“Tree plantation” misleading for Swedish planted forests

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

The Swedish ”greenies” and “tree-huggers”, – 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 . This seems intentionally misleading as Swedes, who know much about forestry, knows that most of Swedish planted forest is not what “tree plantation” is associated to.

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 about 28 Mha. Thus, roughly, about half can be regarded as “planted” and half is “natural”.

Currently less than 20% of the area cut 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 is converted to other land types, the forest area is not shrinking).

For many reasons most Swedish planted forests are not like “tree plantations”. 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 came before plantation and some after. Several species may be planted. Some plantations fail, so no or few planted trees remain, but the forest is still characterized as planted. All trees may not be 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 often 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” makes.

Last edited 180311 på http://downto.dagli.se/

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

  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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