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Doctoral thesis, 2020

Clear-cutting - The most discussed logging method in Swedish forest history

Lundmark, Hanna


Clear-cutting has been applied in Sweden for nearly 200 years. To understand the history of this method, the ongoing discussion about logging methods, and the current debate about clear-cutting, an analysis of the forestry history is needed. This thesis presents a historical analysis of the development of the clear-cutting system in central and northern Sweden from the early 1800s to the 1950s. A variety of forest historical records were analysed, including journals, management plans and maps, and aerial images.

Clear-cutting was introduced into central Sweden in the early 1800s, due to concerns about deforestation. This new approach to forestry originated in Germany, where clear-cutting was applied very early and considered to be a method that would ensure regrowth. In the late 1800s, the increased need for timber in Europe made it possible to introduce clear-cutting in northern Sweden. Its adoption was driven by industrialization, the desire for sustainable forestry, inspiration from Germany, new forest research, and favourable economic conditions. As a result, by the early 1900s, clear-cutting was widely and systematically used in parts of northern Sweden, in both state-owned and private forests. 

In the early 1900s, clear-cutting was developed side by side with selective cutting. However, selective cutting was gradually phased out and almost completely abandoned in northern Sweden during the 1950s. Until recently, it was believed that clear-cutting was first introduced into northern Sweden in the 1950s. However, this is a myth because clear-cutting occurred to a large extent in the early 1900s. In the late 1940s, two-fifths of the study area in Västernorrland County had been clear-cut. The myth was created to make a clear break between old traditions and new forest management based on science. 

These results were obtained by combined analysis of complementary historical records using a variety of methods. This allows a subject to be approached from multiple angles, giving a holistic perspective on the studied issue. In this thesis, the journals present the ideas of clear-cutting, the management plans show the implementation of the ideas and the aerial images give an indication of the extent of the clear-cutting in the early 1900s. The aerial images were especially informative, providing information that would have been difficult to obtain from any other source. This thesis reveals the history of the most common and debated forestry method in Sweden. By looking into the past, we can better understand the current situation and maybe avoid future mistakes.


clear-cutting; selective cutting; forest history; forest management; forestry; forestry journal; forest management plan; forest map; aerial image; historical records

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2020, number: 2020:64
ISBN: 978-91-7760-646-8, eISBN: 978-91-7760-647-5

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

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