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Matsalu National Park

Matsalu National Park is one of Europe's most important waterfowl feeding and resting areas between the Arctic and Western Europe. Birdwatchers from all over the world visit Matsalu every year in spring and fall. In addition to birds, the Park also protects the semi-natural habitats characteristic of Western Estonia and the cultural heritage of Väinameri Sea, such as coastal and flood meadows, alvars and wooded meadows, reed beds and small islands. In addition to eco-tourism, fishery and livestock farming are also an important source of income and way of lifestyle for Matsalu`s local communities. Due to COVID-19 restrictions a pilot SOCIAT questionnaire was distributed in 2020 online in collaboration with a research team from the Estonian University of Life Sciences. In total, 98 responses were received and 92 of them were fully completed.

Attitudes and Behaviour

  • 91.5% of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed that Matsalu National Park should be cared for and protected
  • 90% agreed or strongly agreed that Matsalu meant a lot to them
  • Respondents felt it was easy (percentage) to support the park but that they had less time, money and opportunities to engage with supporting activities
  • Almost 60% stated that they had been involved with activities supporting the National Park
  • Most frequently stated activities were public participatory meetings

Participants were asked a series of questions regarding their behaviour when using the National Park

  • 53.2% reported they stayed on designated paths ‘most of the time’
  • 29.5% of respondents reported that they kept dogs on a lead so that wildlife was not disturbed ‘most of the time’
  • 73.3 % of respondents claimed that they ‘always’ took other walkers into consideration

Social Impacts

Living inside or near the National Park has had a very positive impact for local communities in the past 5 years. The most positive impacts reported were related to a ‘sense of feeling connected to nature’, ‘quality of life’ and ‘recreation’.

Social impacts in Matsalu National Park

Social values and Trust in institutions

  • Highest level of trust was expressed for researchers and Non Governmental Organisation
  • The state government was not trusted as much by respondents.
  • Approximately 91% of the sample also mentioned that the area of Matsalu national park means a lot to them (place attachment).
  • Over 80% of the sample stated strong biospheric values
Social values of local residents in Matsalu National Park

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