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Location

The area of Väinameri is located in Estonia, in the Eastern part of the Baltic Sea between the major islands and the mainland. The area represents a rural coastal zone with high nature values.

Area description

Extensive beaches with widespread reed areas, coastal grasslands and limestone plains represent habitats for thousands of birds, mammal species and rare plants. A shallow clean sea, where light reaches the bottom along thousands of square kilometres and which also contains a rich organic world. However, the Estonian coastal landscapes have never been all natural. Humans have inhabited the area over the last couple of centuries and have developed their agricultural activities. Grazing and mewing have always existed along the coastline.

During the second half of the twentieth century, degradation of local coastal economies has led to the degradation of many valuable habitats. The opened coastal areas like wooded meadows, limestone meadows and extensive coastal grasslands which are full of species have been overgrown by bushes. To revive these types of ecosystems, sensible management of ecosystems is needed in the first place. Several Estonian non-governmental organisations and the WWF-Sweden have initiated the Väinameri project to restore and conserve seminatural coastal ecosystems by assisting the local people in developing small-scale economies. Main areas of the project applications are in farming, handicrafts and eco-tourism. Awareness building and ecological education are also considered to be of high priority in this project.

 

 

 

Project Description

The ecotourism component is a part of a holistic approach to sustainable nature use in the area. The idea of the project is to some extent similar to the food chain concept in ecology. Local inhabitants, through their economic activities use various resources of the coastal area by changing the landscape into a more diverse state. The sustainable character of the human activities will keep the agro-environmental system in equilibrium. By assisting new practices in the coastal area, the Väinameri project will support restoration of valuable areas, but also lead to the improvement of social aspects.

 

 

Ecotourism, alongside with farming and handicrafts, provides for re-creation of the viable coastal farmers society, by creating extra income and divercification of activities.


Results of the project

The project has resulted in a significant improvement in coastal landscape management and the protection of natural values. Thousands of hectares of valuable coastal grasslands have been restored and are now managed by more than 300 high quality beef cattle and sheep. New jobs have been created in traditional handicrafts and tourism industries within the local communities. Three small businesses and several societies have been created as a result of the project.

The main result of the project is the establishment of the unformal co-operation network of actors which encompasses about 100 people.

The project has carried out the following:

2900 hectar of coastal grasslands grazed, 2800 hectar has been mowed and 110 hectar has been cleared of bushes. The project has created 7 nature study trails and 4 demonstaration sites. Also, three different ecotourism packages, which include bird-watching, botany, local handicrafts, local food and accommodation have been launched (www.arhipelaag.ee/vainameri/).

 


 


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