Many of the species in our forests are currently under threat from modern forestry techniques. The University of Skövde and the County Administrative Board are now working together in order to map the county’s woodlands, to identify priority areas and to prevent species extinction.
The Swedish government has decided on a national forest programme, with the aim that forests “shall contribute to jobs and sustainable growth throughout the country, and to the development of a growing bio-economy”. In Västra Götaland, the County Administrative Board is leading this work, with the help of researchers from the University of Skövde, among others.
“This project is part of enabling forest owners to determine which forest stands may, from a landscape perspective, require applied management measures in order to increase the survival opportunities of forest species. The Swedish Forest Agency’s government mandate includes attempting to mitigate conflicts of objectives, such as the conflict between production and environmental considerations. Academic anchoring is essential in this type of survey, and is necessary to ensure the forest owner can get unbiased information”, explains Peter Sögaard, who is project manager for the Forestry Programme in Västra Götaland.
Many species threatened by fragmentation
“Many species are under threat from modern forestry, and one of the most important factors is the fragmentation of the landscape. Fragmentation means that biologically rich natural habitats are divided into smaller parts by our use of the land for forestry, agriculture, infrastructure and urbanisation, etc. The species that are dependent on these natural habitats have less space in which to live, and this increases the risk of extinction for these species”, explains Annie Jonsson, who is an associate professor at the School of Bioscience at the University of Skövde, and is responsible for the University’s collaboration with the County Administrative Board.
The collaborative project will analyse where valuable forests currently exist in relation to each other, with the aim of identifying which areas have the highest priority for conservation, management and development in order to prevent species extinction.
University of Skövde contributes with algorithms
The University will produce maps for each municipality in the region. The maps will show where the most valuable coniferous woodlands are located, which lands are most vulnerable to exploitation and should be preserved, and which lands could make the greatest addition to biodiversity if allowed to develop into natural woodland environments.
“The maps allow landowners and authorities to determine the best management practices to ensure the sustainability of a specific forest stand. More specifically, a tool that incorporates an algorithm that was developed by the University’s researchers is used to calculate the landscape’s ability to maintain a high level of biodiversity. The algorithm uses both geographic input about the size and position of the forest land within the landscape and ecological expertise about the ability of species to survive and spread”, says Annie Jonsson.
Increased insights and increased sustainability
The mapping increases the insights of both landowners and authorities into what could be done to achieve more sustainable usage of the county’s coniferous forests. However, the project also involves additional benefits to society, such as better forests for berries and mushrooms, and the important aspect of preserving the function of forests as a carbon sink.
“For us in the research team, it is great to be part of such an important project to increase the sustainability of the biodiversity. This will ensure that the county’s residents can continue to be provided with a variety of ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, timber, wildlife, berries, mushrooms, recreation, nature tourism and much more. I am also looking forward to the opportunity for continued collaboration and the further development of our tool”, says Annie Jonsson.
“Safeguarding the recreational value and biodiversity of forests provides many benefits for society, and for rural communities in particular. Varied forestry makes forests more attractive to visit, which in turn enables local businesses to develop within the framework of the forest’s multiple uses”, says Peter Sögaard.