“Tree plantation” misleading for Swedish planted forests

The concept “tree plantation” (=”plantage”) seems intentionally misused by many environmental groups!

The Swedish ”greenies”,   and “tree-huggers”,  and the biggest and most influent natural conservation organistation in Sweden (Naturskyddsföreningen) – and probably world-wide equivalents – assume in their rhetoric that planted forests are equivalents to “plantations” (Swedish translation is “plantage”). See for example http://skyddaskogen.se/en/component/simplefilemanager/?view=download&id=49 and (in Swedish) https://www.svd.se/plantager-pa-vag-ersatta-mycket-av-sveriges-skog . and https://www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/vad-vi-gor/skog/vart-arbete/svenska-skogen/skogsplantager-narmare-an-du-tror . This seems intentionally misleading as those of the Swedes, who know much about forestry,  knows that most of Swedish planted forest is not what “tree plantation” (“plantager”) is associated to. The FAO classification of most Swedish planted forests is “semi-natural forest”.

To avoid the mis-leading associations with “tree plantation” FAO (The UN body dealing with forest) uses “planted forest” instead, but the “greenies” usually do not care.

It is true that a considerable and growing share of the Swedish forests originate from planting or seeding. It has been going on since centuries, although one hundred years ago (in the forests we now reforest) the forest more often was left to recover after harvest without planting.

According to FAO (FRA15 and adjacent literature), Sweden has 14.1 Mha planted forest and the total forest area is 28.1 Mha. Thus, according to FAO, it seems as roughly about half can be regarded as “planted” and half is “natural”. However, interpretations are tricky and depending on country information. E.g. it is not known what current Swedish forest was planted before 1953 and that has been neglected. Therefore, it is very likely the fraction of planted forest in Sweden is higher. Other uncertainties e. g. some plantations fail, when most trees are “natural”, but the forest is still characterized as planted.

Currently less than 20% of the cut area in Sweden is naturally regenerated, but it was more earlier. Some Mha of the planted forest is afforestation, thus other land types have been converted to forest (as some forest has been converted to other land types, the Swedish forest area is not shrinking neither raising).

For many reasons most Swedish planted forests are not like “tree plantations” (“plantager”). Only a small share can be characterized as fast growing with short rotation and intensive management. The share of exotics is small. Usually a considerable part of the trees in a planted forest are non-planted, some come before plantating and some after. Several species are often planted over a regeration area. All trees in planted forest are often not even-aged. The planting rows are not always straight, and many planted plants do not remain to maturity. The character of the forest is often a mosaic and different parts are managed differently. The result is mostly not what is associated with a “tree plantation”.

The Swedish national forest survey https://twitter.com/AlaxSLU/status/855175731298668546  estimated that 0.59 Mha of the Swedish Forest looks like “tree plantations” (“av plantageskogskaraktär”), thus  only some percent of the forest!

There is another article about “tree plantation” in Swedish http://downto.dagli.se/?p=297 , where more about the associations “plantation” creates are mentioned.

Last edited 180509 på http://downto.dagli.se/

4 thoughts on ““Tree plantation” misleading for Swedish planted forests”

    1. Hadde du satt deg inn i problematikken ville du sett at arealet stort sett består av skog som betraktes som restaureringspotenisal rundt en mindre kjerne med mer urørt skog som ikke ble hogd for 60 år siden. Alle de interessante artene ble påvist innenfor kjerneområdet.
      Det er uheldig med all denne mer eller mindre bevisst feilaktige propagandaen fra skogbrukets side.

  1. Good point! “Tree plantation” is often mistaken for all planted forests, and this can mislead a general population, which by default have a negative opinion on plantations. This is dangerous as it is wrong. For example, forest restoration as well as ecosystem restoration often uses planting of seedlings or direct seeding which result in planted forests. Should we be against these forests only because someone (in ignorance or with bad intention) calls them “tree plantations”?

    One more thing about the real tree plantations: Bigger production in tree plantations compared to the same area of natural forests reduces the pressure and harvest in natural forests. Right? So, should we be against tree plantations in general, or from case to case?

    1. Certainly some “plantations” is a good thing. But they do not cover a large part of the planted forests and will not do in the foreseeable future. The fast growing tree plantations make only 1% of word’s forests, but cover 25% of world’s wood fiber demands (data for 2000 – Cubbage 2003).

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