Sixth National Report
Section I. Information on the targets being pursued at the national level
People are familiar with, appreciate and conserve nature and know how to use their knowledge in their daily lives
The Nature Conservation Development Plan (hereinafter the NCDP) is a strategic base document for the development of sectors related to the conservation and use of nature until 2020. The plan sets three strategic goals of the development plan:
- People are familiar with, appreciate and conserve nature and know how to use their knowledge in their daily lives.
- The favourable conservation status of species and habitats and diversity of landscapes is ensured and habitats are functioning as a coherent ecological network.
- Long-term sustainability of natural resources is ensured and the principles of the ecosystem approach are followed in the use of natural resources.
The development plan is in line with the Global Biodiversity Strategy of the Biodiversity Convention and the ensuing biodiversity strategy of the European Union (hereinafter EU) and its ten-year target: halting the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restoring them insofar as possible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss. The NCDP is also in line with the Estonian national sustainable development strategy Sustainable Estonia 21 and the Estonian Environmental Strategy 2030 and contributes to achieving their nature conservation objectives.
The government coalition programme has set the objective of developing a responsible attitude towards nature in people and maintaining a clean and biologically diverse living environment supporting the sustainability of the nation; special emphasis is to be laid on developing a sustainable public attitude towards nature and on prudent use of earth resources. The goals of the NCDP are in line with the principles of the above programme.
The goals of the development plan will be achieved through enhancing the nature-awareness of people, through effective conservation management, through ensuring the availability and update of nature information, and through establishing conditions for long-term sustainability of natural resources.
To achieve the goals, the development plan specifies measures and activities, which will constitute an input for budgeting the necessary funds and a basis for drawing up an operational programme.
The Government of the Republic, by its Order No 499 of December 11, 2008, appointed the Ministry of the Environment as the ministry responsible for drawing up the NCDP, appointing the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Ministry of Education and Research, Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Finance to participate in the process. Representatives of NGOs, researchers and other interested parties were also involved in drawing up the NCDP.
An inter-agency management group was established for drawing up the development plan, incorporating specialists from different institutions: representatives of the Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Education and Research, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as representatives from NGOs, the Academy of Sciences, the Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce, the Estonian Association of Cities, and the Association of Municipalities of Estonia (16 members in total). The management group coordinated the work of working groups and the drafting of the development plan.
The draft NCDP was published on the public participation website osale.ee from July 24 to August 25, 2009. It was also sent to the heads of working groups for drafting the initial version of the NCDP (to 2035) for their proposals. The draft was also sent for comments to the Central Union of Estonian Farmers and the Estonian Farmers Federation, the Estonian Naturalists’ Society, the Private Forest Union, and the Forest and Wood Industries Association. Various topics were consulted with experts from the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the Estonian Soil Science Society, the Estonian Hunters’ Society, the Private Forest Union, etc.
The final version of the Nature Conservation Development Plan was drawn up with active participation of NGO representatives from the Estonian Council of Environmental NGOs, the Estonian Nature Conservation Society, Wildlife Estonia, as well as Tallinn Zoo, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Estonian Heritage Society.
The draft Nature Conservation Development Plan was introduced to the public from March 27 to April 18, 2012 on the public participation website www.osale.ee and coordinated with other ministries through the drafts information system (EIS).
Many different strategies and development and action plans are directly or indirectly concerned with nature conservation. The most important of these are listed below:
The UN Millennium Development Goals (2000), which establish the obligation of ensuring the sustainability of the natural environment, are directly linked with the goals of the Nature Conservation Development Plan.
The Estonian National Strategy on Sustainable Development “Sustainable Estonia 21” (2005) is a base document for the NCDP, providing general development guidance for nature conservation.
The Environmental Strategy until 2030 (2007) and its operational programme “Environmental Action Plan 2007–2013” set out the key development priorities for nature conservation. The NCDP 2020 builds on the general goals set out in the environmental strategy.
The Estonian Rural Development Plan 2007–2013 includes several support measures important for nature conservation, such as the Natura 2000 subsidy for maintenance of semi-natural communities, the Natura subsidy for arable land and the Natura private forest subsidy.
The Forestry Development Plan until 2020 (2011) is tightly connected with the Nature Conservation Development Plan. The NCDP addresses the issues of nature conservation, while the issues of forest management are dealt with in the Forestry Development Plan.
