METSO – The Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland

The Forest Biodiversity Programme METSO aims to

  • Halt the ongoing decline in the biodiversity of forest habitats and species, and
  • Ensure that a favourable trend in forest biodiversity is established by 2025.

The METSO programme is based on a Finnish government resolution that contains 14 measures altogether to achieve these aims. The measures include actions to improve the network of protected areas, enhance habitat management in commercially managed forests, improve the knowledge base on forest biodiversity, promote collaboration between forest and environmental organizations, increase awareness of forest biodiversity, and enhance the communication, education and training of professional foresters.

Voluntary-based conservation

Forest owners can voluntarily offer their forest sites for protection in the METSO Programme. The programme can be implemented using three methods:

1. Permanent protection

  • Private nature reserves
  • Selling the land to the State for conservation purposes

2. Temporary conservation

  • Environmental forestry subsidy agreement (10 years)
  • Temporary nature reserve (20 years)

3. Nature management projects


© Mikael Ahlfors

The fundamental aim of the METSO Programme is to provide voluntary-based conservation as a competitive option for forest owners. The voluntary-based approach has been warmly welcomed by forest owners, NGOs, forest companies and authorities. An increasing number of forest owners are interested in preserving ecologically valuable forest habitats by offering their forests either for temporary conservation or for permanent protection. Active nature management of the sites can be included in both temporary conservation agreements and in permanent ones. Nature management projects in METSO are focused on restoring and preserving valuable habitats in private forests.

Forest owners value the voluntary approach, the independence in decision-making and the chance to retain their property rights. Forest owners get full financial compensation equivalent to the value of timber at the protected site. If the forest owner chooses to sell the property to the state for permanent protection, the value of the land will also be compensated. With permanent protection the private forest owner’s compensation is tax‑free. The nature management projects come at no cost to the forest owner. Additionally, protected and managed sites can be used for nature-based tourism and recreation.

METSO offers tools for sustainable forestry. It is the most important investment in voluntary conservation in Finland. METSO is coordinated by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The programme is set to run until 2025.

Ecological shopping list

The site selection criteria define which habitats are accepted for conservation. The criteria are based on scientific knowledge of forest habitat types and the structural features of forests that are important for biodiversity. In addition, each main forest habitat type has its own criteria. Especially favoured are the sites where habitats are in their natural state or close to it, can easily be restored, host rare or endangered species, or sites that are important for ecological connectivity. Decaying wood, burnt or charred wood, mature broad-leaved trees, large aspen trees, nutrient-rich soils, springs, brooks, or other natural water features are the structural elements that increase the ecological value of the site. Recreation, tourism, and cultural and landscape values may also increase the significance of the site if they also support biodiversity conservation.

Forest and environmental authorities assess the suitability of the offered sites based on ecological criteria.

Mäntyvaltaista METSO-metsää
© Kimmo Syrjänen

METSO targets

The objective of METSO by 2025 is to have about 96,000 hectares of forest established as permanent or temporary nature reserves. In addition, about 82,000 hectares of valuable forest habitats in commercially managed privately owned forests are to be protected by fixed-term environmental forestry subsidy agreements or to be managed or restored in nature management projects. With these goals METSO is an important tool in fulfilling the targets set in the national, EU and global biodiversity strategies and action plans.

Related links

Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland (METSO) (Ministry of the Environment)

Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland (METSO) (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry)

Finland’s biodiversity policy (Ministry of the Environment)

Forest biodiversity (Statistics database, Natural resources institute Finland)

Nature and Heritage (Metsähallitus, the Parks & Wildlife Finland unit)