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About Western Estonian Islands Biosphere Reserve

The West Estonian Archipelago is a group of islands located in the Baltic Sea, separated from mainland Estonia by the Väinameri and from the Courland Peninsula by the Irbe Strait. The West Estonian Archipelago comprises nearly 900 islands (including small islets), with 55 larger than 0.1 km2. The largest islands are Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, and Muhu. The West Estonian Archipelago is Estonia's most maritime and unique part, characterized by distinctive flora and fauna. Since 1990, it has been part of the West Estonian Archipelago Biosphere Reserve, with the aim to protect the typical and species-rich natural habitats of the islands.

The Biosphere Reserve includes Estonia's largest islands – Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Muhu, and smaller inhabited islands such as Vormsi, Ruhnu, Abruka, Vilsandi, Kessu, and Kõinastu, along with the surrounding marine areas in the Baltic Sea, Väinameri, and Gulf of Livonia. Administratively, the Biosphere Reserve covers the municipalities of Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Muhu, Ruhnu, and Vormsi. The total area of the Biosphere Reserve is 15,186 km2, including approximately 4,000 km2 of land area. The Biosphere Reserve encompasses nearly a tenth of Estonia's total mainland territory.


World Biosphere Reserve areas are chosen based on their biogeographical representation and conservation value. These areas serve as pilot zones for sustainable natural resource development while being inhabited and economically utilized. The unique nature of Estonian island ecosystems in Europe and globally, is linked to their location on a carbonate bedrock, their relative youth, and their development under continuous moderate human impact conditions.

Preserving the Beauty of West Estonia Archipelago

Our Mission

Our Vision

The Western Estonian biosphere reserve is a model of balanced development, serving as a sustainable living and business environment that values natural diversity, and it serves as a breeding ground for new solutions both in Estonia and worldwide.

The Estonian MaB program has positioned the Western Estonian islands as a leading region in green economic innovation and pilot projects, where natural resources are utilized sustainably while preserving biodiversity. Communities are aware of and value the local natural diversity, ensuring the sustainability of nature's benefits through their activities. Public awareness of the principles of sustainable development is high, and all stakeholders recognize it as a functional cooperation model that supports the development of the green economy, contributing to the social and economic success of the region.

To support the development of the Western Estonian islands as an internationally significant model of sustainable development based on the principles of the UNESCO MaB program. That's why we work closely with local communities, businesses, and government agencies to promote sustainable practices and raise awareness about the importance of environmental conservation.

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