MAES-related developments in Estonia

Over 100 (mainly pilot) MAES-related works and studies have been completed in Estonia since the late 1990s. These MAES case studies cover different ecosystem types, and also comprise of economic valuations of the forest ecosystem services (e.g. Järvselja primeval protected forest – several studies conducted in 2012–2015) and Estonian bogs (e.g. Kuresoo bog – several studies conducted in 2011–2013), contingent valuation studies of shores in natural condition in Estonia (2012) and Estonian semi-natural grasslands (2015).

An initiative to start the country-wide mapping and assessment of the state of the main ecosystems and their priority services was commenced under the project ELME (Establishment of tools for integrating socioeconomic and climate change data into assessing and forecasting biodiversity status, and ensuring data availability). This project is led by the Estonian Environment Agency and co-funded by the European Union Cohesion Fund and the foundation Environmental Investment Centre.

As a first step, the road map (action plan) for national scale MAES in Estonia was completed in the course of the project in the beginning of 2018.

At the end of 2018, a public contract to establish a methodological basis for country-wide assessment and mapping of the state of four ecosystem types (grasslands, forests, wetlands, and agro-ecosystems) and their services, and to conduct assessment and mapping of these, was awarded. Circa 75 priority ecosystem services (CICES classification) in total, as designated in the road map, will be the basis from which the ones to be assessed and mapped will be chosen. Methodologies will be developed by scientists and agreed with stakeholders; biophysical (spatially explicit) country-wide as well as regional assessments will be created which will included the creation of spatially explicit maps. This national scale MAES for four mainland ecosystem types will be completed by the end of 2020.

The preliminary methodology for MAES of marine and inland water ecosystems was worked out during the project “Development of methods for assessment and mapping of ecosystem services of marine and inland waters” that was conducted in 2014–2015 in Estonia and was co-funded by the EEA and Norway Grants.

In 2019, in the framework of the marine spatial planning process, selected marine ecosystem services are to be modelled, assessed and mapped in the course of ELME project. The MAES results will be integrated with the results from an economic impact model of marine areas being developed under the management of the Ministry of Finance that is responsible for the marine spatial planning process.

In 2018, a spatial and juridical analysis of Estonian green infrastructure as it has been implemented so far in the county-wide spatial plans and comprehensive plans according to the Planning Act, was conducted in the course of the project ELME. The step-by-step guidelines for planners for enhancing green network (and taking into account the multifunctional nature of ecosystem services) in the course of updating the comprehensive plans (over 50 under way in Estonia after the administrative reform) were completed.

A pilot EUROSTAT project “Compilation of land accounts relevant for ecosystem services account and valuation of grassland ecosystem services” is to be carried out in 2019 in Estonia. Compilation of land accounts data relevant for ecosystem services accounts and the compilation of ecosystem services supply and use tables for grassland ecosystem would be the first stage in applying UN SEEA EEA principles for a valuation of ecosystem services and setting these in a wider context of System of National Accounts. The lead role is taken by Statistics Estonia. Service account in monetary terms will be based on evaluation of ecosystem services in physical terms. Evaluation of ecosystem services in physical terms will be a joint effort with the project ELME.

The governmental national scale MAES-related initiatives (national MAES project ELME, the EUROSTAT natural resource accounts project, marine spatial planning process, etc.) are carried out in synergy with the other relevant actions linking the respective results and derivatives, including developed methodologies, (web) planning and information dissemination tools, data layers, maps and tables with valuations, guidelines, etc.) to be later comprehensively integrated into decision-making processes (environmental impact assessment, strategic environmental assessment, spatial planning, development plans of different sectors, national accounting, etc.).

Just a few of the examples on the related actions Estonia has participated in are the EU Horizon 2020 projects PEGASUS and ESMERALDA, different LIFE and Interreg projects, etc. Two examples of the MAES-related LIFE projects are the following.

LIFE Viva Grass (“Integrated planning tool to ensure viability of grasslands”, 2014–2019), a project focusing on grasslands provided ways of embedding the concept of ecosystem services into decision making processes for better agricultural land management. A web tool to support ecosystem and their services based decision-making process and considering socio-economic factors impacting nature conservation policy was developed during the project. Experience obtained from this project is applicable in the other ongoing MAES works in Estonia.

LIFE UrbanStorm (“Development of sustainable and climate resilient urban storm water management systems for Nordic municipalities”, 2018–2023) is dealing with urban ecosystems and nature-based solutions 

The governmental leader of the MAES works is the Estonian Environment Agency (contact person: ELME project manager Madli Linder,, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment (contact person: Merit Otsus, Other collaborators are: Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Rural Affairs, Agricultural Board, Statistics Estonia, Environmental Board, Environmental Inspectorate, Estonian University of Life Sciences, University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, Hobikoda OÜ, Hendrikson & Ko, Baltic Environmental Forum Estonia, etc.