The most important conservation-related goal of the National Development Plan for the Use of Oil Shale 2008–2015 (2008) and the National Development Plan for Construction Minerals for 2011–2020 (2011) is reduction of environmental impact, which is also directly linked with the issues of degraded landscapes and their rehabilitation in the NCDP.
The development plan “Collection and Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in 2014–2020” is directly linked with the issue of genetic resources and their use.
The Fisheries Development Plan 2014–2020 addresses the sustainable use of fish stocks.
Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Science and Education have jointly signed an Action plan for Environmental education and awareness 2019-2022. It supports the implementation of different measures to raise environmental awareness in the school and pre-school child care institutions. The measures of nature education in the development plan are also in line with the Estonian Research and Development and Innovation Strategy 2014–2020 “Knowledge-based Estonia”.
The Competitiveness Strategy “Estonia 2020”, which describes the main policies and measures for raising the competitiveness of Estonia, envisages also the development of a methodology for valuation of ecosystem services.
The biodiversity section of the Baltic Sea Action Plan addresses the conservation of biodiversity in marine areas. The action plan is linked with the Operational Programme for the Baltic Sea Action Plan 2012-2015. These documents provide a framework for implementing the principles of the EU Baltic Sea Strategy in Estonia.
The Transport Development Plan 2014-2020 has a direct and indirect impact on the environment and includes several conservation-related goals and measures for the transport sector. The Estonian National Tourism Development Plan 2007–2013 addresses also nature tourism.
The sectoral development plan of the Ministry of Culture “Sacred Natural Sites in Estonia 2015-2020” is aimed at studying, conserving and restoring valuable landscapes and promoting the related nature education.
The goals and measures in the Renewable Energy Action Plan until 2020 (2010) are tightly connected with the conservation and use of ecosystems and mitigation of climate change and its adverse impact.
The favourable conservation status of species and habitats and diversity of landscapes is ensured and habitats are functioning as a coherent ecological network
The presence, consistency, sufficiency and coherence of naturally or semi-naturally developed habitats provide preconditions for the development and preservation of species diversity. The supra-habitat level of biological diversity is known as landscape.
The favourable conservation status of species and habitats and the diversity of landscapes are achieved in two ways – by conserving either the status or the process. The preservation of semi-natural habitats (e.g. alvars, wooded meadows) is ensured through their maintenance, while natural habitats (mires, forests, waterbodies) are conserved through ensuring their intactness as much as possible.
To maintain biodiversity and ensure the favourable conservation status of threatened species and habitats, 18% of the land area and 31% of the water area of Estonia has been designated for conservation. The primary goal of conservation management is to establish an up-to-date protection regime for all protected natural values and to achieve the specified protection objectives. The law also specifies more general restrictions that apply also outside protected areas. For example, to protect shores and banks, the Nature Conservation Act specifies restrictions on their use: limited management zones, no-construction zones and water protection zones.
Efficient conservation management of biodiversity requires sufficient up-to-date information, which provides a basis for planning management activities and assessing their efficiency. Monitoring programmes and scientific studies have been developed and applied to monitor the changes taking place in nature. The collected data need to be available to and usable by target groups. Monitoring data provide a basis for early planning of actions according to the character of predicted changes so as to avoid possible undesirable consequences.
Nature is best protected and conserved when people themselves want to and know how to conserve it. It is important to continue subsidising private owners who conserve nature on their land and contribute to the preservation of natural and semi-natural communities.
Long-term sustainability of natural resources is ensured and the principles of the ecosystem approach are followed in the use of natural resources
Biological diversity is one of the key foundations for economic and social welfare. The more there are functioning and biologically diverse ecosystems, the better we are provided with food, fuel, clean air and water and the better we are able to combat environmental pollution and climate change. With the loss of biodiversity, nature will lose its ability to provide us with various services. It is therefore essential that natural resources be used in a sustainable manner.
Natural resources are used in a sparing and sustainable manner, without compromising the achievement of a favourable conservation status of ecosystems. The use of natural resources must integrate the use and conservation of nature so that the available stock is used optimally, without causing significant damage to nature values. Renewable natural resources are to be used in such a way that their stock does not run out; non-renewable resources are used in such a way that they do not run low before we are able to replace them with other natural resources. Such long-term, sustainable and knowledge-based use of natural resources will ensure both the economic welfare and maintenance of biodiversity for the coming generations.
