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Debattartiklar|03 mar, 2023

EU’s Nature Restoration Law: make or break for Swedish forests?

Svensk skog
Scientists have warned that millions of hectares of biodiversity-rich forests in Sweden are set to disappear by 2070 if current practices continue, and just a few months ago, the Swedish Forestry Agency sounded the alarm that the ecological status of Swedish forests will continue to decline unless urgent measures are taken. [Shutterstock / Dietrich Leppert]

Sweden is largely covered by forests, so it’s tempting to think that nature is thriving. However, Swedish forest ecosystems are suffering, write Gustaf Lind and Johanna Sandahl.

Publicerad i Euractiv 27 februari 2023

Gustaf Lind is the CEO of WWF Sweden. Johanna Sandahl is chair of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. 

Ever more intensive forest industry practices present an existential threat to the forests that have shaped Swedish landscapes for centuries.

Thousands of hectares of old-growth forests are being chopped down each year and replaced with planted monocultures, destroying and fragmenting the habitats of many threatened and sensitive species.

As a result, more than 2,000 forest species are today red-listed in Sweden, and a recent study has shown that about 400 are threatened by clear-cutting – with devastating consequences for the functions that these complex ecosystems provide, and for their resilience to climate change.

This was echoed by conservation scientists from seven Swedish universities who recently called out the industry’s “deceptive marketing” claims that Swedish forestry is ecologically sustainable.

And yet, for years, Swedish governments have claimed that the country’s forests are sustainability managed, downplaying the threat that today’s forest industry poses to biodiversity.

To add insult to injury, the government promotes further intensification of forestry to produce more biomass for a growing bioeconomy.

The current minister for rural affairs has even proposed to lower the protection of the country’s high conservation value forests, and environmental action budgets are suggested to be cut by 60% until 2025, which leaves essential conservation measures critically underfunded.

Unfortunately, to date, Sweden lacks legal obligations to adequately protect and restore its  biodiverse forest ecosystem, so the fate of the country’s biodiversity relies mostly on EU legislation to protect the last remaining old-growth forests and to restore fragmented and degraded forest habitats in Sweden.

One such opportunity is the upcoming Nature Restoration Law, with ambitious mandatory targets for all EU Member States to restore their biodiversity and degraded ecosystems – including forests.

We expect Sweden, the current EU Presidency, to live up to the spirit of the historic global biodiversity agreement reached last December and spare no effort to deliver an ambitious position of the EU Member States on the Nature Restoration Law.

This law will define the future of forests in Sweden and all nature across the EU. It presents a unique chance to bring back nature to our country before the situation spirals out of control – because unfortunately, we are not too far from that point.

Now is the time to turn the tide, for the sake of our forests and our climate.

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