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West-Estonian archipelago biosphere reserve

The core idea of the Biosphere programme is to develop the region as a model of local sustainable development. Monitoring, research and education focusing on protection and sustainable use of natural resources are seen as the main basis for development of strategies and methods to ensure the continuity of the region’s natural and cultural assets.

One of the main objectives of the Biosphere programme is to work out an example that effectively links conservation to development, to present a model of a harmonious relationship between man and nature, where fitting the needs of the community within the nature’s limits becomes essential.

The best acknowledgment of the Biosphere programme has been the quality mark/label awarded to the area. Air, water and food quality are the benchmark of the quality of our daily lives. This has been both a recognition and a guideline for the future. The challenge is to maintain the quality of natural environment while providing the local people with the opportunity of ongoing development, respectfully binding together the local cultural and natural heritage.

It is our duty to preserve the quality of this natural heritage with minimum losses for the future generations of the Archipelago’s inhabitants.

The West Estonian Archipelago biosphere reserve area belongs to the Northern Temperate Zone’s mixed forest zone. First and foremost the archipelago is a prime example of  ecosystems that have been formed over the last 10,000 years.

Examples of typical land forms are accumulative marine plains, abrasional limestone plains, glacial and glaciofluvial hummocks and ridges, coastal terraces and ridges and dunes. The reserve comprises several nature protection areas, protected landscapes as well as the Vilsandi National Park.

The archipelago is a complex system of marine and coastal habitats. The thousands of waterfowl and waders that migrate through, nest, rest or moult here depend on these habitats. The biodiversity of the area is closely linked to historical land use – mowing and cattle grazing have created semi-natural meadows which are now characteristic to the area. Both more intensive exploitation and abandonment have resulted in problems since nature conservation is intrinsically connected to resource management. Active management is required to secure favourable ecological conservation results. Rather unique landscape features of the area are the semi-natural coastal limestone meadows covered in juniper shrubs, and coastal grasslands.

The ’development zone’ is an area which is combined of residential areas, agricultural land, timber forests, quarries, harbours and small-scale industrial zones.

Look at the brochure biosphere reserve (10.86 MB, PDF) (10.86 MB, PDF)and Periodic review 2015 (1.42 MB, PDF)

Additional information:

Biosphere reserve. The islands of the sea - safeguarded environment


Estonian folkdance. Photo: Toomas Kokovkin


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