Nordic forest areas good ground for sustainable development

- The climate, ecology and well-functioning forest management in Nordic countries provide a strong basis for maintaining the productive potential of forestlands in an increasingly challenging global situation, says researchers from Stockholm Resilience Centre

Forest area in Skåne, southern Sweden. Photo: J. Lokrantz/Azote
In a recent article published in Ambio, researchers Thomas Elmquist and Carl Folke have along with Stuart Chapin III, Kjell Danell and Nancy Fresco studied how plans for sustainable management of long-lived species such as trees can be developed in a rapidly changing environment.

Animals affected by forest changes
In the article, which is entitled "Managing Climate Change Impacts to Enhance the Resilience and Sustainability of Fennoscandian Forests", the researchers states that during the next 50 years, the air temperature in Fennoscandia is expected to increase by 0.2 — 0.5 degrees Celcius per decade.

This will lead to warmer winters and ultimately snow-free winter conditions. Warmer conditions and small changes in summer precipitation will probably increase the frequency of summer drought and the risk of wildfire, especially in southern Fennoscandia.

Furthermore, there will probably be a gradual migration of both native and exotic species to the north and to higher elevations. Birds, winged insects and plants with wind-dispersed seeds will disperse rapidly but can also have positive effects on ecosystems. They can greatly change the structure, species composition and functioning of ecosystems.

- Migration also enables threatened species to move to new locations where the future climate will be similar to what they currently experience, the Professor Thomas Elmquist says.

How to secure sustainable forestry
The social and economic changes may have effects on Fennoscandian forestry that are at least as great as those of climate change. Demand for timber product or a higher demand for non-timber forest products such as biofuels, biochemicals and health products may lead to pressures for new uses of the forest.

In order to secure a sustainable forestry as possible, the researchers present three general goals that are especially important to sustainable forestry:

- Maintaining the productive potential of the land
- Restoring Biodiversity
- Fostering economic and cultural diversity

- Fennoscandia has well developed programs for environmental monitoring, providing a basis to identify potential problems at an early stage. Furthermore, forest managers have taken many important steps to provide habitat conditions that foster biodiversity, Elmquist says.

Strong influence from private landowners
However, it is also important to note that economic and cultural diversity could be just as important as ecological diversity in order to provide sustainable forestry. One incentive is to make sure people continue to live in rural areas.

- Most Swedish forestland is privately owned, so decisions and risk assessments by private landowners strongly influence future sustainability.

- If local users strengthen their personal and cultural connections to the land, they will have a stronger long-term commitment to sustaining local forest areas. Furthermore, new bridging institutions that link city-dwelling forest owners with rural forestry decisions could facilitate these opportunities, Elmquist says.

Source: Chapin, F.S. III, K. Danell, T. Elmqvist, C. Folke, and N. Fresco. 2007. Managing Climate Change Impacts to Enhance the Resilience and Sustainability of Fennoscandinan Forests. Ambio 36:528-33.

Reference

Citation

Chapin, F.S. III, K. Danell, T. Elmqvist, C. Folke, and N. Fresco. 2007. Managing Climate Change Impacts to Enhance the Resilience and Sustainability of Fennoscandinan Forests. Ambio 36:528-33.

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Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

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