West-Estonian lowlands

West Estonia is a low (predominantly less than 20 m above sea level) and flat area encompassing approximately one fifth of the territory of Estonia. The area can be roughly divided into two parts: the West-Estonian Lowland and the Pärnu Lowland. The borderline between these two regions is hardly recognisable in the field, yet they differ rather clearly from each other. The West-Estonian Lowland formed on limestone bedrock is dominated by landscapes with calcareous soils and calciphilous plant communities, including alvars and various limestone bedrock knolls and escarpments, while the Pärnu Lowland lies mainly in the outcrop of Devonian sandstones, which is reflected distinctly in the soil and plant cover, in the sandstone outcrops and in the entire landscape scene.

Against the background of the predominantly flat relief of the West-Estonian plains, single higher surface forms emerge, adding variety to the landscape. The oldest landforms here are limestone monadnocks or “insular hillocks” (Salevere Salumägi, Lihula Lossimägi, Kirbla, Mihkli Salumägi, Avaste etc.), which are composed of dolomitic limestones of the Jaagarahu stage and are relics of the former Silurian Clint. The seaward slopes of all such hills have abraded into escarpments with limestone cropping out at places, while spits of land piled up later, on the opposite slopes of the hillocks.

Two ranges of marginal formations of the continental ice sheet traverse the West-Estonian plains. The North-Pärnumaa belt of eskers and end moraine formations runs from the town of Pärnu towards the northwest and can be easily observed in the landscape scene, ending with the relatively high (38 m) and steep-sloped Vatla Stronghold Hill. To the northeast of the town of Haapsalu, the Risti–Palivere esker range presents a sharp contrast to the surrounding plains. To the south of Pärnu, numerous shore ridges covered with Estonia’s highest coastal dunes diversify the landscape.

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