In using natural resources and in other human activities having an impact on the environment, it is important to consider not just the direct economic benefit but also the services provided by nature – the so-called ecosystem services (e.g. clean water, food, recreation). Activities with a significant impact on the environment, such as mining, building, or creation of infrastructures, should be planned taking into consideration the need to conserve habitats and their coherence. The principles of biodiversity conservation need to be taken into account everywhere, both in and outside protected areas.
Section II. Implementation measures, their effectiveness, and associated obstacles and scientific and technical needs to achieve national targets
Measures for the target 1) People are familiar with, appreciate and conserve nature and know how to use their knowledge in their daily lives
4 main measures:
Measure 1. Promoting nature education at all levels of education.
- efficient nature education provided through the education system: harmonising the principles and quality of providing conservation education, incorporating conservation education into learning activities at all levels of education (incl. in-service training of teaching staff, development of methodological guidelines)
- providing in-service training on the application of active learning methods to institutions/specialists providing extracurricular environmental education, developing the relevant study programmes and materials (incl. internet-based study materials); developing the nature education system
Measure 2. Effective dissemination of nature information
- disseminating relevant nature information (incl. conservation information) and raising awareness among various target groups (organising lectures and information days, publishing and distributing materials)
- extending and improving the system of recognising people and organisations deserving credit for their conservation efforts
Measure 3. Promoting and applying conservation science to achieve the objectives of practical conservation management
- Developing a system of conservation research
- Applying the system of conservation research
- Developing an in-service training system for conservation staff
Measure 4. Management of sustainable nature tourism
- Studies of the visitor load of protected natural objects
- Optimising the nature tourism infrastructure
- Raising the awareness of all tourists spending time in nature and all tourism operators
- Marking of protected areas
Most of the actions are planned as continuous.
The selection above is made on the bases of the results of the periodical survey (every 2 years) of biodiversity awareness in Estonia. Last survey was conducted in 2018. The number of nature study programmes has grown, as has the number of people participating in the different environmental education programmes, which covers nature protection and it`s connections with consumption, behaviour, sustainability etc. The number of people visiting nature trails is already exceeding the target set for 2020, and this means that the chance to enjoy outdoors is valued more and more.
The more time people spend in the wild, the more likely they know how to conserve and value nature. Good environmental education and outdoor learning improves the general knowledge about the environment. The renovation and building of nature trails have increased their usage many times, and thus had a very positive effect on awareness raising.
The main obstacles are lack of money and human resources.
Measures for the target 2) The favourable conservation status of species and habitats and diversity of landscapes is ensured and habitats are functioning as a coherent ecological network
7 main measures:
Measure 1. Ensuring the favourable conservation status of species
- Determining the conservation status of threatened and little-studied species, periodic updating of data (incl. establishing and applying a system for regular updating of the Red List)
- Implementing appropriate conservation measures for endangered species (establishing species protection sites, drawing up and implementing action plans, analysing the effectiveness of conservation management, etc.)
- Mitigating and preventing conflicts between conflict species (seals, cormorant, large carnivores, etc.) and humans
- Organising ex situ species conservation: development and application of ex situ species conservation measures as part of action plans for threatened species
- Preventing the release of invasive alien species into the wild, regulating their use, research into alien species, developing a monitoring system, developing and applying control measures (control plans)
- Organising the rehabilitation of animals in a helpless state, incl. dissemination of information, effectiveness analysis
- Ensuring the genetic diversity of species
Measure 2. Ensuring the favourable conservation status of habitats
- Restoring and maintaining semi-natural communities
- Ensuring the conservation of forest habitats (incl. further clarifying the typological representativeness of strictly protected forests, assessing and resolving deficiencies, research into the habitat requirements of old-growth forest species)
- Restoring threatened mire habitats in protected areas
- Restoring the natural state of river habitats (opening migration routes of the aquatic fauna, restoring oxbows, etc.)
