A third of the shorelines by water in the forest lack edge zones after being clear-cut, according to a press release from the Swedish Forestry Agency. Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement on how much forest a landowner must leave untouched when logging along water. There are only recommendations.

Last winter, FSC-certified Sveaskog felled forest all the way down to the water protection area in Hjälmaren, leaving a thin edge zone, this is only one of many examples. Photo: Michael Lander

Leaving edge zones with trees along seas, lakes and waterways is part of the Swedish Forestry Agency’s work with “target images for good environmental consideration”, according to the press release. The purpose of edge zones is to preserve water quality and the water’s biological values. The statistics that the Swedish Forestry Agency has produced come from clear-cuts at the shorelines during 2016/17 – 2018/19. The proportion of the stretch of shoreline that is completely devoid of an edge zone was 31 percent and the average width of the edge zones left towards the water was 11 meters.

Elisabet Andersson, ecologist at the Swedish Forestry Agency says in the press release that the Swedish Forestry Agency has a future vision that all water in the forest landscape should have functional edge zones.

“There is clearly work to be done since a third of the clear-cuttings completely lack an edge zone,”, she said.

Research proves that edge zones are necessary

Landowners leaving zones with forest at watercourses when logging is necessary for biodiversity and for carbon storage. Several studies have proved so and it has been known for a long time. In a report from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), researchers prove that edge zones need to be at least 30 meters in order to protect birds and mosses. The report is a review of about ten scientific studies on the effects of edge zones and biodiversity, and according to the studies, it is important that the edge zones are sufficiently wide. The wider they are- the more species. Edge zones that are only 10 meters wide is not enough for biodiversity to survive. The researchers recommend that landowners only log on one side of a watercourse at a time. There are also studies from Finland that state that even 30 meters is not enough to protect the microclimate of small watercourses.

Skydda Skogen rejects the Swedish Forest Agency’s goals regarding edge zones

Earlier this year Protect the Forest criticized the Swedish Forestry Agency’s investigation “Green steps for living forests“. Green steps should motivate landowners to take measures in the forest to achieve the environmental quality goal “Living Forests”. A general goal in the investigation is that the proportion of watercourses where the edge zone is left in forestry should increase by 2025. But Protect the Forest believes that the Swedish Forest Agency has not made this goal concrete or motivating for the individual forest owner. The goals must be more concrete in practical forestry and easier to follow. The goals should also be linked to the regional forest conditions, according to Protect the Forest.

Countless examples of inadequate consideration for water

There are countless examples of how forest companies that are certified with FSC or PEFC certificates repeatedly harvest forest near water without bothering to leave sufficient edge zones. If you see a clear-cut without edge zones along water, you should contact the Swedish Forestry Agency and report it. If the forest company is FSC-certified, which most are, then you can also make an FSC complaint. According to the FSC certification, certified landowners and forestry companies must always leave proper edge zones.