A camera follows a peregrine falcon as it swoops low over an attractive, pristine river hugged by trees in remote northern Sweden.
It then soars higher, revealing that the river flows through a large area which has been clear-felled of forest.
Stripped bare, it is as if an atomic bomb has been detonated over the land.
Aimed at raising public awareness, the message of the video by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) is clear: Sweden no longer looks like what you think.
While Sweden’s forest cover of 60% of the country’s land area is one of the highest in Europe, it is calculated that more than half of Sweden’s productive forests have been felled since the 1950s.
With paper, pulp, cardboard, and sawn timber comprising the main products of the forestry sector, much of it bound for European markets, the vast majority of the country’s forest landscape has been affected by intense forestry methods.
Dominated by five large companies (the largest of which, state-owned Sveaskog, owns 14% of the country’s forest) and a number of smaller landowners, the forestry sector has the rights to 96% of Sweden’s productive forests – land deemed as suitable for forestry.
Logging vs. old growth and biodiversity
With much of Sweden’s forest cover comprised of young forests not yet ready to be harvested, there is intense pressure to log Sweden’s remaining mature, old-growth forests – ‘natural’ forests so far only minimally affected by modern forestry and typically of great importance for the ecosystem and biodiversity.
I sit down with a worried Malin Sahlin, the SSNC’s boreal forest policy officer, in her office in Stockholm. “The country is going into the last stage of transformation in terms of forest ecology right now due to the fact we are clear-felling the last of our forests that have never been clear felled before … and turning the forest landscape, through replanting, pretty much into a monoculture“, she tells me.
The future for Sweden’s forests looks bleak. According to Sahlin, “if we continue today business as usual, there might in 20 years from now only be 5% of natural-like forests left and the rest could be in production.”
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