Open forest data for everyone’s benefit
About this good practice
The Finnish Forest Centre is the state institution that collects and shares information on Finnish forests. Since March 2018, as a results of the Forest Information Act, the forest data has been published as an easily accessible electronic service on the Metsään.fi-website. The website is an open information portal financed with public funds. The data is available in map services, as downloadable geographic information, and through interfaces. The data includes information on forest habitats, tree stands, habitats of special importance, water protection and forest use. Information of forest owners is not disclosed. The data can be viewed on topographic maps or maps covering individual municipalities or regions. The data can be downloaded and it can be processed through a special interface. Currently, the data covers 60 percent of Finnish forests, but the coverage will increase in the future.
The open forest data system can be used for many purposes, and it has made the utilization of forest data more efficient. The open data service is used by the forest owners, forest operators, state offices, municipalities, researchers, nature organizations and the citizens. The system serves the whole sector from forestry to natural product business and recreational services. The accessible information has contributed to many new products and services and created economic growth and jobs in the bioeconomy sector.
Publishing forest data on the Metsään.fi-website and developing and maintaining the service has cost around 50 000 € annually and the service has required less than 2 man-years between 2017 and 2022. The figures do not cover the resources needed for the data collection.
Evidence of success
The use of the Finnish Forest Centre open forest data service has grown steadily since its launch in 2018. In 2021, the service was viewed 182,000 times. The use of interface services grew the most from the previous year and its use more than doubled compared to 2020. Geospatial datasets of open forest and nature information were downloaded almost 60 percent more than in 2020. There are also several applications and services that have been developed based on the open forest data available.
Potential for learning or transfer
Digitalisation and accessible data have become important trends in the 20th century and forest sector is not an exception. Openly accessible forest data brings many benefits to the sector such as transparency, up-to-date information, and user-friendliness. Timely open data on forest resources improves the efficiency of forestry processes. It speeds up forest management, harvesting planning and forest property evaluations. The service benefits also other uses of forests such as non-timber forest production, recreation, and ecosystem services. The open forest data reduces costs and enables new kinds of business opportunities. It has been estimated that the open data provided on forests, terrain and roads together with decision support systems enable at least a 100 million euro benefit potential annually in Finland. A central challenge to establish an open data service is to integrate numerous sources of information together to offer all forest and nature data under one service.