Is this the future of Swedish forestry?

Pine saplings are found in Martin Lundgren's forests. "But they are outcompeted by spruce or eaten by moose," he says.
Pine saplings are found in Martin Lundgren's forests. "But they are outcompeted by spruce or eaten by moose," he says.

When the pine trees are mature, most forest owners choose to clear-cut and replant the whole forest. But Martin Lundgren wants to try a different approach. He wants to achieve continuous pine growth and is experimenting with different methods in Ultervattnet's forests.

Ultervattnet 8 augusti 2023 11:37

In the area of the forest that Martin Lundgren shows us, the pine trees have been removed when they have grown too large. By removing trees from the forest, he tries to encourage new seedlings to take root. The method is called continuous cover forestry and is a way of harvesting wood without resorting to clear-cutting.

– The reason for this current experiment was to see if it is possible to make pine trees reproduce continually under these conditions. But things do not look very promising in this patch of forest.

Managing the forest in this way has less impact on the other animals and plants in the forest than if the whole forest is cut down and replanted.

– It is a method that should encourage biodiversity.

But instead of pine, spruce tends to sprout between the lingonberry bushes.

– Pine does not thrive in the shade. It needs a lot of light, unlike spruce, which tolerates shade better. But it's pine that I want here.

If Lundgren's pine trees survive in spite of being exposed to reasonable competition, he will be able to achieve high quality - at least what the sawmills understand by quality. 

– Then they are also more profitable for the forest owner. At the same time, you get an area where clear-cutting is avoided.

– The seedling should not only survive, it should grow into a mature tree. When seedlings are planted in such an area, they grow very slowly. There is also a high risk that they will be eaten by moose.

There are several experimental plots in his forests in Ultervattnet, but so far the results have not been satisfactory.

– If you want to succeed with tree continuity, this needs to be done on reasonably fertile spruce stands. "I have seen that pine easily establishes in burned areas. So I have tried to burn small areas within a stand.

The following year he planted seedlings and everything looked good. But after a while the plants died.

– I think I was in too much of a hurry and the root weevil had time to attack and kill the saplings. You should wait three years to be safe.

Forest owner Sune Lundström inspects Martin's forests together with environmental engineer Tomas Johansson.

Sweden's forests still grow more than is cut down. But the balance is getting ever closer, says Lundgren.

– Everyone's eyes are on the forest at the moment. It is supposed to provide fuel, be a recreational area, protect the environment, provide food, etc. Some want to reduce or stop logging altogether. They have probably failed to consider the consequences of this happening. Many products we currently make from wood are difficult to replace with other materials.

There has been a lot of criticism of the logging of increasingly young forests.

– Tree growth slows down after the age of 70. As tree growth declines, so does the amount of carbon stored. Then we have to consider whether it is worth waiting a few more years for the forest to slowly increase in size, or whether it should be replaced by new forest, says Lundgren.

Meter-wide roads run through his forests. They are needed when forestry machines need to enter the forest for felling.

– One of the problems with this type of forest management is when the trees are removed. When they are felled and branches removed, it is easy for surrounding seedlings and smaller trees to be damaged.

Areas that Martin considers suitable for tree continuity include areas close to urban centres, summer cottage areas and recreational areas.

– It is ideal to try alternative methods in these areas.

To extract individual trees from the forest, large machinery is needed. Martin Lundgren owns this harvester, but he says that an excavator would be best for lifting heavy trees.

Today, support is available for establishing areas to enhance biodiversity, but no support is provided for those practicing clear-cutting-free forestry, says Lundgren. However, he notes that the attitude towards continuous cover forestry has changed in recent years.

– In the past, this was met with resistance. But now, the Swedish Forest Agency is starting to shift and talk about clear-cutting-free methods. However, more research and evaluations are needed. Many are so certain that this is the right path, but there's still a lack of knowledge in the field.

He's not certain about the most environmentally friendly method for forest management.

– There are differing opinions about clear-cutting. Some argue that it mimics forest fires. Then there are those who believe continuous cover forestry is the environmental solution. I'm not the right person to judge who's right or wrong.

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