The forest company SCA plans to clear-cut over 200 hectares of old-growth forest at Vargtjärnen in Ånge municipality, Västernorrland county in Sweden. It is a forest with very high conservation values where 38 red-listed species have been found – some of them are even endangered (EN) or critically endangered (CR). The two NGOs Protect the Forest and Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) demand that SCA withdraws its logging plans and that the authorities protect these forests by forming a nature reserve.
“It is horrifying that SCA is planning to log this large old-growth forest area with high conservation values. SCA claims to manage forests sustainably but logging these forests would be a disaster for biodiversity”, said Sebastian Kirppu, forest biologist.
The forest at Vargtjärnen should be protected instead of logged
38 red-listed species were found in the forest, one of which is the critically endangered wood-living fungus Resinoporia crassa (EN). It grows on the underside of very old fallen pine trunks without bark. The smell is pleasant but the taste is bitter. It is of extremely high risk of extinction in Sweden due to the lack of dead lying hard pine wood in very old pine forests. Also, the endangered wood-living fungi Griseoporia carbonaria (EN) and Neoantrodia infirma (EN) were found in the forest. Ongoing natural processes create rough fallen tree trunks that many species need.
The fungus Hydnellum gracilipes is globally red-listed as vulnerable (VU), in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) assessment system.
Vargtjärnsskogen is a forest in which these rare species can continue to thrive, if the forest is allowed to remain untouched. The County Administrative Board is the only authority in Sweden that has the ability to protect large forest areas as nature reserves. When Protect the Forest requested that Vargtjärnen should be protected, the County Administrative Board answered:
“The County Administrative Board will not proceed any process with creating a nature reserve here. It is the land owner, in this case SCA, that has the responsibility to handle conservation values. How these will be dealt with and protected is an issue between the Swedish Forest Agency and SCA. The Forest Agency decides what is legal or not. SCA has notified us that they are having a dialogue with the Forest Agency about the logging plans.”
Sebastian Kirppu, forest biologist comments: “The Swedish Forest Agency normally approves logging in high conservation value forest- besides from creating either very small protected areas, or deciding that smaller set-aside areas should surround only certain protected species. Sweden must comply with the environmental targets agreed upon the UN COP15 meeting in Montreal, Canada, before the last remains of unprotected old-growth forests are gone.”
The NGOs Protect the Forest and SSNC underline that it is crucial to protect high conservation value forests like Vargtjärnen in order to comply with the international environmental goals of protecting biodiversity, as signed in Montreal in December 2022.
“It is therefore sad to see that neither SCA nor the governmental agencies in Sweden want to protect Vargtjärnen. SCA says that the County Administrative Board of Västernorrland should protect the forest and the County Administrative Board says that it is the responsibility of the landowner, SCA, to protect the biodiversity of Vargtjärnen,” said Sebastian Kirppu, forest biologist.
Resinoporia crassa – high risk of extinction in Sweden, critically endangered (CR)
Among the 38 red-listed species, the rare perennial wood-living fungus Resinoporia crassa, was found in the forest. It grows on the underside of very old fallen pine trunks without bark. The smell is pleasant, but the taste is bitter. Resinoporia crassa needs a habitat of sparse natural pine forests with a lot of dead pine wood. For a very long time, the pine trees have been dead and barkless in the forest before they finally fall. It probably takes more than 1000 years to form the kind of dead lying hard pine wood on which the Resinoporia crassa thrives. The pinewood is so hard that the trunk can remain on the ground for hundreds of years and form the habitat for the Resinoporia crassa, therefore, this fungus is one of the species that most clearly shows that the forest at Vargtjärnen is a very old pine forest.
Griseoporia carbonaria (EN) found in the forest- only found in a few forests in Sweden
Griseoporia carbonaria is a wood-living fungus that grows on fallen pine trunks which have been burnt more than 100 years ago. Ideally, its habitat should be an open pine forestswith charred trunks affected by historical forest fires. In old pine forests, the trees usually have traces of fires. Charred wood has chemical properties that some species need for their survival. Rough fallen pine trunks with charred surfaces are unusual in today’s forests and such trunks are only found in old coniferous forests. As the Griseoporia carbonaria is very rare, it is important not to practice forest harvesting methods in the forests where this species is found. Old pine trees should not be cut down. The few existing habitats of the Griseoporia carbonaria need to be monitored. It only grows in about fifty places in Sweden and is highly threatened, red-listed as endangered (EN).
Neoantrodia infirma (EN) is an endangered species
The rare wood-living fungus Neoantrodia infirma grows in northern Sweden on dead or dying wood in old coniferous forests. Such wood is scarce in today’s forest landscape. Sometimes it can be found on living trees where parts of the tree is dead. Dry and open oldgrowth forest, mostly among conifers, is a good habitat for Neoantrodia infirma and just like the Griseoporia carbonaria and Resinoporia crassa it thrives on wood which has been charred by forest fires. Neoantrodia infirma mainly occurs in forests that have not been affected by severe disturbance by man, e.g. clear-cuttings, land preparation, machine-damage, fertilizing or trenching.
Contact: Sebastian Kirppu, forest biologist, + 46703081984
SLU Swedish Species Information Centre (2022-2023). Artfakta (only in Swedish)
Nitare, J. (2019). Skyddsvärd skog – Naturvårdsarter och andra kriterier för naturvärdesbedömning. Swedish Forest Agency.
Swedish Forest Agency. FSC complaints – information on very high conservation values in threatened natural forest at Vargtjärnen, Ånge municipality (only in Swedish)
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