- Mapping threatened marine habitat types and ensuring their protection
- Determining the conservation status of little-studied habitat types (karst lakes, heaths, petrifying springs, alluvial forests, etc.) and threatened habitat types
- Analysing the efficiency of shore and bank protection measures and applying additional measures, if necessary
- Analysing and developing ecological coherence of the habitat network, incl. developing indicators
- Planning general conservation measures for threatened habitat types: drawing up action plans for habitat types, incl. general guidance for restoration/maintenance, analysing the sufficiency of current conservation measures, prioritising areas on the basis of the importance of conservation activities
Measure 3. Ensuring landscape diversity
- Preserving landscape values
- Ensuring the preservation of protected landscapes, incl. parks
- Cleaning up littered areas and removing littering single elements
- Analysing the functioning of the green network and planning additional measures as necessary (e.g. landscape maintenance plans, the concept of areas of high nature value, developing planning guidelines taking account of biodiversity, including urban biodiversity, etc.). Implementing the EU concept of green infrastructure
Measure 4. Conservation management of natural objects
- Ensuring appropriate protection of all protected nature values (analyses of the efficiency of conservation, adjusting the protection regime, as appropriate, incl. ensuring a protection regime for Natura 2000 sites)
- Ensuring the protection of areas of high nature value (inventories, designating areas or objects for conservation)
- Selecting additional Natura 2000 sites and submitting them to the European Commission together with the relevant set of data
- Improving the impact assessment system for Natura 2000, drawing up additional guidelines and organising training
Measure 5. Ensuring the availability of nature data and storing scientific collections
- Analysis of the wildlife monitoring system (data collection mechanisms, representativeness, etc.), determining deficiencies and overlaps and elaborating the methodologies, creating and implementing an optimal monitoring network
- Consolidating data of scientific collections into a single network
- Developing databases (including spatial data) and the relevant applications, and improving technical and content interfacing
Measure 6. International cooperation to conserve biodiversity
- International cooperation in conservation research, information exchange and conservation management, incl. fulfilling the obligations undertaken under international conventions (incl. submitting new wetlands of international importance to the secretariat of the Ramsar Convention and transposing the requirements of the ASCOBANS agreement of the Bonn Convention)
- Joining the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation (ABS)
- Improving the efficiency of supervision within the framework of CITES (the Washington Convention)
- Developing and implementing the West Estonian Archipelago Biosphere Reserve Programme
Measure 7. Compensating for nature conservation restrictions and providing financial support to conservation activities
- Developing and paying Natura private forest subsidies, agricultural subsidies, maintenance subsidies for semi-natural communities and nature conservation subsidies
- Developing subsidy schemes for protected areas outside Natura 2000sites: developing and implementing measures for compensating for forest management restrictions
- Developing and implementing national economic instruments for biodiversity conservation: promoting environment-friendly agricultural practices (incl. practices supporting water protection); developing and implementing the concept of areas of high nature value and subsidy mechanisms for these areas; developing and implementing subsidy schemes for species conservation (corncrake, etc.)
- Analysing and, if necessary, improving the system of exemption from land tax
- Public purchase of protected land whose intended use is significantly limited by the protection regime of the area
- Analysing and improving the system of preventing and compensating for damage caused by species
Most of the actions are planned as continuous.
Based on the progress of measures taken, the conclusions of the Nature Development Plan report, monitoring and inventories results and inventories of habitats and species, red list assessment according to IUCN requirements, different projects, and distribution atlas of some taxonomic groups, we can assess that the measures have been effective.
Subsidies paid for Natura 2000 habitats (semi-natural grasslands, agricultural land, private-owned forest under state protection) have had a very positive effect in sustaining the naturalness of the habitats and therefore having positive effect to biodiversity.
Removing the dams from the fish migration routes and restoring the natural riverbed has improved the state of fish stocks.
Main obstacles are lack of money and human resources, and in some cases also lack of scientific knowledge and data.
measures taken for the target 3) Long-term sustainability of natural resources is ensured and the principles of the ecosystem approach are followed in the use of natural resources
7 main measures:
Measure 1. Taking account of the value of ecosystem services in the use of the environment
-developing methodologies for calculating/assessing the services from various components of biodiversity (mire, forest, meadow, inland water and marine, etc. habitats)
-assessing the base levels of the current status of ecosystem services (mires, forests, meadows, etc.)
