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

Ambio. 2016 May;45(4):415-29. doi: 10.1007/s13280-015-0759-0. Epub 2016 Jan 11.


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.

Keywords: Large-ungulate grazing; Long-term monitoring; Reindeer lichen; Swedish National Forest Inventory; Traditional land-use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry*
  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Forestry*
  • Forests*
  • Lichens / physiology*
  • Reindeer*
  • Sweden