Our Biosphere Reserve

The Archipelago Sea biosphere reserve was established in 1994 and consists of the Archipelago Sea National Park and the parts of the archipelago that belong to the town of Pargas and the municipality of Kimitoön. This means the islands of Houtskär, Korpo, Nagu and Iniö as a whole, and parts of Pargas, Dragsfjärd, Västanfjärd and Kimito.

The biosphere reserve has more than 3500 inhabitants, of which about 360 live on smaller islands without a road ferry. The population is mainly Swedish-speaking, and the average age is relatively high, compared to the rest of the country. There are many part-time inhabitants in the area, and it is becoming more common to use the well-equipped holiday home as a second home. Tourism has doubled since the turn of the millennium and is steadily increasing.

OUR STORY – the making of a biosphere reserve

The culture of the archipelago has always been characterized by the sea and the islands. The landscape has been affected by livestock grazing on the islands for centuries, which has kept them free from denser vegetation. Cultural landscapes have a high biodiversity. Even today, the archipelago is one of the most species-rich areas in Finland.

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After World War II, the archipelago’s population and economy underwent major changes. Agriculture evolved from small-scale and self-sufficient to large-scale and market-controlled, which did not suit the scattered archipelago landscape. Ferry traffic in the area expanded, but despite better communications, the island population declined sharply, especially on the smallest islands. When population and land use decreased, so did biodiversity. The state of the sea has also significantly deteriorated, due to the release of nutrients from both agriculture and society.

In the 1970s, solutions were sought to preserve the rich nature of the archipelago. As a result, the Archipelago National Park was founded in 1983. The elder-flowered orchid (in Swedish Adam and Eve) was chosen as a symbol for managing the meadows of the archipelago, since one of the last populations was saved on the island of Jungfruskär. Today, the orchid is thriving on the island, but is otherwise rare.

Preserving the archipelago’s nature values ​​is, of course, much more than saving one plant population. A rich and diverse nature is a prerequisite for a prosperous society. The ecological, social and economic values ​​have, since the Archipelago Sea was named a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 1994, been strongly interconnected. The traditional local knowledge of the sea and the archipelago nature, as well as decades of research in the area, provides a good basis for developing sustainable solutions for the archipelago, both today and in the future.

Change is a constant, both natural changes and changes caused by man. In order to promote a viable archipelago, we must find sustainable solutions adapted to the situation today and to the future. To slow down depopulation, it is important to find new ways of working in the archipelago. The opportunities that tourism and new trends in food production bring are of great importance.

All our activities have a strong impact on the sea and its state. Everyone in the region has an influence on the condition of the Archipelago Sea and takes responsibility for their own actions and the trails they leave behind. Through collaboration, we build a sustainable society. We are all part of the biosphere!



All biosphere reserves of the world must fulfil three functions; preserve, develop and support the area in which they operate. Below is an overview of how we work within the Archipelago Biosphere Reserve. Choose “What we do” to get more information about our activities in practice!

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The biosphere reserve strives to preserve the cultural heritage of the archipelago, the diversity of nature, traditional cultural landscapes, and a healthy Archipelago Sea. A large part of the protected natural areas belong to the national park, but we also strive to preserve other areas as attractive places for living and recreation. The managing of cultural landscapes, and thus the preservation of biodiversity, is an example of activities that support both ecological and economical values. By promoting communication between universities, policy makers and local residents, we want to popularize and more effectively disseminate research on the marine flora and fauna of the Archipelago Sea.


We implement development projects that promote year-round settlement, employment, sustainable tourism and innovations and circular economy. We work for an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable development of the communities of the archipelago, where job opportunities and attractive housing are important factors. Both tourism and the food industry create new employment opportunities in the archipelago. We work for CO2 and nutrient neutral municipalities. The biosphere reserve acts as a catalyst for various development projects by bringing together people, organizations, ideas, knowledge and funding. The projects are run by various partners in the biosphere reserve, as part of the biosphere reserve’s activities.


The biosphere reserve conveys knowledge, good experience and contacts, and wants to inspire all that live and works in the Archipelago Sea to find their role in a sustainable social progress. We create and maintain networks and tools for research, education and information. We offer a neutral arena on what sustainable development is all about. This includes environmental and cultural education for children and young people, compilation of popular science information material, investigations or research projects in collaboration with the universities, discussion opportunities on current issues and dissemination of information through seminars.