Sweden’s green dilemma: can cutting down ancient trees be good for the Earth?

Sweden’s green dilemma: can cutting down ancient trees be good for the Earth?

The country’s model for managing its trees is bad for biodiversity… and political unity

Forest-owner Lars-Erik Levin doesn’t seem like an environmental villain. As he walks through his 80 hectares (198 acres) of woodland in southern Sweden, he identifies goldcrests by their song, points out a cauliflower fungus and shows off the aspen in his wood that grouse feed on. This year he’s picked more than 100kg of chanterelles, and even more bilberries.

But this is the part of the property he manages by so-called continuous cover forestry, where he claims he only fells trees with trunks so thick his arms no longer reach around them. On the other side of his farmhouse is a wide-open space the size of two football pitches, where, five years ago, he cut the forest to the stumps. Little now remains but grass, brambles and young, waist-high spruce. “Animals and birds have legs and wings, they can move a little,” he protests when asked what happened to the wildlife.

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