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Past projects

International projects in which the Environmental Board has participated

1. LIFE to alvars

LIFE to alvars project is funded by the LIFE+ Nature Fund and the Environmental Investment Centre, the purpose of which was the restoration of alvar pastures of 2,500 hectares in the islands of Saaremaa, Muhumaa, Hiiumaa and in Lääne and Pärnu Counties. Additional information:


Project URBANCOWS is funded by the LIFE+ Nature Fund and the Environmental Investment Centre, the purpose of which is the restoration of coastal meadows of 250 hectares in the nature reserve of Pärnu coastal meadow. Additional information:

3. Talkoot, talgud, talkas – quality volunteer management for Nordic-Baltic protected areas

It is a cooperation project of Estonia, Latvia and Finland for the organisation of conservation volunteering. In the frames of the project, experts are exchanged, volunteer managers are trained, people participate in each other’s volunteering, a web-based guideline of organisation of volunteering is prepared and national strategies for the inclusion of volunteers are prepared. Additional information: Kaili Viilma (

4. Pearlriver (Restoration of freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) habitat)

Historically widespread freshwater pearl mussel is today in Estonia present in only one (Pärlijõgi) river. Species is addressed as one of the rarest and most endangered animal species in Estonia. Without proper and active protection measures is species extinction from Estonia only a matter of time. Current project was launched to start with active protection measures in Pärlijõgi river and to reduce or eliminate negative impact factors that are affecting FPM Pärlijõgi river population. The aimed result was to minimize population of beavers, improve water quality and improve habitats for FPM host species. As a Project result population of beavers is minimized (approximately 10 beavers are living in river Pärlijõgi), water and habitat quality is improved (FPM is breeding, host fish is infected with FPM larvae in 15 km river line, including the area where mussels are present).

Margaritifera margaritifera  (Linnaeus, 1758)

Conservation status: Inscribed in Annex III of the Bern Convention IUCN: endangered.ebapärlikarp


The freshwater pearl mussel has a shell consisting of two parts that are hinged together. The shell is large, heavy and elongated typically yellowish-brown in colour when young and becoming darker with age. Older parts of the shell often appear corroded, an identifying feature of this mussel species. Like all molluscs, the freshwater pearl mussel has a muscular “foot”. This is very large and white and enables the mussel to move slowly and bury itself in the substrate. The freshwater pearl mussel is one of the longest-living invertebrates in existence. This species has been exploited until the mid- twentieth century for the production of beads for jewelry, before the discovery in the eighteenth century tropical pearl oysters.

They require fast-flowing streams and clean rivers, where specie lives buried or partly buried in fine gravel and coarse sand, generally in water at depths between 0.5 and 2 meters, but sometimes at greater depths. Clean gravel and sand is essential, particularly for juvenile freshwater pearl mussels, for if the stream or river bottom becomes clogged with silt, they cannot obtain oxygen and will die. Also essential is the presence of a healthy population of salmonids, a group of fish including salmon and trout, on which the freshwater pearl mussel relies for part of its life cycle. The freshwater pearl mussel is a filter animal that feeds on particles carried by currents.


The native distribution of this species is Holarctic. The freshwater pearl mussel can be found on both sides of the Atlantic, from the Arctic and temperate regions of western Russia, through Europe to northeastern North America.

Life cycle

The life cycle of the pearl mussel is associated with the trout and Atlantic salmon because these shellfish larvae grow to coat the gills of the fish, and only those fish species serve as suitable host for mussel larvae. Once the fertilization (the sexes are separated), the larvae, called a glochidia is incubated by the female for four weeks. When it reaches the size of 0.05 mm, the larvae is released into the river and fixed on the gill apparatus of a brown trout/sea trout or an Atlantic salmon. This parasitic phase usually lasts several weeks (up to 10 months), after which the glochidia becomes a real bivalve miniature 0.5 mm. After this, small mussel will dig into river substrate and stay there for its first year to grow bigger. In this stadium the young mussel is “hunting” food with its foot and can’t filtrate. After this stadium the mollusk is fixed on the substrate, starts to filtrate and continues to grow, reaching sexual maturity at age 20. The longevity of this species is remarkable, as it varies between 20 and 30 years for individuals who live in warmer waters of Southern Europe, to more than 150 years for those living in Scandinavia.

