The UNESCO biosphere reserves are unique areas in the world, where visitors can meet true nature, taste food laden with local natural power and enjoy art inspired by nature.
The West Estonian Archipelago is a part of the global UNESCO network.
The biodiversity that you see at almost every step on the West Estonian islands is not the only reason for coming here. Our islands are home to very special people – several different kinds of islanders, each with their own language and wisdom. They know how to live on their island home in a way that ensures the riches of nature will also be there in the future.
The local residents have passed their knowledge and skills on from generation to generation and they know how to survive in every situation. This primeval wisdom must be preserved and valued, as those centuries of experience help us leave the world in a better condition for future generations.
People on the islands have lived in harmony with nature for centuries. Constant human activity has shaped a mosaic of landscapes, valuable alvars, including rare juniper alvars, and wide open coastal pastures, where sheep, horses and cows enjoy the mineral rich nutrients washed ashore by the sea, while hundreds and hundreds of bird species have settled in these safe conditions.
Every island in the West Estonian Archipelago is a world in itself, inviting discovery. While on Saaremaa the stone walls seem endless, the northern coast of Hiiumaa is covered with endless dunes. Vormsi and Ruhnu surprise visitors with their Swedish cultural heritage and Muhu is just a wonderful island, where women wear the most beautiful folk dress in the world. The cosmos has also touched these special islands. The 455 million year old Kärdla meteorite crater, which is 4 km across, still supplies us with healthy artesian water. The significantly younger and smaller Kaali crater on Saaremaa is the heart of the Island Geopark.
This is why the West Estonian Archipelago was recognised by UNESCO 31 years ago and the West Estonian islands were included in the global network of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme.
For fifty years, the areas included in the UNESCO MAB Programme have been used to find local solutions to global problems. The programme is focused on preserving biodiversity and expanding its global network of functioning sustainable development models. Today, the network comprises 714 biosphere reserves in 129 countries, which make up 5% of the land area of the Earth.
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