261. Finland’s model in utilising forest data – Metsään.fi-website’s background, implementation and future prospects

Matti Valonen, Emmi Haltia, Paula Horne, Marjo Maidell, Sari Pynnönen, Maurizio Sajeva, Virpi Stenman, Karita Raivio, Veikko Iittainen, Kirsi Greis, Kaisa Laitinen: Finland’s model in utilising forest data – Metsään.fi-website’s background, implementation and future prospects

The aim of this study is to depict the Finnish Forest Centre’s Metsään.fi website’s background, objectives and implementation and to assess its needs for development and future prospects. The Metsään.fi-service included in the Metsään.fi-website is a free e-service for forest owners and corporate actors (companies, associations and service providers) in the forest sector, which aim is to support active decision-making among forest owners by offering forest resource data and maps on forest properties, by making contacts with the authorities easier through online services and to act as a platform for offering forest services, among other things. In addition to the Metsään.fi-service, the website includes open forest data services that offer the users national forest resource data that is not linked with personal information.

Private forests are in a key position as raw material sources for traditional and new forest-based bioeconomy. In addition to wood material, the forests produce non-timber forest products (for example berries and mushrooms), opportunities for recreation and other ecosystem services. Private forests cover roughly 60 percent of forest land, but about 80 percent of the domestic wood used by forest industry. Today, the value of the forest industry production is 2.1 billion euros, which is a fifth of the entire industry production value in Finland. The forest industry export in 2017 was worth about 12 billion euros, which covers a fifth of the entire export of goods. Therefore, the forest sector is important for Finland’s national economy.

The Metsään.fi-website is based on forest resources data that has been collected by remote sensing since 2011. Forest data can be utilised in, for example, the regional planning of forests and commercial forestry, to support the assessment of wood use possibilities and generally for developing forest businesses. At present, the forest resource data covers almost 90 percent of the surface area of productive forest land in private forests.

The Metsään.fi-service was first opened in November 2012 as a version that was subject to charge, and was changed to a service free of charge for forest owners in 2015. By the end of 2018, about 110,000 forest owners had logged into the service. The forest owners that use the service own forest properties that are larger than average. The Metsään.fi service’s usage activity was increased in particular by forest owners experiencing that the presented recommendations for forest management matched their own objectives. Out of the respondents of the objective questions in the Metsään.fi-service, 87 percent considered wood production to be an important or very important purpose of forest owning. On the other hand, the majority of forest owners also appreciated nature and leisure values and scenery, and about a third appreciated hunting possibilities.

Out of the benefits brought to the forest sector by the Metsään.fi-service, open forest data that reduces costs and enables new kinds of business opportunities for both forest owners and actors stand out. Central benefits from the service for forest owners are the opportunity to run forest errands online, regardless of time and place and the service being free of charge. Actors emphasise the role of open forest data in cost effective activities. It speeds up the forest management and harvesting planning and forest property evaluations. Also, it enables a targeted contacting of potential customers.

A central challenge in developing the website is to integrate several different sources of information into one entity that offers forest owners and actors all forest and nature data simultaneously. From the perspective of both forest owners and actors, the up-to-datedness of forest resource data and improvement of quality rose as the most important development
objects. It is inherent for a service that is maintained with public funds that it’s seen to be necessary and that it is being used. By the end of 2018, already over 100,000 forest owners had logged into the service. This is about a third of forest properties measuring over two hectares. The service is seen useful in many ways by the forest owners and other industry actors, but there are also areas that need improvement. It is important for future use and usefulness of the service to improve it and its content continuously.