Threats and conservation

Once the most abundant bivalve mollusc in ancient rivers around the world, numbers of the freshwater pearl mussel are now declining in all countries and this species is nearly extinct in many areas. The causes of this decline are not fully understood, but alteration and degradation of its freshwater habitat undoubtedly plays a central role. The negative impacts humans have on rivers and streams come from a wide range of activities such as river regulation, drainage, sewage disposal, dredging, and water pollution, including the introduction of excess nutrients. Anything that affects the abundance of the fish hosts will also affect the freshwater pearl mussel; for example, the introduction of exotic fish species, such as the rainbow trout, reduces the number of native fish hosts. Introduced species are also directly affecting the freshwater pearl mussel; the invasion of the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), which has been spread to new locations by being transported on the bottom of boats or in ballast waters, has impacted freshwater pearl mussel populations in all countries it has invaded.

The freshwater pearl mussel, which is completely protected in most European countries, has been the focus of a significant amount of conservation efforts. Measures have included the transfer of adult mussels to areas where it had gone extinct, the culture of juvenile mussels, and the release of juvenile trout, which have been infected with glochidia, into small rivers, but mainly the freshwater pearl mussel has benefited from habitat restoration projects in some areas. Due to the essential role salmonid fish play in the life of the freshwater pearl mussel, the conservation of salmon and trout is also central in the survival of this endangered freshwater mussel.

The main benefit

Project impact was overall positive for freshwater pearl mussel as a species, but it had positive effect for the entire river habitat and all the species that populate current habitat. The main benefit was restoration of freshwater pearl mussel habitat and restoration of favourable conditions for species breeding (host fish can spread all over the river habitat, beaver population is minimized, river inflows sediments input is minimized).


  • Suitable conditions for freshwater pearl mussel (FPM) procreation are created in Pärlijõgi (former Pudisoo) river. In 15 km river line are suitable conditions for FPM – Project results have revealed that FPM procreation in Pärlijõgi river is active, FPM is producing glohides and host fishes are infected with FPM larvae. It is necessary to continue with FPM juveniles microhabitat quality improving in the future, to increase survivability ratings of FPM juveniles in Pärlijõgi river.
  • As a beaver hunt result, beaver population density in Pärlijõgi river is decreased: in 2016 altogether 3 beaver broods (about 10 beavers) are living in the river.
  • Local community awareness about FPM is raised – landowners and other local community members are aware about species rareness, dangers to FPM population and why/how to protect the species. Public awareness about FPM is raised – approximately 90 people are involved indirectly (volunteers who participated in Estonian Fund for Nature work-camps, participants of FPM inventory methods workshop, participants of beaver hunt workshop) and about 30 people are involved directly (local landowners and other co-operation partners).
  • Good ecological condition of Pärlijõgi river is restored (reduced fine sediments and beavers activity impact, increased passage opportunities for FPM host fish, restored natural conditions in partly straightened river part) on 15 km river line, including FPM habitat restoration (beaver dams and other obstacles removed, wooden dams created into inflows for fine sediment pollution reducing) on 12 km river line, where mussels are present.

Project’s target outcomes

  • to restore at least 15 km of Pärlijõgi riverine habitat (baseline 0) i.e 1 habitat restoration; as project outcome 15 km riverine habitat (including 12 km were FPM is spread) was restored – beaver dams and other flow obstacles removed,  host fish migration ways opened, fine sediments inflow reduced;
  • to Ensure preservation of FPM population in Lahemaa National Park and to stop negative changes in FPM riverine habitat (baseline 100 beavers living in Pärlijõgi river; target 10 beavers); as Project outcome beaver population was minimized trough beaver hunting and negative impacts from beaver activities were reduced – in 2016 10 beavers are living in Pärlijõgi river;
  • to raise local community awareness about FPM protection methods (why needed and how carried out) and to involve 90 peoples indirectly and 30 peoples directly (baseline 30 landowners aware FPM is living in Pärlijõgi river); target was achieved through co-operation with landowners (meetings and Project activities including) and with public awareness raising events (volunteers participating in work-camps, workshops for Estonian and foreign experts about beaver hunting and inventory methods of FPM, Project opening and closing seminars).

