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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Swedish Forestry, Forest Pasture Grazing by Livestock, and Game Browsing Pressure Since 1900

Örjan Kardell

Environment and History 22 (2016): 561-587. doi: 10.3197/096734016X14727286515817

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Growing numbers of wild ungulates are increasingly seen by concerned authorities in Europe as posing serious management problems, which include increasing browsing pressure by moose (Alces alces) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in Swedish forests. Recent investigations by the Swedish Forest Agency identify high browsing pressure as the main reason for a recent decline in regeneration of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), one of the two main commercial species in Swedish forestry. The high browsing pressure is also having a negative impact on biodiversity. Thus, voices within the forest community claim that browsing pressure has never been so high. This paper examines that claim from a historical perspective by comparing livestock grazing in forest pastures a century ago with contemporary game browsing, and identifying the main factors driving both the livestock exodus from Swedish forests during the first half of the twentieth century and the rapid increase in deer populations during the second half. Finally, testing the claim that browsing impact has never been so high, past grazing and present browsing are theoretically sized up and compared. Estimates of live weights and numbers of large herbivores in 1902 and 2012 are used. The result indicates that the claim might possibly be lacking in historical context.

KEYWORDS: Grazing forest pasture, deer browsing, Swedish forestry, forest management, forest history

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