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Finland has the world’s best information on its privately-owned forests. Work is now under way to put the data on forest resources into effective use. Among other things, this means the introduction of a smaller unit for forest data, and e-commerce.
The new basic unit of Finnish forest data is called ‘grid unit’, a square measuring 16 metres on each side – roughly equal to half a basketball court.
Remote sensing methods and grid units provide more detailed information about forests. The Finnish Forest Centre collects data from the forests with laser scanning, making it possible to define the species, height, diameter, age, stem number and volume of the trees in every grid unit.
Information is available on over 10 million hectares of forest owned by private individuals and families. More than half of it is collected with laser scanning.
Traditionally, the gathering and use of forest resource data was based on the concept of forest compartment. The compartments – differing in size and shape but each with a homogeneous growing stock – will also be retained in the future, but the data gathered from them will be based on the grid units. In addition, the users of forest data can form new compartments with the grid units, for making a forest management plan and planning the measures required, for example.
The forest data is only an intermediate product
According to Mr. Jorma Jyrkilä, Information Service Manager at the Finnish Forest Centre, the forest data based on the grid units will already be available this year. In addition, the Forest Centre is developing other information products allowing the utilization of forest data.
”The forest resource data is only an intermediate product. Once the information has been collected, it is important to raise its utilisation rate,” Jyrkilä says.
One of the Forest Centre’s new information products is a forecast, updated weekly, showing the amount and species of wood entering the market. The forecast is made by combining forest data with logging declarations.
Data moves only by permission of forest owner
The Forest Centre can produce summarises of the forest resource data. But in order that the forest resource data could be used also by other forestry operatives, permission from the forest owner is required by law.
The Forest Centre encourages forest owners to give forestry operatives access to data related to their forest properties in the Metsään.fi e-service. On this website, the owners themselves can view data on their forests and suggestions on how to manage them.
Jyrkilä understands the desire to keep forest information private. “However, data produced using public funding would bring real benefits and positive effects for the forest sector if it were freely accessible,” he says, upholding the perspective of the information producer.
Transparency of information would allow true competition in services related to timber trade. Still, many companies already take advantage of the huge database created by the Forest Centre.
Mobile services and online shopping
One example is the commercial metsapaikka.fi mobile service, which promises the forest owners an easy application for monitoring forest information. It allows them to download data on their own forests from the metsaan.fi service to their mobile or tablet.
Metsä Group is reportedly the world’s first company to have concluded a fully electronic timber deal with a forest owner. The first web deal took place in June 2015. A private forest owner sold Metsä Group one thousand cubic metres of wood. The timber sales application also uses the forest resource data in the Metsaan.fi service.
UPM, too, recently redesigned its online service for forest owners. The site defines itself as a channel for “online services and maintenance of forest resource data”. Like other similar services, UPM wants to offer an easy way to trade in timber – especially for those who do not have the time or desire to go and do the deal in their own forest.
Information from the height of two kilometres
- The forest resource data includes information on the soil and the volume and growth of the trees, as well as on forest management needs and felling possibilities.
- The volume of public forest data is increasing all the time. In September 2015, the forest resource database already covered 10.6 million hectares, or 75 percent of the forest area owned by individuals and families.
- Forest inventories based on remote sensing began in 2010. By 2020, all of Finland’s privately-owned forests will have been inventoried.
- Remote sensing is carried out with the help of laser scanning from an airplane. The three-dimensional data gives information on the structure of trees and terrain.
- Via the Metsään.fi service, the forest resource data is available to all forest owners free of charge. Some 50,000 forest owners have already taken advantage of it.