The Swedish Forest

Q&A

Who owns the Swedish forests? 

Almost half of Sweden’s 28 million hectares of forest land is owned by 320,000 non-industrial, private forest owners — mainly families or individuals. Approximately one fourth is owned by forestry companies and one fourth is owned by the state (19 %), regions, municipalities, the Church of Sweden, foundations, or associations. 

Is the amount of forest in Sweden increasing or decreasing? 

Roughly 70% of Sweden’s total land area is covered by forest. The total area of forest land is about 28 million hectares, and that figure does not change much. However, the volume of wood in the Swedish forests has almost doubled in 100 years. The number of trees has increased, and the trees are larger now on average, with thicker trunks. This is what we mean when we say that we have twice as much forest now compared to 100 years ago. 

The average increase in wood volume in the Swedish forests is 120 million cubic metres annually. About 90 million cubic metres are harvested each year. Final felling is carried out on about 1% of the total area of forest land each year and for every tree that is harvested, 2–3 new trees are planted. 

Why is there so much coniferous forest in Sweden? 

Sweden is situated in the geographical zone referred to as the boreal coniferous belt. Conifers such as spruce (Picea sp) and pine (Pinus sp) are the dominant species in this zone. The percentage of broadleaved trees, that is trees with leaves rather than needles, increases further south. The southernmost part of Sweden is situated in the nemoral belt, which is dominated by different species of broadleaved trees.  

Many broadleaved tree species self-regenerate easily, meaning that the focus on regenerating coniferous trees, which has dominated Swedish forestry for a long time, has not actually resulted in forests with only conifers. The broadleaved trees have regenerated naturally and have become part of the new forests. 

The wood volume in Swedish forests consists of 20 percent broadleaved trees and 40 percent each of spruce (Picea abies) and pine (Pinus silvestris). 

What about primary forests in Sweden? 

In this context, primary forests are defined as forests that have not been affected by human activities.* 

In this sense, there is very little primary forest in Sweden. Since such a large part of the land area (70 %) is covered by forest, people have always lived in and of the forest. Over the past millennia, nearly all forests have been affected by human activities to some extent. This includes forests in the far north and close to the Scandes mountain range in the north-west of the country. 

The forests with the highest levels of primary or old-growth qualities have been prioritised when creating national parks and nature reserves and are not logged. 

*Primary forests according to FAO Forest Resources Assessment: “Naturally regenerated forest of native tree species, where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed. Some key characteristics of primary forests are 1) They show natural forest dynamics, such as natural tree species composition, occurrence of dead wood, natural age structure and natural regeneration processes; 2) The area is large enough to maintain its natural ecological processes; and 3) There has been no known significant human intervention or the last significant human intervention was long enough ago to have allowed the natural species composition and processes to have become re-established.”