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On the decline of ground lichen forests in the Swedish boreal landscape: Implications for reindeer husbandry and sustainable forest management

Abstract

Lichens are a bottleneck resource for circumpolar populations of reindeer, and as such, for reindeer husbandry as an indigenous Sami land-use tradition in northern Sweden. This study uses ground lichen data and forest information collected within the Swedish National Forest Inventory since 1953, on the scale of northern Sweden. We found a 71 % decline in the area of lichen-abundant forests over the last 60 years. A decline was observed in all regions and age classes and especially coincided with a decrease of >60 year old, open pine forests, which was the primary explanatory factor in our model. The effects of reindeer numbers were inconclusive in explaining the decrease in lichen-abundant forest. The role that forestry has played in causing this decline can be debated, but forestry can have a significant role in reversing the trend and improving ground lichen conditions.

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Acknowledgments

This study was undertaken with economic support from PLURAL (Formas), Mapping of lichen-rich forests (Formas), Baltic Landscape (EU Interreg BSR), program funding for NILS and NILS-ESS (Swedish Environmental Protection Agency) and program funding for the Swedish NFI (SLU). The data compilation was partially financed by the Sami Parliament of Sweden Eallinbiras-program. We thank S. Adler for a helpful discussion about model selection. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for constructive comments which have greatly improved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Per Sandström.

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Sandström, P., Cory, N., Svensson, J. et al. On the decline of ground lichen forests in the Swedish boreal landscape: Implications for reindeer husbandry and sustainable forest management. Ambio 45, 415–429 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-015-0759-0

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Keywords

  • Large-ungulate grazing
  • Long-term monitoring
  • Reindeer lichen
  • Traditional land-use
  • Swedish National Forest Inventory