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.

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. On total, the estimated area of WKHs in Estonia is about 40.000 ha. 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. The yearly timber harvesting has increased from 4,5 million cubic meters in 2008 to 12,7 million cubic meters in 2018.

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 register and protect as many Woodland Key Habitats in Estonia as possible before it’s too late.


  • To find, describe and protect at least 10.500 ha (85% of the identified but unregistered yet sites) Woodland Key Habitats in commercial forests and limited conservation zones in Estonia.

  • To improve general knowledge and environmental education about WKHs.


  • Trainings for field work experts
  • Inventory of Woodland Key Habitats. On pre-selected sites need fieldworks are carried out by trained experts 
  • Raising awareness on the importance of WKHs: publicity and media work
  • Seminars for administrative, political and private stakeholders 

Long-term effect:

Long term effect will be to improve the old-growth forest conservation and preserve the forest biodiversity in Estonia. 




Estonian Naturalist´s Society (LUS)


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

Project region 


Project duration 

2018-08-01 – 2022-02-28


total project budget: €348,118
funding BaltCF: €304,510