Natural Features of Kvarken Archipelago Nature Reserve

De Geer moraines. Photo: Seppo Lammi
Nature in the Kvarken World Heritage Site adapts to constant changes. Land uplift is shaping this maritime archipelago at a world-record pace.

Taking care of nature


UNESCO World Heritage Site 

Due to its geological features, Kvarken was included in UNESCO's World Heritage List as Finland's first natural heritage site in 2006. Together with Sweden's High Coast, it forms the World Heritage Site entitled High Coast - Kvarken Archipelago.
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De Geer moraines – fresh marks of the Ice Age

Nature Changes Quickly due to Land Uplift 

In the Kvarken area, land is emerging from the sea at world-record speed, roughly 8 mm per year! In addition, Kvarken Archipelago boasts unique moraine formations shaped by the Ice Age, such as De Geer moraines and islands that have mighty boulder fields. 
The archipelago keeps changing due to land uplift. Before long, forests start to grow on the land that has been exposed from the sea. These kinds of forests are rare, so Finland bears a special responsibility for their protection. Grazing and mowing have shaped the landscape on the islands. Still today, some of the seaside meadows, heaths and wooded pastures are kept open by grazing. Read more about the natural features of Kvarken (
The land uplift. Photo: Seppo Lammi

Washboard Moraines

The landscape of the Kvarken Archipelago is dominated by various kinds of moraine fields that continue on the seabed. In front of the old fishing harbour of Svedjehamn, you will see De Geer moraines, which are also called washboard moraines. They consist of 5-metre-high, 10-50-metre-wide and 100-metre-long moraine ridges. The moraine ridges were developed during the Ice Age, under the ice sheet parallel to the edge of the ice. Read more about moraines. ( 

Finland's National Landscape

The Kvarken Archipelago is one of Finland's national landscapes. The landscape in the archipelago villages is characterised by well preserved buildings, fields lined by stone fences and forests shaped by mowing.De Geer morains in Svedjehamn. Photo: Seppo Lammi

Bodback. Photo: Jouni Kannonlahti/Vaasan yliopisto

Flads – Fish Nurseries

The shallow bays gradually close up into flads, which are almost closed bays, which still have, however, regular contact with the sea. The flads gradually change into gloe lakes, into which sea water only enters sporadically during the time of high water. Both plants and animals thrive in the shallow flads: the water warms up quickly, there are plenty of nutrients and the environment is sheltered. During the spring, thousands of pikes, perches and roaches ascend into them in order to spawn. The small fish fry grow quickly and during the late summer, they move to the water areas that are located in front of the flads. Read more about the flads and the gloe lakes (
Pike. Photo: Pekka Tuuri.

Grey seals love whitefish

Kvarken Archipelago is home to grey seals and smaller Baltic ringed seals. As regards their conservation status, the grey seal is the least concern and the Baltic ringed seal is vulnerable. 
Both species can be spotted in almost all parts of the Kvarken Archipelago. The grey seal, which is much more common than the Baltic ringed seal, is rather fearless and rests on rocks in the outer archipelago. They often follow boats and curiously lift their heads up above the water surface. 
Grey seal. Photo: Pekka Mäkynen
The grey seal and the Baltic ringed seal chiefly eat Baltic herring, but the grey seal, in particular, also eats whitefish and salmon, which irritates fishermen. The three-spined stickleback, which is small but contains a great deal of fat, is also important nutrition for the Baltic ringed seal.
The Kvarken Archipelago World Heritage Site has a special seal reserve. ( 

Neither Saline nor Freshwater

Kvarken is also unique because of its brackish water. Brackish water is not as saline as the water in oceans, but it is more saline than freshwater. Brackish water is home to plants and animals that thrive in saline water and freshwater.

A bird paradise all year round

During the spring, thousands of birds passing the Kvarken Archipelago continue their journey, either to the north to the Arctic Ocean or to the fell areas of Norway and Sweden.The migrating white-tailed eagle, rough-legged buzzard, greylag goose, velvet scoter, common scoter and divers are an integral part of the spring in the Kvarken area. 
The rocky archipelago and the shallow bays (created by land uplift) provide good nesting conditions for archipelago birds. The razorbill  and the black guillemot nest in holes between rocks. The dufted duck and the velvet scoter  nest on grasslands, and the arctic tern and the mew gull nest openly on rocks and on seaside meadows.
The white-tailed eagle, which is Finland's largest bird of prey, nests on the crowns of spruces, pines and birches in the Kvarken Archipelago. 
Black Guillemot. Photo: Seppo Lammi
Many small birds nest in the forests growing on the land that has been exposed from the sea.  Kvarken is, particularly, known for its woodpeckers: Finland's largest, smallest and most rare woodpecker species nest in the area. The far-reaching drumming of black woodpeckers, the high-pitched cry of lesser spotted woodpeckers  and the quiet knocking of white-backed woodpeckers  are frequently heard in the seaside forests in spring. 
During the autumn, migrating waterfowl rest in the shelter of the Kvarken Archipelago. The whooper swan  and the mute swan  remain until the sea is covered by ice.
During the winter, Kvarken is quiet, but when you go to seaside forests, you may hear the calls of titmice  and goldcrests as well as the knocking of great spotted woodpeckers. Old white-tailed eagles do not leave their nesting areas, and during mild winters, young white-tailed eagles also remain in the Kvarken area. 
White-tailed Eagle. Photo: Ari Valkola.

Nature protection at Kvarken Archipelago


Videos about High Coast/Kvarken Archipelago

World Heritage Site High Coast/Kvarken Archipelago  (

Publications of Kvarken archipelago (

Other Webpages 
Song of Kvarken: Bothnian Bay (


The High Coast and the Kvarken Archipelago

The High Coast is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Municipalities: Kramfors and Örnsköldsvik in Sweden, and Korsholm, Korsnäs, Malax, Vaasa and Vörå in Finland.


  • The High Coast: 140,000 hectares, of which 60,000 ha are land areas
  • Kvarken Archipelago: 194,400 hectares, of which 29,300 ha are land areas