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.