Main output was to restore favourable conditions in the freshwater pearl mussel habitat. Outputs delivered to achieve the main output were:

  • wooden dams built on river inflows;
  • in 5 culvert and 1 old dam host fish migration ways opened;
  • beaver population is minimized in Pärlijõgi river;
  • all planned project events (beaver hunting workshop, freshwater pearl mussel inventory methods workshop, project opening and closing seminar) are taken place.

Project overview

  • Total budget: 227116,10 Euros (planned 463 294,12 Euros)
  • Self-financing (15%): 34067,42 Euros

  • Financial support (85%): 193 048,68 Euros





  • Main reason for budget cutting: new information about main activities planned – possible negative impact for FPM and it’s habitat
  • Activities cancelled: sediment traps planning and building on ditches/inflows
  • New activities planned as replacement: damming of ditches/inflows, straightened river parts restoration
  • Project partners: State Forest Management Centre (Estonia), Norwegian Institute for Nature Research

rmk logo

  • Carried out in Estonian only population, situated in Lahemaa National Park
  • Project started in 2014 and ended 2016 (30th April)
  • Project aims: 1) open host fish migration ways, 2) raise habitat quality, 3) carry out first monitoring about habitat, 4) minimize beaver population


Project indicators

  • Local community awareness raising about FPM protection methods (why needed and how is carried out)
  • Baseline: Local landowners are aware that species exists in Pärlijõgi river (about 30 people involved)
  • Target: Local community members are aware FPM protection methods and negative impact factors for species (90 people involved indirectly, 30 people involved directly)
  • Result: target is fulfilled

Disclosure plan implementation

  • In July 2014 Project webpage was created (news about Project activities, Project aims and targets description, FPM dangers description, partners information etc)
  • In addition publicity and local community notifications trough Lahemaa National Park social media (Facebook) account
  • Press releases about Project activities and events
  • Project opening seminar in Palmse 26.08.2014
  • Project activities are brought to public trough Estonian Public Broadcasting tv-show „Osoon“ (on-air 01.12.2014, 27.04.2015, 14.09.2015)
  • Beaver hunting workshop for local hunting clubs 11.11.2014
  • 28.07.2015-30.07.2015 FPM inventory methods workshop for experts (including foreign experts), natural education specialists/teachers, students (information brought to public trough Vikerraadio radio-show „Päevakaja“ 27.07.2015)
  • Project closing seminar 26.04.2015 in Tallinn


  • Beaver population in Pärlijõgi river will be held in minimum level with continuing beaver hunting (all year hunting permission).
  • New obstacles and beaver dams, that will occur in Pärlijõgi river and are considered as a negative impact for FPM host fish or species itself, will be removed by volunteers of Estonian Fund for Nature (co-operating with Estonian Environmental Board) or by Environmental Board as a nature conservation work.
  • Status of ecological conditions in Pärlijõgi river is planned to monitor and future activities are planned, to improve FPM juveniles microhabitat quality.
  • Active work with local landowners and community members is continuing and publicity awareness about species condition will be kept updated with news in Environmental Board webpage and with popular-scientific magazines articles.

Beaver population minimizing

  • Main problem beaver dams
  • First estimation 100 beavers before project activities
  • In 2016 population estimation 10 beavers
  • Beaver hunting continuing after the project

Beaver dams removal

  • Difficult to carry out, because of fine sediments
  • Carried out in miinimum water level period (June-August)
  • In upstream parts beaver dams removing possible also in autumn period

Additional information: Aimar Rakko (

5. Development cooperation project with the Natural Conservation Agency of Georgia

Management of national network of protected areas and practical cooperation on nature conservation. The purpose of the project is to introduce the organisation of the administration and management of Estonian protected areas, reflect some specific organisation aspects in detail and introduce cooperation possibilities in the field of nature conservation in the future. Additional information: Tarvo Roose (

6. BECOSI: Benchmarking on Contaminated Sites

The purpose of the project is to exchange information and experiences with the countries participating in the project (Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Sweden) by increasing cooperation in the Central Baltic Region for better management of the contaminated sites. Another purpose is to make the Baltic Sea Region a more environmentally friendly and sustainable place by decreasing the impact of hazardous substances. Additional information:; Kadri Haamer (

