Sarmatic mixed forests

Content Cover Image

Northern Estonian coastal Sarmatic forest. Source: C.Michael Hogan

caption Sarmatic forest, Tsentralno Lesnoy Zapovednik,
Russia. Source: Igor Shpilenok/WWF
Sarmatic mixed forests comprise an ecoregion distributed over a sizable portion of northern Europe and the Ural area of Russia; more specifically this forest type is found particularly in Scandinavia, the Baltics and the Ural area of Russia. Typically, Sarmatic mixed forests comprise a transition into boreal taiga at their northern limit and mixed broadleaf forests at their southern limit. In Sweden these forests include certain areas of lowland to submontane hemiboreal and nemoral pine forests. The sarmatic mixed forests are comprised of a mixed conifer broadleaf plant association dominated by Norway Spruce (Picea abies) and Scots Pine (pinus sylvestris) with some broadleaf admixture, especially oak species such as Quercus robur in the north.

The ecoregion is abundant in surface water resources, displaying an inventory of more than ten thousand lakes and 20,000 rivers and streams. On the European continent the Daugava River drains a large part of this ecoregion.


caption Sarmatic mixed forest north of Molle, Sweden.
Source: C.Michael Hogan
This ecoregion spans a range of countries including southern Scandinavia and most of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Russia east as far as the Ural Mountains. The Scandinavian regions have somewhat intact forests except for Finland, that has deforested considerable portions of this ecoregion, converting them to agriculture, and Sweden, that has established numerous monoculture forests supplanting the native species.

In the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, there are some tracts of intact native forest, although the greater extent of the landscape has been converted to field crops and the grazing of domesticated livestock. Toward the southern limits of the ecoregion is a conspicuous increase in broadleaf tree species including birch, beech, aspen, ash, aspen and oak. The more level aspects of the Baltic topography compared to Scandinavia gives rise to considerable fractions of the Baltics having boggy forests, that are particularly rich in wetland plants on the forest floor.

caption Sarmatic mixed forests stretch from southern Norway to the Ural Mountains. Source: World Wildlife Fund


caption Marsh thistle in fen meadow amid Sarmatic forest,
Saaremaa, Estonia. Source: C.Michael Hogan
In addition to the dominant canopy—Scots pine and Norway spruce intermixed with some broadleaf species—there is a number of shrubs, wildflowers, grasses and mosses that inhabit the mid-tier and forest floor. Common low-growing shrubs include Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and Heather (Calluna vulgaris).

Example wildflowers or forbs seen in the forest understory include Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii), Red Campion (Silene dioica), White Campion (Silene latifolia ssp. alba), Sand Catchfly (Silene conica), Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis) and Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris). In some fens within forest clearings the Marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre) is found.

Widespread ferns seen on forest floors include Western Brackenfern (Pteridium aquilinum) and Mountain Bladderfern (Cystopteris montana). Common mosses found in the more mesic soils are Broom Forkmoss (Dicranum scoparium), Stairstep Moss (Hylocomium splendens),  Red-stemmed Feathermoss (Pleurozium schreberi), Ostrich Plume (Ptilium crista-castrensis) and Common Hair Moss (Polytrichum commune).


caption Moose browsng in Sarmatic mixed forest clearing,
central Latvia. Source: C.Micnael Hogan
Over thirty Important Bird Areas, such as the Stakhovski marshes of Russia and the Alam-Pedja wetlands of Estonia, support ospreys, white-tailed eagles, Eurasian cranes, and numerous songbirds. The European white stork (Ciconia ciconia) has breeding areas at the fringes of many Sarmatic forests, especially in the Baltics. The Eurasian curlew and Siberian crane are among the area’s critically endangered species, that also include European bison, European mink, and both pool and moor frogs. In Latvia there are two reserves where wild horses are being protected. The two endangered species of  frogs live here and almost nowhere else. They are vulnerable to water pollution and acid rain.

Delineation Justification

Sarmatic mixed forests are given the World Wildlife Fund designation PA0436; this acknowledgement is tantamont to the Digital Mapping or European Ecological Region {DMEER) unit of the same appellation, and the boundaries are a result primarily of the DMEER process. Under that process of definition, the ecoregion is comprised by the lowland-colline, partially submontane, hemiboreal spruce and fir-spruce forests that extend from southern Sweden, through the Baltics terminating with the Urals in Russia. Some areas of lowland to submontane hemiboreal and nemoral pine forests in Sweden; also, lowland-colline middle and southern to hemiboreal pine forests in Russia are included in this ecoregion


  • U.G.Bolub Bohn and C. Hettwer. 2000. Reduced general map of the natural vegetation of Europe. 1:10,000,000. Bonn-Bad Godesberg, Bonn.
  • C.Michael Hogan. 2009. Marsh Thistle: Cirsium palustre., ed. N.Strömberg.
  • H.Sjors. 1999. Swedish plant geography: The background: Geology, climate and zonation. Acta Phytogeogr. Suec. Uppsala: Opulus press, 84:5-14.
  • S.F.Kurnaev. 1973. Forest regionalization of the USSR. Nauka, Moscow [in Russian].
  • World Wildlife Fund. 2001. Sarmatic mixed forests. (PA0436).


Hogan, C. (2012). Sarmatic mixed forests. Retrieved from


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