Puhtu-Laelatu Nature Reserve
Puhta-Laelatu Nature Reserve is situated on the lowlands of Western Estonia and is characterised by a disjunct coastline, shallow bays and islets. The area of the nature reserve is 3,058 ha, from which approximately 1,980 ha is under water – 150 ha of shallow coastal lakes and 1,830 ha of sea area.
The purpose of the nature reserve is to protect, restore and preserve the diversity of wildlife and the suitable habitats of protected species – natural and semi-natural communities. The coastal sea rich in islets offers favourable stopping points and nesting areas for migratory birds. On Puhtu peninsula, there is a species-rich broad-leaved deciduous forest that has evolved from a former park. One of the most species-rich meadow communities in Europe has formed in Laelatu due to traditional land use. Coastal meadows, overgrown loughs and former wooded pastures also increase the biodiversity.
There are internationally important areas in the nature reserve: the Ramsar site of Puhtu-Laelatu-Nehatu, both the Väinameri area of conservation and hosting birds as well as the Väinameri Sea that is an area of the Helsinki Convention but also an important bird area (IBA) belong to the Natura 2000 network.
There is a biology station, a research facility of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, that was founded on the islet of Puhtu in 1953 at the instigation of Professor Eerik Kumari. Laelatu Biology Station operates as a collaboration between the University of Tartu and the Estonian University of Life Sciences on the wooded meadow of Laelatu since 1985. It offers new opportunities for researching the rare communities of the wooded meadow.