Study uncovers widespread and ongoing clearcutting of Swedish old forests

Almost one fourth of Sweden’s last unprotected old-growth forest was logged between 2003 and 2019. At this rate, all of these ecologically unique and valuable forests will be lost in about 50 years.

This has occurred despite the fact that the majority of productive Swedish forest is included within some form of forest product certification that prioritizes conservation of forests with high ecological values.

“At the present rate of logging, the last of these unprotected, old-growth forests will disappear in Sweden in the 2070s. This loss of old natural forest will define our landscapes for centuries, because Swedish and other boreal forests grow so slowly,” says Anders Ahlström.

Clearcutting of older, natural forest appears to be widespread across most northern countries, but there has been little monitoring of the distribution and extent of this practice, mainly because there are no official maps of the location and extent of the forests and that natural boreal forest is difficult to distinguish in satellite images.

“We cannot afford to lose more of the world’s old growth forests to humanity’s insatiable appetite for resources. Old growth forests play a key role in biodiversity conservation and planetary stability in the face of rapid climate change,” says Pep Canadell, Director for the Global Carbon Project CSIRO in Australia.