A clear-cut by the FSC-certified forest company Holmen in Hälsingland, Sweden. Photo: Robert Svensson

The Swedish forest worker and conservationist Bert Andersson has written an opinion article about damage caused by forest machines to the forest floors in Sweden. Bert Andersson passed away in 2016 but his words are still very relevant. He lived in the forest his whole life and experienced how the forest landscape changed from old-growth forests full of biodiversity to barren landscapes with damaged forest floors.

This is a translated article, previously published in Hela Hälsingland.

Damage caused by forestry machines emerged when the first forwarders appeared in the Swedish forest, about 50 years ago. The forwarders are built specially to manage driving with heavy timber loads in difficult terrain. Every year the machines have become larger, heavier and have stronger engines with technical solutions which have led to extreme navigation ability in the forest but at the cost of severe damage to the forest floors.

No human activity causes such severe and extensive damage to the forest floors as the forestry machines. It will take hundreds of years- or even thousands of years, depending on the soil and its location, before the wheel tracks, which are often over one meter deep, grow back together again. During this long time lapse the damages continue causing serious impact to nature and climate.

In areas where damage to the forest floor is severe there is a significant change in hydrology and soil chemistry which leads to leaching of humus, nutrients and very poisonous methylmercury. 20 per cent of all methylmercury that ends up in lakes and water are estimated to come from forestry. Of course, this leads to negative impacts to the soil, to water and to biodiversity. Deep tracks running down slopes cause erosion so that enormous amounts of sludge end up in the surroundings, sometimes up to half a kilometer away. After a forest has been logged a machine prepares the ground with a ploughing effect which completes the massacre.

There is a lot of talk about how important it is to limit emissions of carbon dioxide because of temperature rise and climate problems. From clear-cuttings and soil damage caused by machines the CO2 is literally shooting out into the atmosphere. Even if planted trees will absorb carbon it is not sure that there is enough time for the forest to become carbon neutral since the trees today are logged whilst they still are young.

Lakes and streams receive a lot of organic material from loggings and soil damage. When the organic material ends up in water and is decomposed it turns into methane gas. According to research methane is a 30 to 35 times stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and will therefore lead to much faster warming.

If the politicians are serious about environmental politics and wish to leave a society for the next generation where the great environmental issues are solved, they must urgently legislate against forestry’s deviations and the increasing damage to forest floors. The consequences of the soil damage are dangerous and unmanageable. Instead of being solved, the environmental problems in forestry are getting worse.

By Bert Andersson, forest worker

Forest landscape in Romania. Photo: Bergadder (Pixabay, CCO Commons)

The Swedish furniture giant IKEA is active in Romania, a country which has huge problems with illegal logging. Ingka Investments, which is a company owned by IKEA, has been taken to Romanian court for purchasing illegal forest land, which is claimed to already belong to someone. The wood in Ikea’s furniture is FSC-certified but it still may come from forests with high conservation values.

Romania habours some of Europe’s last remaining old-growth forests and virgin-like forests with a rich biodiversity, outside of Scandinavia. Unfortunately, old-growth forests are illegally logged in an interaction between land-owners, local politicians and even the police in Romania. It is common with threats against both forest rangers and journalists. In total six forest rangers have been murdered during the last years, two of which were murdered during a month’s time.

Elin Götmark, spokesperson in Protect the Forest says:

“We ask ourselves if a global actor like IKEA thinks it is responsible to do business with countries where forest rangers are murdered and illegal logging is taking place in invaluable old-growth forests and in national parks?”

In 2014 IKEA purchased large areas of forest in Romania from Harvard University. The university had purchased the forest through corrupt companies which had taken it from the Romanian state, according to an investigation carried out by Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, OCCRP. IKEA has purchased a total of 50 000 hectares of forest in Romania and is therefore the largest private land owner in Romania.

