"The value of forests and forest land for biological production must be protected, at the same time as biological diversity and cultural heritage and recreational assets are safeguarded."
Forests cover over half the area of Sweden. The majority of them are coniferous, but in the south there are extensive broadleaved woodlands. The appearance and dominant tree species of these forests are a product of the country’s climate and our history. Forests offer unique habitats for a variety of animal and plant species. They are also an important source of renewable raw materials and of value for outdoor recreation.
The state of the forest environment is affected partly by the intensity of forestry and the methods used, and partly by the cessation or decline of management regimes such as forest grazing, as well as of forest fires and other natural disturbances. Owing to these trends, certain types of forests are contracting, along with the unique habitats they contain. Climate change and deposition of air pollutants are also having adverse effects.
What are the challenges?
To preserve important forest environments, nature reserves and other forms of protection are needed, combined with voluntary set-aside of forest land by owners. Forest areas may also need to be restored or managed in ways that enhance their values. Urban-fringe woodlands and other forests with large numbers of visitors may have to be managed using methods geared to making them more attractive and accessible.
International action is needed to reduce air pollutant emissions, both in Sweden and abroad. Cooperation under various global conventions and EU directives has greatly reduced deposition of sulphur, for example, which is a cause of soil acidification. Substances that acidify soil also form to some extent when trees are harvested, but this can be offset if more wood ash is recycled to forest land.
A broader challenge is to adapt forestry practices so that they conserve and develop the natural and cultural values of forests, while still remaining competitive. One difficulty is that it takes a long time for measurable environmental effects to emerge. More therefore needs to be known about how forest ecosystems respond to different interventions, and about how climate change will affect forests.