing rare species of plants and animals.

Tree trunks covered with moss and downed trees are decaying in Järvselja Primeval Forest.
Photo: Ahto Kangur

In some stands one can even find the tallest trees of some Estonian tree species like Norway spruce, Scots pine, silver birch, grey and black alder, European aspen and common juniper.


The study trail has a length of about 5 km. It passes the oldest forest protection area called the Primeval Forest, which has been under strict protection since 1924. The compartment itself covers 19.3 ha and any kind of human activity is forbidden in this area.


The compartment is remarkable for its spruces with heights up to 40 m, but the most majestic spruces at Järvselja have reached the height of 48 m. Some pine trees are impressive too, for example the King’s pine, being the most respectable with its massive stem volume of 11 m³ and age of more than 360 years.

Old designation of a permanent sample plot (early 1920s).
Old designation of a permanent sample plot (early 1920s). Photo: Ahto Kangur

A station for measuring ecosystem-atmosphere relation (SMEAR) is established at Järvselja Experimental Forests. 


An important function of the SMEAR station is providing data for energy and matter exchange analysis between atmosphere and biosphere. Flux and gas concentraton measurements and aerosol measurements are made based on a 110 m tower.


In direct connecton to SMEAR station is the "Free Air Humidifcaton Manipulaton" (FAHM) experimental site also at Järvselja. Cooperation between SMEAR stations in Estonia and Finland is leading to a unique network of measurements from Arctic to Baltic areas.

10x10 m reference panel for calibration of airborne and satellite measurements at Järvselja. Photo: Joel Kuusk

A special reference panel for the support of aerial and satellite spectral remote sensing measurements was built in 2010 and is located in the area of Järvselja Experimental Forests. This is a 10x10 m gray strictly horizontal concrete panel protected from weather by a removable roof.


Total length of the bus trip is 110 km.