The history of clear-cutting in northern Sweden – Driving forces and myths in boreal silviculture

Lundmark, Hanna and Josefsson, Torbjörn and Östlund, Lars (2013) The history of clear-cutting in northern Sweden – Driving forces and myths in boreal silviculture. Forest Ecology and Management, 307. pp. 112-122. ISSN 0378-1127

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Abstract In a broad sense, one that includes foresters, nature conservation organizations and the informed public in Sweden, it is common knowledge that the era of clear-cutting in northern Sweden began around 1950. This paper presents results of a study showing that this is a much too simplistic view. The main objective was to analyze how clear-cutting was discussed professionally and implemented in northern Sweden during the late 19th century and early 20th. We also wanted to discuss the development of forest management in this region from a comparative perspective. The study is based on a detailed analysis of extensive historical records from 1882 to 1960 and includes papers and reports from discussions and field excursions. The results of the study show that clear-cutting was widely applied in northern Sweden in the early 1900s as the interest in sustainable forest management and regeneration increased. The foresters wanted to improve the situation in the residual stands that were left after high-grading of Scots pine and, at the same time, the expanding pulp industry improved the market for smaller diameter trees and Norway spruce, making it possible to apply clear-cutting on a larger scale. A rapidly expanding wood market pushed a timber frontier northwards in Sweden and along with this came new knowledge and technology. During the 1930s, the financial crisis led to a temporary decline in clear-cutting in favor of selective cutting, but after that clear-cutting took over more and more. Rather than being a dramatic shift between cutting methods, the transition was a gradual process during which both clear-cutting and selective cutting were seen as rational cutting methods and therefore constantly applied and refined. With time, however, selective cutting was abandoned in favor of clear-cutting. The reason for keeping a persistent myth around the introduction of clear-cutting has its roots in the transformation process but also through the need for a positive historical narrative among foresters in Sweden.

Item Type: Article
Language: English
Uncontrolled Keywords: Clear-cutting; Selective cutting; Sustainable forest management; Driving forces; Forest history; Sweden
Depositing User: Christer Enkvist
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2017 14:25
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2017 14:25

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