Woodland Key Habitats

There are up to 20.000 different species inhabiting forests in Estonia and among them, hundreds of endangered species living in old-growth forests. Forests play a crucial part in preserving river ecosystems and improving water quality. Old growth forests act also as an important carbon stock and therefore mitigate climate change. The Woodland Key Habitats (WKH) have an important role in this. WKHs are the sites, which provide ideal conditions for the existence of rare and endangered species having highly specific demands for the habitat.

The project goal is to carry out the inventory of Woodland Key Habitats in Estonia and to improve the environmental knowledge about WKHs. We plan to find, register and preserve at least 2.000 ha of new WKHs in Estonia. As a long term result we hope to improve the old-growth forest conservation and preserve the forest biodiversity in these areas.


Situation and background

First inventory of Woodland Key Habitats was held during 1999-2002 in Estonia and about 7.200 habitats in total of 20.600 ha described and registered. Up to 50% of WKHs were still not registered during the first inventory and no follow up inventories have been arranged since 2002. Forest cutting pressure has been very high since 2010 in and is raising – therefore it is urgent to register the last remaining WKHs in Estonia. Timber harvesting has  increased from 4,5 million cubic meters in 2008 up to 11,3 million cubic meters in 2016.

In state forests WKHs are automatically protected after the registration process by regulation of Ministry of Environment and by FSC certificate owned by State Forest Management Centre (RMK). On private land the protection is voluntary, but owners can sign 20 years long financially supported contracts with the state to preserve the WKHs.


Project activities and effects

Project Goal:

  • Project goal is to carry out the inventory of Woodland Key Habitats in Estonia and to improve environmental education about WKHs.


  • To find and protect at least 2.000 ha of new woodland key habitats in commercial forests and limited conservation zones in Estonia.
  • To improve general knowledge and environmental education about WKHs.


  • Inventory of woodland key habitats (WKH). Sites need to pre-select for the fieldwork, fieldwork experts need to be trained how to register the WKHs.
  • Raising awareness on the importance of WKHs. Seminars will be held, launch of a website and visibility in local media will be increased.

Long-Term Effect:

Long term effect will be to improve the old-growth forest conservation and preserve forest biodiversity in Estonia. Forests in Woodland Key Habitats have high conservation value and species richness. Project supports National Conservation and European Conservation strategies.



Estonian Naturalist´s Society (LUS)


  • Environment Agency (KAUR)
  • Environmental Board (KeA)

Project region 


Project duration 

2018-08-01 – 2021-01-31


total project budget: 238.260€
funding baltcf: 207.760€


Estonian Naturalists’ Society


Renno Nellis