The Swedish daily newspaper DN reports that the IKEA-company Ingka Investments has been taken to court for purchasing Romanian forest, which is said to belong to someone. In an interview at the site Natursidan Ulf Johansson, Global Wood Supply and Forestry Manager at Ikea Range & Supply, states that one of the challenges for IKEA is purchasing wood from many so-called high risk countries, which have problems with corruption and illegal logging.

IKEA’s goal is to purchase wood which is 100 per cent FSC-certified from these countries. At the same time there are many indications that forests with high conservation values are being logged by FSC-certified companies. FSC-certification is far from a guarantee for socially- and environmentally friendly forestry and FSC has received serious criticism from many environmental organizations, both in Sweden and internationally.  Several environmental organizations have left FSC in protest. 

By Kristina Bäck

Forest at the lake Yngern, Sweden. Photo: Bjarne Tutturen

Around the lake Yngern, about 40 km southwest of Stockholm, there is still some unfragmented forests which haven’t been logged yet. Wolf and lynx, capercaillie and black grouse live in the forests and by the lake the white-tailed eagle, black-throated loon, beaver and osprey breeds. Unfortunately, these forests are now planned to be clear-cut. The state-owned and FSC-certified forest company Sveaskog has submitted over 20 logging notifications just south of the lake during 2018-2019.

Recently a group of volunteers have been investigating the conservation values in the forests which are planned for logging at Yngsviken, southern part of lake Yngern in the county of Södermanland. Everything is far from investigated yet but many of the species which have been found so far are red-listed and threatened. Here are a few examples:

The endangered beetles Aradus erosus (EN) and Aradus signaticornis (EN), the crust fungus Phlebia centrifuga (VU), the moss Neckera pennata (VU), the moss Lophozia ascendens (VU), the lichen Inoderma byssaceum (VU), the fungus Cortinarius cumatilis (VU), the fungus matsutake (NT), the fungus Phellinus ferrugineofuscus (NT), the lesser spotted woodpecker (NT) the orchid Goodyera repens (NT). (EN= endangered, VU= vulnerable, NT= near threatened).

Many of Sveaskog’s notifications for logging are small but are placed next to each other. So, after the forest has been logged there will be larger areas of clear-cuttings, some of which will go all the way down to the shore of the lake. Bjarne Tutturen knows the forests well and is active in the local forest group, he says:

– During the last couple of years, I have noted that there is a lot of logging going on here. It is a pity because there is a large and quite wild forest area which is now losing its natural values because of fragmentation. This is where you can encounter wolf, lynx, capercaillie, black grouse, boreal owl, Eurasian pygmy owl, Eurasian eagle owl, osprey, white-tailed eagle and beaver.

According to The Swedish Species Information Centre forestry with clear-cuttings and tree plantations are the greatest threats to several of the red-listed species found in the forest. An example is the orchid Goodyera repens, whole habitats where it grows should be protected as nature reserves or biotope-protection areas, according to The Swedish Species Information Centre. South of Yngsviken there is a lot of Goodyera repens growing in the slopes down towards the lake.

The moss Anastrophyllum hellerianum (NT). Photo: Bjarne Tutturen

Another example is the capercaillie, which also breeds in the forest. When the forest gets more fragmented and is replaced with dense plantations, it is a disadvantage for capercaillie. The Swedish Species Information Centre states: ”For a continual existence of capercaillie its habitats should be at least 25 per cent within an unfragmented forest of at least 300 hectares”.

Although the area seems quite wild it is only some miles from the urban centers of Södertälje, Järna, Gnesta and Nykvarn and only about 40 kilometers from Stockholm. The forest is important for outdoor ventures, such as walking and skiing and the lake for canoeing in the summer and ice-skating in the winter. The trekking path “Sörmlandsleden” passes by some of the places where the forest will be logged.

