SLU news

Great conservation value of the Scandinavian Mountains Green Belt

Published: 29 September 2020
Map with a light green belt from the middle of Sweden and up to the north.

Remaining intact forest landscapes are of great importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) have in several studies highlighted the rich pool of conservation values of the mountainous forest-dominated landscape of north-west Sweden. They delineated the Scandinavian Mountains Green Belt as the largest intact forest landscape in the European Union.

In Sweden, formally protected nature is largely concentrated into the Scandinavian Mountains and the mountain foothills landscape. Despite relatively low levels of human impact in these regions, their preservation while also promoting sustainable rural development is a major challenge. Analysis of novel spatial information will deepen our knowledge of the mountainous forest landscape regarding ecological connectivity, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable landscape planning. 

Conflicting interests

Many different and sometimes conflicting landscape- and land-use interests overlap in the region; to accommodate all public and private claims on nature and landscapes is not feasible. Although the forest landscape of the mountain region has been subject to diverse land-use (forestry, reindeer husbandry, mountain agriculture, and others), this land-use is much less intense than elsewhere in Sweden and with a noticeably lower rate of clear-felling. As a consequence, these forests remain valuable in terms of maintaining species, natural ecological structures, and processes. 

Biological diversity, sustainability, and multiple uses

With the establishment of the mountain forest border as a policy regulation in 1991, the approach to clear-felling above this border became more restrictive and has since ensured the forest’s relative intactness. Historically, clear-felling in the region has not had major negative impacts. According to Johan Svensson, forest policy must still be proactive and focus on biological diversity, sustainability, and multiple uses. 

Evidence-based management

The north-south extension of the Scandinavian Mountains Green Belt along with the entire mountain range - spanning some 800 km - makes it a critical factor in maintaining the presence of species in times of climatic change, similar to the North American Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) or The Australian Alps to Atherton (A2A) Connectivity Conservation Area. The success of such conservation efforts hinges on evidence-based management; the analyses made by SLU researchers provide essential knowledge for making beneficial decisions concerning the future of the Scandinavian Mountains Green Belt.

Thus, applied research on landscape planning that concurrently protects natural, cultural, and economic values is critical. As Bengt Gunnar Jonnson puts it, to mitigate the often-heated debate on the present and future use of forests as a resource for multiple value chains, in Sweden as in other countries, there is a great need to put facts and premises in the forefront. 


Johan Svensson, Phone: +46 73 021 68 80

Bengt Gunnar Jonsson, Phone: +46 10 142 89 41

Per Angelstam, Phone: +46 70 244 49 71

Jakub W. Bubnicki, Phone: +48 517 410 275

Grzegorz Mikusiński, Phone: +46 70 775 71 61

Ongoing research at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) concerning conservation of primary forests of Sweden is financed by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and FORMAS.


The latest research papers published on the topic by the research group

Angelstam, P., M. Manton, M. Green, B.G. Jonsson, G. Mikusiński, J. Svensson & F.M. Sabatini. 2020. Sweden does not meet agreed national and international forest biodiversity targets: A call for adaptive landscape planning. Landscape and Urban Planning. Doi.10.1016/j.landurbplan.2020.103838.

Jonsson, B-G., J. Svensson, G. Mikusiński, M. Manton & P. Angelstam. 2019. European Union’s Last Intact Forest Landscapes are at A Value Chain Crossroad between Multiple Use and Intensified Wood Production. Forests. Doi.10.3390/f10070564.

Svensson, J., J. Bubnicki, B.G. Jonsson, J. Andersson & G. Mikusiński. 2020. Conservation significance of intact forest landscapes in the Scandinavian Mountains Green Belt. Landscape Ecology. Doi.10.1007/s10980-020-01088-4.

Svensson, J., J. Andersson, P. Sandström, G. Mikusiński & B.G. Jonsson. 2018. Landscape trajectory of natural boreal forest loss as an impediment to green infrastructure. Conservation Biology. Doi.10.1111/cobi.13148.