Within the boreal region, Fennoscandia represents an extreme in terms of the degree and extent to which landscape dynamics are influenced by land management[1]. For example, more than two thirds of Sweden are currently covered by forests, of which the majority is subject to forestry[2]. The country has a long history of using its natural forest resources, while also protecting and developing them[3]. Total forest industry output was approximately 23 billion Euros in 2011[4], while the export value of forestry and the forest products industry was 13 billion Euros. The total number of employees in large-scale forestry has declined significantly in recent years, while, at the same time, the role of forest entrepreneurs (and their employees) has become increasingly important[4].

Forests play an important role in terms of diverse and multifunctional benefits to people in Sweden. In addition to the economic output that is generated by the forestry sector, forests also deliver social and environmental functions. For instance, forests support biodiversity, provide opportunities for recreational activities (‘freedom to roam’, which is a general public right codified in law), allow for mushroom and berry picking, sequester atmospheric carbon, improve air quality, and regulate water quantity and quality. Forestry in Sweden is currently based on a balance between these economic, social and environmental interests[5]. However, the forestry sector is subject to alterations in the light of developments in energy, governance and landuse systems, climate politics, and taking account of an increasing competition between economic, environmental and recreational functions[6]. The growing demand for bioenergy has led to an intensification of the forest industry[7], in particular through extensions of managed forest land, introduction of fast-growing tree species and increasing use of fertilization[8]. In the past decades, standing tree volume in Swedish productive forests have increased, despite a rapidly increasing felling rate[2]. Concurrently, the energy produced from solid biofuels (i.e., wood and black liquor) has increased by 200% since 1970. In the future, more intense forestry practises require technological and logistical improvements to render an economically sustainable production and to reduce the negative effects on our environment[9].


Figure: Swedish forest statistics including annual standing volume and felling rates for the productive forest land (a) and tree dry weight biomass for growing stock and energy produced by biomass (b) for the period 1955-2015 based on data provided by SLU[2] and Energimyndigheten[10].

The effects of climate on landuse are diverse and usually affect more than one type of landuse. In the future, warming temperatures and higher evaporation rates especially during summer months can potentially cause water shortages leading to forest damages and an increasing risk for forest fires. The extended growing season that arises from warmer temperatures, in particular in the North, means that some areas will become increasingly available and attractive to forestry. This warming might also imply a shift in vegetation types and a shortening of the presently rather long rotation periods of typical boreal forests.

In a future climate, one of the key questions is whether the extraction of forest biomass can be further increased without negative consequences for other forest functions. Typical forestry practices have an impact on soil, water, climate and biodiversity[9] and, thus, a main challenge is to manage trade-offs between economic, environmental and recreational functions[6].


[1] Gauthier, S., P. Bernier, T. Kuuluvainen, A. Z. Shvidenko, and D. G. Schepaschenko (2015), Boreal forest health and global change, Science, 349(6250), 819–822, doi:10.1126/science.aaa9092.

[2] SLU (2016), Forest Statistics 2016, Official Statistics of Sweden, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Umeå, Sweden.

[3] Andersson, K. (2012), Bioenergy, the Swedish experience: how bioenergy became the largest energy source in Sweden.

[4] Skogsstyrelsen (2014), Swedish Statistical Yearbook of Forestry, Swedish Forest Agency, Jönköping, Sweden.

[5] Hemström, K., K. Mahapatra, and L. Gustavsson (2014), Public Perceptions and Acceptance of Intensive Forestry in Sweden, AMBIO, 43(2), 196–206, doi:10.1007/s13280-013-0411-9.

[6] Sandström, C., A. Lindkvist, K. Öhman, and E.-M. Nordström (2011), Governing Competing Demands for Forest Resources in Sweden, Forests, 2(4), 218–242, doi:10.3390/f2010218.

[7] Helmisaari, H.-S., L. Kaarakka, and B. A. Olsson (2014), Increased utilization of different tree parts for energy purposes in the Nordic countries, Scand J Forest Res, 29(4), 312–322, doi:10.1080/02827581.2014.926097.

[8] Rytter, L., K. Johansson, B. Karlsson, and L.-G. Stener (2013), Tree Species, Genetics and Regeneration for Bioenergy Feedstock in Northern Europe, in Forest BioEnergy Production: Management, Carbon sequestration and Adaptation, edited by S. Kellomäki, A. Kilpeläinen, and A. Alam, pp. 7–37, Springer New York, New York, NY.

[9] de Jong, J., C. Akselsson, H. Berglund, G. Egnell, K. Gerhardt, L. L̦nnberg, B. Olsson, and H. Stedingk (2014), Consequences of an increased extraction of forest biofuel in Sweden Рa synthesis from the biofuel research programme 2007-2011: Summary of the Swedish Energy Agency report no. ER2012:08 (in Swedish), IEA Bioenergy Task 43: Biomass Feedstocks for Energy Markets, IEA Bioenergy.

[10] Energimyndigheten (2016), Energy in Sweden 2015, Swedish Energy Agency, Eskilstuna, Sweden.