Tallinn intends to create a protected area in Haabersti

The Tallinn City Government is preparing to initiate the establishment of the Astangu-Mäeküla protected area in the Haabersti district. A public presentation of the concept of the conservation area will be held on Tuesday 10 May at 17.30 at the Astangu Vocational Rehabilitation Centre at Astangu 27, where residents are invited to participate and express their ideas.

Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vladimir Svet explained that the discussion will provide an overview of the location and natural values of the future protected area, as well as the process of its designation. "The local conservation area is planned to be formed on an area of more than 162 hectares, which, according to various wildlife surveys, is one of the most biodiverse areas in Tallinn," said Svet. "According to the expert assessment, this is a unique core area of natural assets of vital importance to the city, with value for recreation and outdoor sports as well as for foraging and nature education. Add to this the cultural and historical value of the many heritage sites and there is no reason to doubt that the Astangu-Mäeküla area deserves to be protected and preserved in its present form." 

According to Oleg Siljanov, Head of the Haabersti district, an expert study on the justification of the protected area has been commissioned, which concluded that the area is a valuable natural community at the municipal level. "This means that the Astangu-Mäeküla area contains combinations of natural species and habitats that are either not found elsewhere in the city or are very rare, and whose preservation would not be possible without protection," he explained.

Siljanov added that the expertise also identified unique and valuable natural communities with habitats and breeding sites of protected and rare species within Tallinn. "The area is the most important bat roosting site in Estonia and one of the most important bat hibernation sites. In addition, it is the richest and best-preserved habitat for amphibians, reptiles, bumblebees and butterflies in the city, and the largest and most diverse habitat for breeding birds and wild animals. Over 20 hectares are home to one of the city's most extensive alvar communities, alder bogs and groves, as well as several endangered plant species. So there is every justification for protecting the area," said Siljanov. 

The next step is to initiate the procedure for the local protection of the Astangu-Mäeküla area by means of a regulation of the city, followed by a public display and a public consultation. The Tallinn City Council needs to adopt the decision on the local protection of the site.

The proposal to establish a national nature reserve in the area was made by the Estonian Environmental Board in 2010. Eight years later, the Ministry of the Environment and the Environmental Board decided to abandon the plan to establish a nature reserve and to create a species protection site on the small area to protect species of protection categories I and II. The decision was implemented in June 2021, but only the category II bat hibernation sites and three category I and II plant species were protected. In March 2021, a proposal for the establishment of the Astangu-Mäeküla local protection area, signed by 45 citizens, was submitted to Tallinn City Government. From May to October 2021, an expert assessment of the justification of the proposal was carried out on behalf of the Tallinn Urban Environment and Public Works Department.

So far, three local protected areas have been established in Tallinn: Pääsküla bog (2013), Merimetsa green area (2017) and Harku forest (2021). There are also a number of protected sites in the city. National and local protected areas cover almost one fifth of Tallinn's area. NATURA 2000 sites cover 7.2% of Tallinn's land area.

In Estonia, 64 species belonging to protection category I are rare and endangered with extinction due to human activities and occur in a small number of habitats (see list of species in protection categories I and II). A species protection site is a protected area designated to protect the habitats and breeding sites of endangered species, with the optimum size of the area subject to the restrictions necessary for the conservation of the species.