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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2007

Natural forest and cultural woodland with continuous tree cover in Sweden: How much remains and how is it managed?

Axelsson, Robert; Angelstam, Per; Svensson, Johan


Swedish forestry has successfully developed systems for sustained yield production of wood. Silvicultural techniques are today completely dominated (96%) by clear-felling methods. By contrast, Swedish natural forests and preindustrial cultural woodlands were ecologically and culturally diverse, with a substantial proportion having a continuous tree cover as a response to natural disturbance dynamics and preindustrial agricultural land management. If forest management systems do not mimic this diversity of disturbance regimes sufficiently well, the scope of sustainable forest management to include biodiversity and sociocultural values will not be met. This study estimated the past and present amount of one cultural and two natural disturbance regimes known to deliver continuous tree cover in two study areas located around two important biophysical and sociocultural transition zones in northern and southern Sweden, respectively. Several approaches were used to estimate the amount of remaining continuous tree cover forests. The results indicate that 910% of the study areas is made up by site types that historically would have held a large proportion of continuous tree cover forests. Estimates for productive site types show that only 12% of these sites remain in southern Sweden and 1020% in northern Sweden. The data indicate that present management in both study areas is similar. Thus, these differences between the regions will disappear in a few decades. To achieve the aim of Swedish forest and environmental policies there is a clear need to develop and use alternative forest management methods on appropriate sites.


biodiversity; continuous cover forestry; cultural woodland; forest dynamics; forest management; silvicultural system

Published in

Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research
2007, Volume: 22, number: 6, pages: 545-558