Today, as EU’s forest directors meet in Sweden, 260 scientists, indigenous Sámi groups, and over 60 NGOs – representing millions of committed members and supporters –  have joined forces in an appeal to Protect EU´s natural heritage in the north. 

In a holistic vision for Swedish forests swedishforestvision.org, we outline five demands for how Swedish forestry and policy need to transform – (1) an immediate logging moratorium in all forests with identified conservation values, (2) increased protection and restoration of forests, in line with international targets already agreed upon, (3) protection of the Scandinavian Mountains Green Belt, (4) reformation of forestry practices, (5) and constraining the production and consumption of biomass within planetary boundaries.

An in-depth assessment by the Swedish Forest Agency of the environmental quality objectives regarding forests, shows an unsatisfactory ecological condition and a negative trend. Moreover, 14 out of 15 forest habitats in Sweden, listed under the EU Habitats Directive, do not have a favorable conservation status. About 2000 forest-dwelling species are red-listed

The situation is urgent. With today’s rapid logging rate, estimates made by researchers and authorities indicate that most of the remaining continuity forests (forests that have never been clear-cut) and old forests with conservation values, outside nature conservation areas, will be lost within approximately one to a few decades

Despite the dire situation for the forest, the Swedish government that was elected last year sharply reduced the budget for protection of nature with high conservation values. 

This appeal is directed to the government and the parliament of Sweden. It is also a call to the European Commission to withstand the pressure from Sweden, that is trying to weaken and stop important legislative initiatives at EU level (see a few examples in the footnote), and to continue the processes of forming progressive legislation and strategies that aim to combat the nature and climate crises and strengthen forest ecosystems.

In the north of Sweden the Sámi culture, including reindeer husbandry, is dependent on the forest for their livelihoods. One of the major threats to Sámi culture is loss of habitat due to the prevailing commercial forestry. The ongoing clear-cut model, with soil scarification and the use of fertilizers, aggravates the condition for reindeer husbandry by destroying habitats for both tree-living hanging lichens and ground-living lichens, the primary food resources for the reindeer. During a period of 60 years, the lichen-abundant forest land in the Swedish boreal landscape has declined by 70 %. 

”The right to Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) by the Sámi people is a prerequisite to ensure respectful harvest conditions that protect traditional subsistence living but also biodiversity and ecosystems and its carbon storages”, said Karin Nutti Pilflykt, Saami Council.

Halting the destruction and fragmentation of forest ecosystems as well as restoring and protecting the world’s forests is fundamental in order to strengthen the resilience of the ecosystems as the climate gets increasingly extreme. Reduction of emissions and safeguarding every possible carbon sink and carbon storage is critical.

”Our research shows that reduced logging levels have large and immediate climate benefits”, said Professor emeritus Göran Englund, Umeå University.

“Our research shows that prevailing logging methods with clear-cuts cause large greenhouse gas emissions. Every year, around 200,000 hectares are clear-cut in Sweden. Since it takes around 10 years, or more, before the emissions stop, this means that we always have around two million hectares of clear-cuts emitting carbon dioxide to different extents depending on how long ago the felling was carried out”, said Professor emeritus Anders Lindroth, Lund University.

“To tackle negative climate effects and biodiversity loss, and to support multiple-use in the managed part of the forest landscapes, we need a transformation of today’s intensive forestry into close-to-nature forest management. Management that works with and protects the natural processes; promoting a self-organized ecosystem that fosters heterogeneity, biodiversity, resilience and adaptive capacity”, said Viktor Säfve, Protect the Forest Sweden.

The Swedish forest heritage is diverse, from boreal old-growth forests and naturally regenerated continuity forests, to hemiboreal old broad-leaved deciduous forestsand beech forests.

”Sweden harbors an important part of the EU’s forest heritage and must protect and restore forests in line with international agreements. All forests with identified conservation values must be protected, and in addition to protection there are major restoration needs,” said Professor emerita Margareta Ihse, Stockholm University.

The Scandinavian Mountains Green Belt, largely situated within the borders of Sweden, is a unique natural heritage from a European as well as from an international perspective. 

“The Swedish montane forest must be preserved in its entirety, at all costs, for biodiversity, for the climate and for future generations of EU citizens. These forests hold a special position in the EU in terms of both continuity, ecological legacy and size.” said Jon Andersson, PhD in forest ecology, Protect the Forest.

Read the appeal: Protect EU’s natural heritage in the north, here.

Contact information

Elin Götmark, spokesperson, Protect the Forest

elin.gotmark(@)skyddaskogen.se

+46 70 678 74 23

Viktor Säfve, Protect the Forest
viktor.safve(@)skyddaskogen.se

+46 76 114 88 11

For questions related to forest monitoring and the Scandinavian Mountains Green Belt:

Jon Andersson, PhD, Forest monitor, Protect the Forest

+46 73037 52 74

skogsmonitor(@)skyddaskogen.se

For questions related to the climate benefits of reduced logging levels:

Göran Englund, Professor em, Umeå University

+46 90-786 97 28, +46 70-245 10 38

englund1458(@)gmail.com

For questions related to clear-cuts and greenhouse gas emissions:

Anders Lindroth, Professor em, Lund University

+46 46222 0474, +46 70 573 8633

anders.lindroth(@)nateko.lu.se

The appeal will remain open and Scientists and NGOs are welcome to sign the appeal here: www.swedishforestvision.org