Berit, Dagmar and Emil made the forest fall

Traces after the storm Berit outside Halmstad in the south-west of Sweden. Photo: Jesper Andersson/Södra.

Back to the forest: In one of my blog posts last week I briefly mentioned a discussion which has come up in Sweden after the storms that swept over the country around Christmas and in early January. Berit, Dagmar and Emil, as the storms were named, caused cancelled trains and power failures for hundreds of thousands of Swedes. But the storms also left traces that will stay for a long time.

The biggest scars are found in the forests. In some places, where the wind-force went up to 40 km/second, trees fell like toy sticks. The Swedish Forest Agency says this will cost forest owners about 1 billion Swedish kronor (around 114 million Euro). According to the forest owners’ association Södra, one of the biggest problems is that the fallen trees have to be taken care of fast, so that insects don’t start affecting the timber.

But this many trees wouldn’t have to fall every time Sweden faces a rough storm, critics like the organization Rädda skogen (Protect the Forest) argue. They mean that the reason why forest owners have had a hard time lately isn’t more storms – it’s the trend towards more monoculture tree plantations rather than naturally growing forests.

“Sweden’s forest landscapes have transformed into a landscape of biologically monotone production forests. These forest never become very old and are less rich on variations” researchers write in a recent report from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

The reasons are complex, but a bit simplified you could say that in a forests composed by trees that are all of the same type and age, with the roots going equally deep into the soil and the crowns reaching equally high, it’s more difficult for the trees to resist a strong wind.
The way to harvest timber through clear-cutting large areas is also a way to increase the strain on the remaining forest, alternative forestry managing companies like Silvaskog point out.

The newspaper Aftonbladet has a striking photo of what the storm Dagmar left behind.

So far, I haven’t heard if the recent storms made any damages to the virgin forests that Andrea Barghi and Veronica Bernaccioni portray in their book The wild forests of Norbotten. But on the other hand: In a virgin forest, trees falling down is a part of the normal cycle and becomes a welcome source of food and homes for many of its inhabitants.

A planted commercial spruce forest is composed quite differently from a naturally growing one. Photo: Sigfrid Lundberg (CC BY, SA)

  • Fredrik Gustas

    Just testing….

  • Pol – Croatia

    It looks as the scene after an explosion took place, although coming from different directions.

    Last decade or so a sort of small tornadoes has started to appear along western coastal parts in my region and in some other places along Adriatic. Many trees have fallen down. And as i mentioned earlier we had a strange snow episode with similar effects, considerably damaging or completly knocking down trees, by its weight.

    Many of these trees were sporadically planted or secondary grown pines of the same type, somewhere after a WWII, as an attempt of coastal reforestation. Although they look very naturally, maybe because they were planted more intuitivelly and some have later grown as offsprings from seeds where the conditions were more suitable from natural perspective.

    The ancient story is that once in a history there was lots of naturaly grown forests along coast, but they were overintensivly cut down (appearance of agriculture, excessive woodharvesting, … ?), so the soil eroded into the sea living predominantly rocks behind on which only bushes of Mediterannen durable plants could grow. … Also, the more “recent” story was that wood and stone was exploited for the purpose of building the city of Venice, since it stands on water, but also maybe because of wood as a trading item for exchange, or for building fleets of ships, since Venice derived its power from an early form of “global” sea route commerce.(?) …

    However, planted pine forests like one near my home seem also to be in the process of wider “natural” decay and some studies say that (at least as they are now) they are poor in sustaining life diversity as well as to sustain themselves. Now there are plans to partly diversify the forest with more diversified vegetation, although these plans and studies are also an integral part of some possible bussiness interests and there where pressures in the past to populate it with appartment buildings. like some already made outside nearby.

    All in all, i believe the natural forest should be more resilient, although the unusual weather makes no plant or ecosystem fully prepared for it.

  • Monica-USA

    Looks just like what we recently went through with the wind storms.

  • Sara Jeswani

    Hi Monica and Pol! Yes, the sad thing is that trees take such a long time to grow back again… I think this is a coomon sight in many countries all over the world. Just another proof that biodiversity is important for a number of reasons.

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