In English

Estonian mires – one of the last ones in Europe


Marko Kohv stumbled upon the restoration of mires 15 years ago, after his brother suggested that he apply for the position of a project manager for the first project of its kind in Estonia. The job ad had been posted by ELF (Estonian Fund for Nature). Now, he is a mire restoration expert in ELF and his professional work as a geologist is done secondary to his job.

Marko sums up the development of mires with a simple example: “It is interesting how the meaning of mires has changed over time. Start from classical Estonian literature – in Tammsaare’s Truth and Justice, the mire was seen as an enemy, impossible to defeat even through hard work. In Soviet times, we used to have fields with impressive signs at their edges, saying that this used to be a mire, now it is a grain field. And now, the symbol of Estonia is a mire, dotted with bog pools and admired both by the locals and the visitors.”

Since mires are not suitable for living, people can only use them after they have drained the land, after which the land is used for agriculture or forestry. “The percentage of wetlands has decreased dramatically in Europe and across the world. The situation is particularly dire in Western Europe, which contains no wetlands at all. This has caused significant changes in water management and flooding has become a big problem. Water passes through wetlands quite slowly, but through canals it flows relatively quickly. Mires cleanse the water, animals and plants consume the materials littering the water and in times of drought, mires provide additional water for the rest of the landscape,” explains Marko.

Excavators working for restoration

On the day of the chat between Marko and I, the excavators are sent to work for the purposes of restoring the mires. Approximately 5 000 ha of mires have already been restored, but there are enough funds for the restoration of 20 000 ha of swamps and 2 000 ha of old peat extraction sites.

Marko describes why the restoration of Estonian mires is so special: “We’ve got great communication between the voluntary sector, researchers and the state, which is quite unusual. As a result, we have a national nature conservation development plan, which states the goals in terms of hectares of mires to be restored. Most of the restoration works are carried out in protected mires, where the aim is to neutralize the harm done in earlier times (i.e. draining of the mires). Those mires are chosen in such a way that the works would be carried out on the most valuable areas where everything has been preserved as a whole. I am not aware of any comparable plans in any other states.”

Webpage: Estonian Fund for Nature

Cover photo: Sven Zacek

Why this story matters?

Inevitably, we change the ecosystems we are a part of through our presence – but we can make choices that either affirm diversity or devalue it. Biodiversity delivers multiple services from local to global levels, while responses to biodiversity loss range from emotional to utilitarian. Well-managed protected areas support healthy ecosystems, which in turn keep people healthy.

The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. 

Read more about SDG 15 – Life on Land

This publication has been produced with the financial support from the Nordic Council of Ministers. The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of the coordinators of this project and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Nordic Council of Ministers.


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Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation (AKÜ) is an independent not-for-profit coalition of non-governmental organisations that work in the field of development cooperation, global citizenship education or sustainable development.

AKÜ is a strategic partner for Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a consultant the state in field of development cooperation, global citizenship education or sustainable development.

AKÜ also provides workshops and consultancy for private sector companies as well as for wider public on sustainable development goals and global issues. 

The highest decision-making body is the General Assmebly.  AKÜ’s legal representative is the Board, which is also responsible for managing the organisation’s staff. 

MTÜ Arengukoostöö Ümarlaud (AKÜ)

Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation

Telliskivi 60a/3, 10412, Tallinn


Agne Kuimet – member of management board, agne@terveilm.ee