The bird atlas survey can be viewed as a tool to monitor biodiversity. The main aim of the third atlas was to examine the present distribution of Finnish birds, and to investigate changes in distribution together with other environmental data. In particular, the first bird atlas 1974–79 (Hyytiä et al. 1983) and the second bird atlas 1986–89 (Väisänen et al. 1998) are important reference materials. The data of the atlas were also used in the evaluation of the Red Listed species in Finland 2010. Furthermore, more detailed studies concerning e.g. distribution changes are currently continuing and will be published later on.
Most ecosystems have been adversely influenced by human activities. Furthermore, human-induced climate change has been a topic of discussion in recent years. One of the aims of the scientific use of the atlas and other environmental data is to examine how (man-made) changes in the environment affect the diversity of our birds. Birds, in turn, are typically considered as good indicators of environmental change and therefore changes in bird communities may reflect changes on a larger scale.
When the third bird atlas project was initiated, a specific network of standardized line transect censuses was also established. The aim is to get data on numbers of birds and their population changes. When put together, the atlas data and constant line transect data form a good overall picture of the numbers and distribution of Finnish bird populations. The population estimates shown in this web page are mostly based on data from line transects. For birds of prey, they are derived from the national raptor grid survey which was started in 1982. However, for some rarer bird of prey species, data has been collected by WWF Finland and Metsähallitus. Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute has collected data on e.g. waterfowl, game species and farmland birds. Population sizes were needed for the evaluation of Red Listed species of Finnish birds in 2010.
It was decided even before the start of the third atlas that it will only be published on the internet. This made fast publication of results possible – in practice, the atlas was ready only three months after closure of the project. On the atlas webpage it is now possible to compare results of all three atlases. However, the different observation activity in all three atlases has not been taken into account in the figures.