7. Natureship - Integrated planning and management in the Baltic Sea Region

In the frames of international cooperation, skills on how to use old archive materials to plan nature conservation in the coastal areas are brought to Estonia. In Estonia, there is not enough information on how to ensure a favourable state of coastal lagoons. In the course of the project, studies are conducted and wording to describe and ensure favourable state of coastal lagoons as Natura habitat is obtained. In addition, the impact of various acts on the planning of coastal areas is studied. Additional information: Kaja Lotman (

8. Tuned nature management in transboundary area of Estonia and Latvia

The purpose of the project is to prepare a strategy in the frames of transboundary cooperation of Estonia and Latvia in the project area for common nature conservation activity. In the areas near the borders, inventories of key species and communities of the areas are carried out based on common methodology. In the course of the project, restoration works in the habitats of wood grouse, wooded meadows and habitats of great snipe are planned to be conducted. Also, technical means to sustainably maintain the restored areas in the future are improved. Additional information:; Eleri Laidma (

9. Dragonlife

The purpose of the project is to protect and preserve the population of yellow-spotted whiteface and common spadefoot toad in the northern border of the range in Estonia and Denmark. Additional information:

10. LIFE-BaltCoast (Rehabilitation of the Baltic Coastal Lagoon Habitat Complex)

The purpose of the project is to protect and restore the habitats of coastal lagoons of the Baltic Sea in Estonia, Sweden, Lithuania, Poland and Germany, 34 areas in total. Additional information:

11. DEVEPARK (Sustainable historic park management and development in Finland and Estonia)

The purpose of the project is to support transboundary cooperation of Estonia and Finland in the development and management of historic parks, including to support the use of the parks through better informing and inclusion of interests groups and introducing the parks as an attractive historic natural and cultural heritage. Additional information: Inge Kiisler (

12. Organisation of river habitat protection in the Natura 2000 areas of Ida-Viru County

The purpose of the project is to organise the protection of species and habitats related to the watercourses in the special conservation areas of Ida-Viru County determined by the Natura 2000 network. The project focuses on the organisation of the protection of the special conservation areas upstream and downstream of the Narva River and the Tagajõe, Pühajõe, Padajõe and Avijõe Rivers. Additional information: Maret Vildak (

13. Back to nature (Elaborating joint tools for environmental education as efficient mean of management of protected areas)

The purpose of the project is to support transboundary cooperation of Estonia and Latvia through environmental education in wetlands. Additional information: Maris Kivistik (

14. Development of data-modelling system and the decision support tool for the integrated marine and inland water management

The general purpose of the project is to from a system that can use various models for modelling processes related to the sea and the surface water of the land. The realisation of the project helps to organise the protection of bodies of water and improve the availability of information related to bodies of water, including information related to the state, load and measures. Competent authorities have the possibility to use information operatively in making various decisions which in turn ensures savings of work time. Additional information: Kristiina Välik (

15. Parks & Benefits - Generating socio-economic effects by a sustainable management of protected areas for the benefit of their regions

The purpose of the project is to strengthen local cooperation network to which accommodation and catering undertakings, local people, guides, organisers of boat and canoe trips, local societies and fishermen are included. This is done to liven the economic environment of the region, improve availability of protected areas and increase interest in the nature reserves and its products. The project is carried out in Matsalu National Park and in its vicinity. Additional information: Nele Sõber (

16. Project Water bodies without borders (WBWB)

WBWB is a Estonian-Latvian joint project concerning common waterbodies. The overall objective of the project is to implement close cooperation between the Estonian and Latvian authorities involved in the River Basin Management Planning to improve efficiency of management of the common water bodies. The cooperation will aim to updating joint assessments for the trans-boundary water bodies of Gauja/Koiva and Salaca/Salatsi river basins, taking into account outputs of relevant previous cooperation (i.e. the EST-LAT Gauja/Koiva project), to developing joint monitoring program and revising programs of measures, to exchanging knowledge and good practices on relevant issues for efficient water management. Environmental Board is responsible for the work package about programme of measures. Additional information: Elina Leiner (
More information on project webpage 

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