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Old, unprotected forests might disappear by the 2070s in Sweden

Skog med träd täckta av dimma. Foto.

Swedish, previously uncut forests have been converted to plantations at a steady rate since 2003. In a new study, MERGE-researcher Anders Ahlström and his research team find that old forests have been cut and lost by ∼1.4% per year since 2003, and at this rate they will disappear by the 2070s.

Natural ecosystems that have experienced limited direct human impact are threatened by land use change. One such important ecosystem is old, uncut forest. In their study, Anders Ahlström - MERGE-researcher and Senior lecturer at the Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, and his research team wanted to quantify how much previously uncut forests have been converted to plantations.

By combining Swedish national databases on clear-cuts and forest inventories, they were able to show that at least 19% of all clear-cuts since 2003 have occurred in old forests that were most likely not previously cut, planted, or seeded. Old forests have been cut and lost at a steady rate of ∼1.4% per year for the same period, and at this rate they will disappear by the 2070s. Given the slow growth and distinct structural and ecological characteristics of these old forests, this loss may define the landscape for centuries.

-  Deforestation and loss of natural forest in the Amazon and other parts of the world receive strong international criticism. But loss of old natural forest is happening at a very rapid pace right before our eyes here in Sweden, says Anders Ahlström.

Further reading

The study was conducted by researchers at Lund University, Umeå University and CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere in Canberra. The study was published in the journal of Earth’s Future: 

”Widespread unquantified conversion of old boreal forests to plantations”

The results from the study has been widely spread in Swedish media. Some examples:

Lund University: Ny studie avslöjar omfattande kalhuggning av svenska naturliga skogar

TV4 nyheterna: Naturliga skogar kan vara borta om 50 år

Sveriges Natur: Vart femte kalhygge var gammal skog

Svenska dagbladet: Studie: Äldre oskyddad skog borta om 50 år

P4 Värmland: Naturskogarna borta om 50 år