Forests like these are important to keep intact for curbing climate change. According to 11 000 scientists from 159 countries who have declared climate emergency, forests around the world have to be protected since they sequester a lot of CO2, especially boreal forests. “We need to quickly curtail habitat and biodiversity loss protecting the remaining primary and intact forests, especially those with high carbon stores and other forests with the capacity to rapidly sequester carbon, while increasing reforestation and afforestation where appropriate at enormous scales”.

By Kristina Bäck

This is a introduction to a series of programs about boreal and temperate food forests and their stewards, about biodiversity and climate adaptation.

A forest garden is a food-producing ecosystem, usually dominated by perennial plants with edible parts. It is a layered system with everything from high and low fruit and nut trees, to shrubs with berries, perennial herbs, ground-covering plants, root vegetables and climbers.

The producers of these programs are Viktor and Elin Säfve, and with their family they manage the three-hectare Åfallet Forest Garden in Tylöskog, Örebro municipality, Sweden.

If you want to contact Viktor and Elin please write to: matskog(a)protonmail.com

More information can be found on www.matskog.com.

See the first YouTube episode on Forest Gardening in the North here (with English subtitles).

The forest has 27 red-listed species. Photo: Jonas Nordenström

Protect the Forest has taken the initiative for an appeal which calls for withdrawal of Sveaskog’s logging plans in the natural forest at Njuonniesvarrie, near Sorsele in northern Sweden.

In a letter to the state-owned and FSC-certified company Sveaskog, the County Administrative Board and the Swedish Forest Agency, the NGO’s state:

”We call on Sveaskog to take back its planned loggings of over 100 hectares of forest”. The letter has been sent earlier this month and is signed by representatives from nine NGOs, such as the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), Protect the Forest and Climate Action.

It is also important to protect the forest from logging for social and cultural reasons because there are few remaining natural forests left near Sorsele, most of them have already been clear-cut in all directions. Over 45 000 people have signed a petition against Sveaskog’s loggings of natural forests, such as the forest at Njuonniesvarrie in the campaign ”Vår Skog” (Our Forest) carried out by several Swedish NGOs during 2018-2019.  Over 40 species with conservation values have been found at Njuonniesvarrie, of which 27 species are red-listed. These species were registered during an inventory by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation of Sorsele.

The NGOs state:

”It is completely unacceptable that Sveaskog’s logging plans remain in the absolute hotspot of the forest (A22699-2016) where there are finds of the endangered fungi Antrodia infirma and several other red-listed species”.

According to the Swedish Species Information Centre, forestry is the greatest threat for most of the species found in Njuonniesvarrie, here are some examples:

Antrodia infirma (EN) indicates old natural forest. Known locations must be protected and excluded from forestry.

Haploporus odorus (VU) an indicator species which grows where there are old goat willows and areas with high conservation values. All locations where Haploporus odorus is found should be protected.

Antrodia albobrunnea (VU) is a species which indicates natural pine forest with high conservation values. To maintain viable populations large areas need to be protected.

Phlebia mellea (VU) indicates old-growth forest and spruce forests with high and even humidity. Very sensitive about impacts from forestry. Its biotopes should be left for free development.  

Laurilia sulcata (VU) indicates old-growth forest and demands untouched spruce forest. Its locations should not be clear-cut and it is sensitive to forestry in its surroundings.

Chaenothecopsis fennica (NT) needs old dead pine trees. Very limited expansion outside the Nordic countries, therefore these countries have responsibility to preserve it. Forestry where it grows or nearby should be avoided.

Pseudographis pinicola (NT) lives in old-growth-like spruce forest with high and even humidity. Populations where Pseudographis pinicola are found should be treated as woodland key habitats and not clear-cut.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation in Sorsele has informed the Swedish Forest Agency several times about Njuonniesvarrie’s high conservation values but the Swedish Forest Agency has still not carried out a woodland key habitat inventory of the forest. There is also an unfinished FSC complaint concerning Njuonniesvarrie. Sveaskog should wait for the outcome of this before they do anything at all, states Protect the Forest. 

By Kristina Bäck