Forests and the forestry sector


Sweden is a forest country; two-thirds of the total land area is covered with forests and half of its net national income comes from the export of forest products. The forest land per caput is high - 3.5 ha of forest to every Swede - and almost all Swedes have some type of relationship to the forest. Everyone has common access to the forest, and forests are important for recreation and are dominant in the Swedish landscape. The forests are fairly uniform in composition. The main species are Norway spruce (Picea abies) 46 percent, Scots pine (Pinus silvestris) 37 percent, and various deciduous species, 15 percent.

During the past hundred years the forests have recovered from deforestation caused by previous livestock grazing and slash and burn agriculture, logging of wood for building, cooking, heating and shipbuilding, and cutting of large forests areas for charcoal and poles for the mining industry. At the beginning of the twentieth century a new forest regeneration movement started, and the Forestry Act of 1903 was passed stop the ruthless exploitation. Over the course of the century the growing stock almost doubled to reach the current 3 000 million cubic metres, while 4 500 million cubic metres were harvested during the same period - an example of sustainable forestry. The annual growth of the forest is 100 million cubic metres, and the possible annual cut on a sustained yield basis is stated to be about 90 million cubic metres. For many years the actual annual cut has been around 70 million cubic metres.

Some 80 percent (24.4 million hectares) of the Swedish forest area is privately owned (including forest owned by the State-owned company Sveaskog). There are approximately 260 000 smallholders. Forest employment in rural areas is of great importance in some regions. Many of the small private forest owners are farmers as well.

The area of natural forest is small, about 5 percent of the total, because of earlier pressures on the forest. Most of the natural forest is protected in nature reserves. About 3.2 million hectares, more than 10 percent of total forest, is protected for biodiversity conservation, and about the same area is considered protective forest. Fire, as a threat to sustainable forest management, has been largely eliminated since the nineteenth century. In addition, a substantial part of the natural forest of special environmental importance is protected through the designation of ¿micro areas¿.

Considerable stress is also laid on conservation of biodiversity outside protected areas through the use of appropriate silvicultural methods Clear-cutting is the prevalent harvesting system, with regeneration accomplished through the planting of pine and fir. Some seed tree regeneration for pine is also used. An increasing share of Sweden¿s harvest is from commercial thinning.

Products and trade
Forestry and the forest industry have considerable economic importance for Sweden as a nation, especially in certain sub-regions of the country. The forest industry is one of the country¿s main export branches.

Swedish production of paper and paperboard reached 10.5 million tonnes in 2001. Exports of all forest products amounted to US$10.1 billion in 2000, but fell to US$9.1 billion in 2001.

Last updated: May 2003

last updated:  Thursday, January 14, 2016