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1 April 2015

Swedish forests in an international perspective

Climate change may result in increased growth of Swedish forests. This rise in production will also become more interesting as other countries incur ever growing problems. This is one conclusion in a new book from Mistra’s research programme Future Forests. ‘It’s a development that we shouldn’t feel pleased about,’ thinks the editor of the book, Erik Westholm.

Competition for the world’s cultivable land resources is set to increase. There are several reasons for this. One is that the growing world population is boosting demand for biomass. Another is that climate change risks making many of the areas now important for farming and forestry more or less unusable.

The question of how forests are to be used in the future is therefore important, not least in Sweden, which is one of the countries that may be favoured by a warmer climate.

To clarify these issues, Mistra’s research programme Future Forests has issued a book, The Future Use of Nordic Forests.

‘Above all, we wanted to study how international trends affect Swedish forests,’ says Erik Westholm, a professor of Nordic and European rural development at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and chief editor of the book.

Numerous factors in interaction

In a total of ten chapters, several different contributors describe some of the changes that are expected to have a major bearing on land use in the world in 25–50 years’ time. The issues involved include population growth, changing age structures, socioeconomic development and how these may bring about a global increase in demand for biomass in the form of food, products from the forest industry and energy.

‘All the writers were asked to reflect on the bearing that their own areas of expertise may have to how Swedish forests are used.’

The purpose of the book is to encourage the forest sector, interest organisations and decision-makers to engage in wide-ranging debate about the scope, challenges and choices to be made in the future management of our forests.

‘Swedish forest production is getting more important as climate change disrupts production in other countries. Faster growth may, narrowly viewed, seem to make Sweden a winner. But the issue is more complicated than that, as a rising mean global temperature threatens our economy and prosperity at the same time. So we can’t see global warming as positive.’

International views

The book discusses mainly what we have to do to meet the growing pressure on the country’s land resources, but it also has some international comparisons — how Canada, for example, has tackled the issues of future forests in earnest.

‘There, in recent years, they’ve started a broad dialogue with many different actors. That way, they hope both to find new development potential for industry and to balance different interests better.

The book was written with the approach and systematic control that academic work demands, but the editor and chapter authors have also striven to make the contents easily accessible.

‘I think and hope it will interest both people working in the forest industry and all those who care about the future of Swedish forests.’

The book is now available for purchase and will be presented to forest stakeholders at a number of international meetings.

Text: Per Westergård, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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