- informing the public of the values (incl. the economic value) of and systemic relationships between ecosystem services and taking account of the values and relationships at different levels of resource use (incl. assessing and, if necessary, improving the adequacy of environmental charges)
Measure 2. Analysing the impacts of earth resource extraction causing the loss of biodiversity; developing and implementing mitigation measures
-developing and applying a methodology for determining extraction volumes for peat based on the concept of peat as a non-renewable natural resource
- developing mechanisms for motivating the rehabilitation and restoration of abandoned extraction sites in private ownership
-rehabilitating degraded ecosystems, e.g. degraded peatlands (prioritising sites to be rehabilitated, designing and implementing rehabilitation projects for cut-over peatlands, improving restoration methodologies)
- maintaining soil diversity
Measure 3. Analysing the impacts of renewable natural resources management causing the loss of biodiversity; developing and applying mitigation measures
-conserving ecosystems in commercial forests
- maintaining ecological balance between habitats and species in hunting: limiting the numbers of small carnivores (first of all alien species), minimising the negative impacts of additional feeding of game
- ensuring the favourable conservation status of the populations of large carnivores
- banning the use of lead pellets in waterfowl hunting
- restoring and qualitatively improving the spawning areas of fish; opening migratory routes and maintaining and restoring the favourable conservation status of habitats
- restoring the stocks of endangered fish species by fish farming until sufficient natural regeneration of their populations has been achieved
Measure 4. Analysing and mitigating the negative impacts of transport
-preventing pollution from transport, incl. improving and maintaining preparedness for responding to marine pollution
- drawing up a wildlife rescue plan and integrating it into the national contingency plan for marine pollution
- determining and mitigating the impact of vessels causing wave action and movement of sediments
- preventing the fragmentation of habitats and migratory routes of biota (development and integrated application of prevention, mitigation and compensation measures)
- mitigating conflicts between air traffic and the nesting and aggregation sites of birds
Measure 5. Mitigating the negative impacts of climate change on biological diversity
-ascertaining the impact of climate change on the spread of invasive species
- ascertaining the impact of climate change on the conservation status of sensitive habitats and species
- developing and applying mitigation measures contributing to the reduction of climate change impacts
Measure 6. Ensuring biological safety
- organising biosafety activities, carrying out monitoring and research, and creating the necessary preconditions
- increasing the efficiency of control of biological safety (the relevant training, guidelines, regulations)
Measure 7. Analysing the negative impacts of the use of renewable energy on biodiversity; developing and applying mitigation measures
- minimising the negative environmental impact of renewable energy (developing standard restrictions and requirements)
- applying standard restrictions, requirements and compensation mechanisms to minimise the negative environmental impact of renewable energy
- developing new technologies for the use of renewable energy in line with nature conservation objectives (for the use of grass, reed, etc.)
Based on the Nature Development Plan report, the measures have been effective, supported by the outcomes of different projects- “Development methods for assessment and mapping of ecosystem services of marine and inland waters” Author: Aija Kosk. Another project to test the same methods for the land ecosystems is currently ongoing.
Soil biodiversity is secured through the protection of different habitat types, and is supported by a regional soil protection measure.
Different compensation measures are part of the planning of major infrastructure objects (roads etc). Nature protection measures are also used for alleviating the impacts of climate change- restoration of habitats and functional network of protected areas.
The national monitoring system for endangered species, and for hunting and fishing quotas are in place.
Internationally important spawning areas restoration programme is started and restoration works are undergoing.
The removal of dams for restoration of fish migratory routes has had a positive effect for the salmon population, as the potential smolt production of restored river has increased. As the brown bear and wolf are protected species in Estonia, the current populations are among the strongest in Europe.
The main obstacles are lack of money, human resources, know-how and low awareness, in some cases, the fundamentally different political goals (economic growth vs biodiversity).
Section III. Assessment of progress towards each national target
People are familiar with, appreciate and conserve nature and know how to use their knowledge in their daily lives
1 – on track to exceed target (the target is expected to be achieved before its deadline); 2 – on track to achieve target (if things continue on this course, the target is expected to be achieved by 2020); 3 – progress towards target but at an insufficient rate (unless the efforts are increased, the target will not be met by its deadline); 4 – no significant overall progress (no overall movement neither towards or away from the target); 5 – moving aw