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Research article2016Peer reviewedOpen access

People and pines 1555-1910: integrating ecology, history and archaeology to assess long-term resource use in northern Fennoscandia

Rautio, Anna-Maria; Josefsson, Torbjörn; Axelsson, Anna-Lena; Östlund, Lars


Context Past human land use has received increasing attention as an important driver of ecosystem change also in seemingly natural landscapes. Quantification of historical land use is therefore critical for assessing the degree of human impact and requires integration of ecology, history and archaeology.Objective This study aims to assess and compare levels of resource use by different actors during 355 years across a large landscape of northern Sweden.Method Data on resource use derived from case studies were extrapolated using demographic data to estimate harvested resources at the landscape scale. Here, we examined the use of the key-specie Scots pine by native Sami peoples and farmers and through commercial logging, and reconstructed historical forest conditions in order to interpret harvest levels and sustainability.Results We show that (1) the pre-industrial use of Scots pine resources in Pite Lappmark was sustainable from a landscape perspective, and (2) that the early commercial logging, in contrast, was not sustainable. Large and old Scots pine trees were logged at a very high rate, reaching up to 300 % of the annual ingrowth.Conclusion We suggest that historical landscape studies should incorporate analysis at different spatial scales, as such an approach can mirror the overall use of resources. Only then can land use data be applied across larger spatial scales, function as reference values and be compared to those of other regions, time-periods and types of human impact.


Forest history; Human impact; Ecosystem change; Native Sami; Farmers; Commercial logging; Sustainability; Pinus sylvestris; Inner bark; Firewood

Published in

Landscape Ecology
2016, Volume: 31, number: 2, pages: 337-349