Published 23.5.2023

Machine learning methods were utilised in the areas of Northern Lapland to map changes in nature – the project received the Metsähallitus environmental and innovation award

Metsähallitus has granted its environmental and innovation award to a project that used remote sensing data and machine learning methods to map nearly three million hectares of protected and wilderness areas in Northern Lapland. The project also produced up-to-date data on the impacts of climate change on northern nature.

The Metsähallitus environmental and innovation award for 2022 has been granted to the Remote sensing Northern Lapland project. The joint project of Metsähallitus and the Finnish Environment Institute aims to bring outdated habitat data collected in the 1990s up to date as well as to test and develop new mapping methods in protected areas.

– Up-to-date nature information is important in the assessment of the impacts of climate change, for example. The collection of simultaneous data from such a large area would not have been possible with traditional methods. For example, the decreasing number of palsa mounds due to climate change is reflected in the mapping results,” explains Project Coordinator Anna Tammilehto from Metsähallitus.

In 2020–2022, the project mapped nearly three million hectares of protected and wilderness areas in Northern Lapland. Remote sensing data and artificial intelligence were utilised in the habitat inventory of the areas. The AI was trained to identify different habitat types. Habitat data collected from 4,500 field plots were used as training material.

– The project utilised remote sensing methods already in use in forestry in a new and innovative way to update our data on habitats. This allowed us to collect accurate and up-to-date nature information from a very large area in a cost-effective manner. The outcomes of the project contribute to Metsähallitus’s strategic objectives of mitigating biodiversity loss and climate change, emphasises Director General of Metsähallitus Juha S. Niemelä.

The remote sensing project is an excellent example of the benefits that digitalisation can introduce. With the help of machine learning methods, the project produced the most accurate data ever on the habitats and natural state of protected and wilderness areas in Northern Lapland. The results can be used, for example, in reporting, monitoring changes, threat assessment of habitats, and planning the management and use of areas.

The environmental and innovation award was granted on 23 May to the project coordinator of the Remote sensing Northern Lapland project Anna Tammilehto, and Arto Saikkonen and Elisa Pääkkö, who were responsible for the planning and implementation of the project.

With the environmental and innovation award, Metsähallitus wants to inspire its own personnel to develop innovative solutions that improve the status of the environment. The award is granted annually to a person, group or project that promotes the key environmental objectives of Metsähallitus through innovation, action or initiative. These objectives include improving biodiversity, climate change mitigation, sustainable management of natural resources, sustainable nature tourism and environmental protection.

Further information:
Project Coordinator Anna Tammilehto, Metsähallitus, anna.tammilehto(at), tel. +358 206 39 6040
Director General Juha S. Niemelä, juha.niemela(at), Metsähallitus, tel. +358 206 39 4201