Q&A about biodiversity in the forest

Photo: Björn Johansson

Why is biodiversity important to the forest industry? 

The Swedish forest industry aims to manage the forests in such a way that all species can live on. The retention of, for example, groups of trees and high stumps in everyday forestry activities combined with the areas voluntarily set aside by forest owners, forms the basis for the preservation of biodiversity in managed forests. 

Who is responsible for biodiversity in the forest? 

The Swedish Forestry Act considers wood production and environmental goals to be equally important, and this forms the basis for all activities in the forest. Conditions that allow all forest-based species to live on are created every day. All forest owners are responsible for ensuring species-rich and ecologically valuable forests, as are all those who visit the forests using the Right of Public Access, which obliges everyone not to harm the environment or protected species. 

The responsibility for protecting biodiversity is shared between the state and the forest owners. The state, at national and regional level, protects forests by creating national parks, nature reserves and other formally protected areas. The forest owners assume their part of the responsibility by taking environmental consideration measures and by voluntarily setting aside parts of the forest landscape for environmental, cultural, and recreational reasons. 

Are there fewer species in today’s forests compared to 100 years ago? 

Much of Sweden’s official statistics concerning forests and biodiversity originate from SLU Swedish Species Information Centre (Artdatabanken) and The Swedish National Forest Inventory (Riksskogstaxeringen) at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Based on these statistics, there is nothing to indicate that the number of species in the forests has decreased. On the other hand, there is nothing that indicates that the number of species has increased, either. The Swedish Bird Inventory (Svensk Fågeltaxering), however, shows that the number of bird species in the forests has increased. We also know that there has been an increase in many key structures that are important for biodiversity, including old forest, large trees, broadleaved trees, and dead wood. 

Some forest types are more diverse than others. Spruce (Picea abies) trees on former agricultural land often harbour quite a limited range of species while a clearcut area, where a lot of light — which is important to many insects and vascular plants — reaches the ground, may be home to a larger number of species. 

What percentage of the forest is protected? 

Sweden’s total area of forest land is 28 million hectares. Of this, about 25% is excluded from forestry in one way or another. An additional 11 percent, on average, of the managed forest land is left undisturbed for environmental reasons at the time of final felling. 

Of the total area of forest land, about 9% is formally protected through inclusion in nature reserves. About 16% of the forest land is categorised as unproductive with poor soils. No forestry activities are carried out in these areas. You can find more statistics at www.scb.se.

What is a certified forest? 

In Sweden, 63% of the forest land is certified. Certifying forest land and forest management is a voluntary commitment on the part of the forest owner whereby they undertake to comply with the certification standards, which include setting aside part of the land for nature conservation. The certification standards contribute to economically, ecologically, and socially responsible forest management. There are two certification systems in Sweden: FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification).