Adapted forest management to improve the potential for reindeer husbandry in Northern Sweden

In order to propose and develop a system to support and improve co-planning between reindeer husbandry and forestry with a long time perspective at the landscape scale, the Swedish partners of NOBEL demonstrate a new and improved basis for planning and decision-making in the long term.
The study area is located in the County of Västerbotten in northern Sweden, on the winter grazing grounds of Vilhelmina Norra RHC (Fig. 1). The entire RHC covers 14 400 km2 where reindeer spend the snow-free seasons in western mountains and winters in the eastern coniferous boreal inland and coastal forests.

Fig. 1 Overview of the study area

In search of the most favorable outcome, the following question has been answered by defining and comparing three different forest management scenarios (Fig. 2) for a large forest landscape in northern Sweden.
1- How does the continuation of current forest practices affect conditions for reindeer husbandry in terms of habitat for ground and tree lichen and mobility across the landscape?

2- How can reindeer-adapted forest management improve conditions for reindeer husbandry?

3- What are the effects of the different forest management practices, in terms of wood production, production of lichen habitats, and economic output?

Fig. 2 Distribution of forest area assigned to different management strategies in the three scenarios

Results indicate that continuing current forestry practices would lead to further declines in ground lichen habitat, posing a significant risk to traditional reindeer husbandry. However, tree lichen habitat can be preserved and expanded across all scenarios, gaining importance amid a changing climate. Proposed forest management strategies offer a potential solution for enhancing reindeer husbandry conditions, resulting in a 22% boost in ground lichen habitat. This comes with a slight reduction of 10-13% in net present value from wood production. While the impact on sawn timber harvest is minimal, pulpwood harvest volume sees greater effects. Adjusted strategies involving earlier and more intensive cleaning and thinning of pine forests for ground lichen suitability show varying pulpwood harvest volumes over time. These strategies, mainly modifications in traditional silvicultural methods, present manageable technical challenges for implementation. In essence, our study identifies forestry’s dual role: it could jeopardize traditional reindeer husbandry or offer a promising path toward improved conditions for it.

The research was conducted by Jeannette Eggers, Ulrika Roos, Torgny Lind, and Per Sandström, affiliated with the Department of Forest Resource Management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Umeå, Sweden.

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