Natural distribution of species

New species are constantly being added to the list of Estonian species


Species that naturally expand their range are spreading to Estonia. This is being accelerated by global climate change, which is affecting the distribution, abundance, and characteristics of species throughout the world and is also creating favourable conditions for those species that have not been able to cope in Estonia so far. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the ranges of species moved on average 19.9 km towards the poles and 11 m higher in the mountains [1].


Autor: Charles J. Sharp
WALL BROWN. The first wall brown in Estonia was found in 2018 in Pärnu County. By: Charles J. Sharp, Creative Commons


Species that reach their new habitat independently, without the interference of humans, are considered native species. Species that change or expand their range due to climate change are also considered native. These species are distinguished from alien species by the fact that, although they are initially alien in the new habitat, their spread has not been mediated by humans, whether indirectly or directly, intentionally or unintentionally. At the same time, we still consider the species that arrive in Estonia on their own, but come here from man-made populations, to be alien species. For example, the raccoon moving from Germany and Poland towards Estonia is an alien species, as humans brought it across a major distribution barrier (the Atlantic Ocean), although it has spread further on its own.


New species are constantly being added to the list of Estonian species. Since the end of World War II, 20 species of mammals have been added to our fauna [2]. The most famous new resident of recent times is the jackal. The jackals, as a group, take on long migratory trips, and this creates an opportunity to populate new remote areas in a short period of time. One possible version is that the jackals arrived in Estonia via Ukraine [3], now spreading mainly on the west coast of Estonia [4].


In 2018, a new species of butterfly, wall brown, was found in Estonia, which spread here from the south, from Latvia. The previous new butterfly in Estonia was the tufted skipper, which was found in Southern Estonia in 1995 [5]. As the summers have become warmer, the species are continually doing better here.


In 2019, a new insect order was found in Estonian fauna – the praying mantis, belonging to the order of mantises [6]. In the same year, two new species of dragonflies were also found – the black-tailed skimmer and the small red-eyed damselfly. In 2020, the willow emerald damselfly was added to the list of Estonian dragonflies. Their spread is directly linked to climate change [7].


From time to time, bird species that have not been observed here so far end up in Estonia, but not all of them nest here. In 2019, the Siberian scoter was seen in Lääne County. If this sighting is officially confirmed, the Siberian scoter will become the 391st species in the Estonian list of bird species [8].


More and more plant species are also being found – among recent additions, the Helianthemum ovatum that spread to Estonia from the south was discovered in 2017 [9].




Last modified: 16.11.2021




[1] K. Sobak. Hiljutised muutused päevaliblikate areaalides ja nende põhjused kliimamuutuste valguses. Tartu Ülikool, ökoloogia ja maateaduste instituut, zooloogia osakond, entomoloogia õppetool. Bakalaureusetöö. Tartu, 2014.

[2] U. Timm, T. Maran. Kui palju on muutunud imetajate fauna Eestis? Eesti Loodus 3/2020, lk 12–21.

[3] Eesti terioloogia selts. Eesti šaakalid on pärit Kaukaasiast. Eesti Loodus 12/2015, lk 6.

[4] J. Remm, O. Kalda, H. Valdmann, E. Moks. Eesti imetajad. Liikide tundmaõppimise teejuht. Tartu Ülikooli ökoloogia- ja maateaduste instituut. Tartu, 2015.

[5] A. Truuverk, Uus liblikaliik Eestis

[6] A. Truuverk. Eesti on saanud putukaseltsi võrra rikkamaks! Eesti Loodus 10/2019, lk 72–73.

[7] M. Mägi. Eestist leiti sel aastal juba teine uus kiililiik.

[8] Linnuvaatleja. Uus linnuliik: Läänemaal nähti siberi tõmmuvaerast. Eesti Loodus 10/2019, lk 6.

[9] R. Hanson. Kas tõesti sõnajalaõis? Ei, botaanik leidis uue kuldkanniliigi. Tartu Postimees, 2017.