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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

European Union's Last Intact Forest Landscapes are at A Value Chain Crossroad between Multiple Use and Intensified Wood Production

Jonsson, Bengt Gunnar; Svensson, Johan; Mikusinski, Grzegorz; Manton, Michael; Angelstam, Per


Research Highlights: The European Union's last large intact forest landscapes along the Scandinavian Mountain range in Sweden o ff er unique opportunities for conservation of biodiversity, ecological integrity and resilience. However, these forests are at a crossroad between intensified wood production aimed at bio-economy, and rural development based on multi-functional forest landscapes for future-oriented forest value chains. Background and Objectives: We (1) estimate the area of near-natural forests potentially remaining for forest harvesting and wood production, or as green infrastructure for biodiversity conservation and human well-being in rural areas, (2) review how forest and conservation policies have so far succeeded to reduce the loss of mountain forests, and (3) discuss what economic, socio-cultural and ecological values that are at stake, as well as different governance and management solutions. Materials andMethods: First, we estimated the remaining amount of intact mountain forests using (1) the Swedish National Forest Inventory, (2) protected area statistics, (3) forest harvest permit applications and actually harvested forests, (4) remote sensing wall-to-wall data on forests not subject to clear-felling since the mid-1950s, (5) mapping of productive and non-productive forestland, and (6) estimates of mean annual final felling rate. Second, we review policy documents related to the emergence of land use regulation in north Sweden, including the mountain forest border, and illustrate this with an actual case that has had significant policy implementation importance. Results: There is a clear difference between the proportions of formally protected productive forestland above the mountain forest border (52.5%) and north Sweden in general (6.3%). A total of 300,000 ha of previously not clear-felled mountain forest outside protected areas remain, which can support novel value chains that are not achievable elsewhere. Conclusions: The mountain forests in Sweden provide unique conservation values in the European Union. Since the beginning of the 1990s, policy regulations have been successful in limiting forest harvesting. Currently, however, mountain forests are a battle ground regarding intensification of forest use, including logging of forests that have never been subject to clear-felling systems vs. nature conservation and wilderness as a base for rural development. The ability of mountain municipalities to encourage sustainable rural forest landscapes must be strengthened.


green belt; amenity values; biodiversity conservation; continuous cover forestry; bioeconomy; rural development; forest policy; comprehensive planning; landscape stewardship; sustainability

Published in

2019, Volume: 10, number: 7, article number: 564
Publisher: MDPI