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Sweden’s Forests: Diminishing Carbon Sink

Sweden’s Forests: A Carbon Sink In Peril

An Urgent Wake-Up Call

According to a recent Swedish newspaper headline, in a span of a decade, the annual carbon uptake in Swedish forests and lands has astonishingly plunged by 40 percent. Putting this in perspective, that’s more than the combined emissions of all domestic transport for a year!

So, what does this mean? Simply, when forests grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. When trees are cut down, they release that stored carbon again, impacting the balance – as we’re discovering in Sweden.

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The Swedish Forests- Carbon Giants

Our forests, they act like a sponge soaking up carbon dioxide, storing it in what’s called a ‘carbon sink’. A fact that might surprise you “The carbon uptake of our Swedish forests is more significant than any carbon emissions from our local transportation”, as quoted by Malin Kanth from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket).

Sorcery? Not, it’s just the magic of photosynthesis!

*”It is an alarming decrease. If it continues in this direction, it doesn’t look promising to meet the targets set in the EU climate legislation“* says Malin Kanth

The Perfect Storm

Ideally, the carbon held within a thriving forest is higher than the loss from deforestation and natural decay – making for a net carbon sink. But that balance seems to be tilting dangerously in Sweden.

Statistics reveal diverse factors contributing to this crisis – drastic increase in Swedish forest harvesting, the severe infestation of Spruce bark beetles, and a discernable slow-down in forest growth rates.

According to Malin Kanth, analyst at Naturvårdsverket, “When we harvest a lot while the trees grow worse, carbon uptake decreases”.

A volatile mix of reasons is forming a perfect storm, threatening our forests’ ability to bind carbon.

What’s the Solution?

In Sweden’s southern production forests, the confluence of high mortality and logging rates has already outpaced forest growth – with an alarming 31%-45% higher rates.

The bitter truth is that the immediate future does not look promising. To meet the EU climate legislation goals, Sweden must increase its average total carbon sequestration in forests, land, and wood products by 4 million tonnes by 2030 compared to the 2016-2018 average.

“Possible initiatives to increase carbon uptake in forests could include extending the forestry cycle, meaning logging at higher ages, which would result in increased carbon sequestration—even reduced logging proves effective—along with ensuring sustained forest growth,” suggests Malin Kanth.

The Need for Balance

Our actions today, shaping our forests, and their ability to combat climate change, have consequences reaching far into the future. So, let’s get conscious, folks. Strike that balance! The buck doesn’t just stop with Sweden. Countries like Finland, where forest carbon sequestration has dwindled to one-fourth and Estonia, where forests have become a carbon source, are sounding the alarm bells too.

In the end, it’s clear—we need our forests just as much as they need us. Let’s hope it’s not too little too late!

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