Forest monitoring just became demonstrably easier, and lying about forest harvests a little bit harder. Protect the Forest Sweden has launched the “Skogsmonitor”, a tool that shows the locations, and the loss of old growth and high-value forests in Sweden. Developed on a shoestring by dedicated enthusiasts Jon Andersson and Viktor Säfve, the tool points to reasonably priced, transparent monitoring solutions that could be used by the soon-to-be-proposed EU Forest Monitoring Law.
This is the first time such a comprehensive collection of open data has been made available, using high-precision field inventory, remote-sensing and other data to help forest managers and municipalities make planning decisions – and to guide admirers of Sweden’s natural heritage to richer forest landscapes.
With the click of a button, layers of mapping reveal old forests and continuity forests (forests that have never been clearcut), highlighting where high conservation values and probable conservation values are, where formal and other protections have been set up, where logging notifications are open, areas that have been logged, and the land holdings of large forest owners.
The tool also makes it more straightforward to compare climate statements and conservation targets with the reality of what is happening on the ground.
One of the first things the interactive mapping service does is sound the alarm about the scale of ongoing destruction in Sweden, an EU Member State that positions itself as a champion of sustainable forest management, and of a high level of biodiversity protection. The tool shows that currently, 40,179 hectares of high conservation value forests are notified for ‘final felling’ (clearcutting), as are 18,071 hectares of forest with probable conservation value; these notices are further specified by county.
And “this is an underestimation”, the tools notes, as the initial mapping does not yet contain “all known natural and conservation values”, nor has it caught recent clearcuts/loggings as-yet undetected by the Swedish Forest Agency. Such significant numbers make it difficult to accept arguments that the loss of high-value Swedish forests is anecdotal, or accidental rather than systematic.
The online tool is extremely meaningful for the EU. The proposal for an EU Forest Monitoring Law (FW 289), expected earlier this year and now due 21 November, seems to have been dragged down by arguments that monitoring is too complex, too costly.
This tool shows it is neither.
Moreover, the criteria selected for measuring and monitoring can also determine conclusions reached and the protections set up (FW 288). An interactive, publicly available tool that uses available technology and data intelligently, helps to keep all parties accountable.
The EU has shown commendable determination in keeping products that drive deforestation from being imported. It is therefore shocking to see that one of its own, largest producers of forest products has more than 40,000 hectares of high value forests slated for ‘final felling’. The EU must show equal determination to track and rein in its own forest sins, beginning with a robust, comprehensive Forest Monitoring Law, backed by transparent, publicly accessible tools such as the Skogsmonitor.
Screenshot of the Skogsmonitor Website