58.5794° N • 23.2669° E

Horse-riding through a unique landscape on Muhu Island

Ever heard of Alvar? It’s the name for a very special type of “prairie-like” landscape. Luna and Achilleas got a chance to discover it riding on horseback. Watching their video, you could think they changed route and ended up in the American Wild West. But this is the Baltic Route, Estonia, and more particularly Muhu Island, a beautiful place which is close to the heart of Suzy, our Estonian Road Trip traveller from the Danube Route, who showed them around on this occasion.

You may know a place and still be partly unaware of what is happening there. On Muhu and in several other locations, an impressive job is being done to restore the Alvar grasslands, as part of the EU funded LIFE to Alvars project. For this very special, semi-natural habitat to be happy and healthy, you need a fine balance between land management and nature conservation. If this habitat is left to itself without grazing animals, it gets overgrown with bushes and trees – which, in turn, has a negative effect on biodiversity. By the mid-1980s, the situation was near catastrophic: most of this unique biosphere (one third of all European Alvar is to be found in Estonia) was threatened.

Today, thanks to the restoration efforts, the results are impressive. As our travellers learned from project manager Bert, the work is done with the local farmers, who are involved in the long-term management of the sites and who in turn draw additional benefits from the marketing of their local products (Muhu meat, wool, timber, etc.) Just like cattle and sheep, horses are used for grazing the grasslands, thereby contributing to… ride to their rescue). And a restored landscape means more happy visitors, such as Achilleas, Luna, and their special host Suzy, enjoying the beauty of the site, the many rare plants, butterflies, and birds.

Learn more about the exemplary LIFE to Alvars which won a Natura 2000 Award in 2018!  

See also

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Baltic Route / Week 3

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