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Sweden is the 4th largest country in Europe by area and about 2/3 of the land area (28 million ha) is covered with forests. Forestry is highly mechanized and clear-cutting is the prevailing harvesting method, applied on 90% of the productive forestland. The forest industry is one of Sweden's most important export businesses.
Since the 1970s a multi-scaled conservation model has been applied, implying that trees are saved at different scale levels, from single 'eternity' trees and small tree groups at the stand level, small valuable areas (key habitats, mean size 5 ha) at the medium level, to establishment of large nature reserves at the highest level. Ecological theory supports this model, and the incorporation of biodiversity concern into production forests represents a form of ecosystem approach. Today more than 70% of the Swedish forestland is certified according to the systems FSC or PEFC.
There are three biogeographical zones: the boreal, the hemi-boreal and the temperate. In total there are about 50 000 plant and animal species of which about half are found in forests, and a number of these are declining due to impact from modern forestry, with about 2 000 being red-listed. Habitat alteration including large decreases in natural forest characteristics and lack of natural disturbances like fires are main causes for species declines. Conservation biology research has increased rapidly during the last 15 years in the Nordic countries. Examples of important directions are dead wood ecology and metapopulation modeling. Future research challenges include links between nature conservation and ecosystem services, and development and evaluation of conservation models to adapt to climate change. New forestry methods like plantation of exotic tree species, intense use of fertilizers, and whole-tree harvest will cause increased pressure on biodiversity.
The largest part of forest biodiversity is not found within protected areas, but in the managed forest landscape. Focus on conservation measures in managed forests has therefore increased, both in Sweden and elsewhere. By dividing the responsibility for biodiversity conservation between the state (protected areas) and the private forest owners (managed forests), the forest owner's interest in, and awareness of, conservation issues can also hopefully be increased.
Biodiversity can be promoted at different stages in forest management practices, from preparation for planting to final harvest of trees, but research is struggling with many questions on how to make conservation measures as effective as possible. Important questions that are now in focus for research include: How many trees must be left on a clearcut to benefit forest birds and beetles? Can retained tree groups on clearcuts function as "life-boats" for bryophytes, lichens and spiders until the surrounding forest grows back? Is it possible to create more dead wood on clearcuts and in forests to benefit dead-wood-dependent species, and how should this dead wood be created? How much do conservation measures cost for forest owners and which measures are the most cost-effective?
The presentation will start with an overview of how conservation aspects are taken into account in forest management practices in Sweden. After this, important questions and knowledge gaps on the effectiveness of conservation measures will be identified. Finally, a number of interesting research projects that try to answer these questions will be described and discussed.
Temperate rainforests of southeast Alaska have relatively simple species composition but complex structures with high diversity of tree ages, sizes and forest canopy levels, and an abundant understory plant community. Wildlife and fisheries resources also play an important role in the ecological functioning of forest and aquatic systems. Clearcutting has greatly altered these forest ecosystems with significant decreases in structural diversity of forest stands and greatly reduced wildlife habitat. This research synthesizes information on management options to increase diversity of stand structures and their associated effects on biodiversity. Historical partial cutting in old-growth forests maintains the original diversity of overstory stand structure and understory plant communities. However, another problem is how to manage young-growth forests created following clearcutting. Thinning and pruning of these stands have limited value for maintenance of understory plants.
Another approach is the use of red alder intermingled with the regenerating conifer forests. Research has shown that red alder clearly benefits understory plants, and provides forage for deer and small mammals. Results also show a clear linkage with improved invertebrate diversity in aquatic systems. A combination of light partial cutting in older forests along with inclusion of red alder in conifer-dominated forests could provide the greatest amount of diversity and maintain the complex stand structures that are an important component of these forest ecosystems.