Icebug & Naturarvet
Icebug supports the preservation of old-growth forests.
Since 2017, Icebug has donated 2,508,000 Swedish kronor to the conservation of Swedish old-growth forests. Why is it important, and how does it work? We had a chat with Lo Jarl, general manager & ecologist at Naturarvet.
Lo, isn't Sweden full of forests? Why do they need to be preserved?
Of Sweden's 40 million hectares of land, 68% is covered by forests, of which 62% is used as raw materials for products like timber, pulp, paper, and fuel. Only 0.3% can be considered old-growth forest. The forest industry's demand for raw materials means that practically all unprotected forests in Sweden must be used, including the last remnants of old-growth forests. The situation is urgent, and if we don't take action now, they will soon be gone forever!
Why are they so important?
Old-growth forests are the world's best carbon storage and land-based biodiversity preservers. Every year, 1% of Sweden's forest area is harvested, leaving a significant carbon footprint. If logging were reduced by just 10%, it would result in increased CO2 storage equivalent to all domestic transport in Sweden*. Preserving the remaining old-growth forests is a top priority to maintain a functional ecosystem capable of coping with an unpredictable future.
How can I tell if I'm in an old-growth forest?
In an old-growth forest, there are various tree species of all ages. There is an abundance of dead wood, both standing and fallen trees. This also means you'll find more endangered species, as they require dead wood to thrive, ranging from fungi and lichens to insects and birds. There are a few very old trees in old-growth forests, but a tree's age doesn't always correlate with its size. Often, the oldest trees with the highest ecological value are gnarled, slow-growing individuals left untouched because of their unique characteristics.
How do I recognize a planted forest?
A planted young forest can be identified by all the trees being of the same age and closely spaced, making the forest difficult to penetrate. A slightly older thinned planted spruce forest may appear attractive when it looks like a colonnade, with a bit of moss growing on the ground. This indicates that it will soon be harvested. Very few endangered species can thrive in such forests.
So, how does Naturarvet preserve an old-growth forest?
We receive tips from donors and others who spend time in the woods and fields, we identify areas with high natural values, and we regularly monitor the real estate market. When we find a forest we can acquire, we must have enough collected funds to purchase it. Once we've acquired a forest, it is preserved for all eternity.
You say you "preserve the forest for all eternity" – what does that mean?
Naturarvet is a fundraising foundation, and according to its statutes, all harvesting, other forestry practices, and sales are prohibited in the acquired forest. People are physical beings who will one day pass away, but Naturarvet is a legal entity that will endure. Thanks to this, the protection is permanent.
Do you need to manage the forests practically?
We've recently acquired an oak-beech forest in Halland, where we may need to remove spruce seedlings to prevent them from outcompeting the sensitive oaks. Otherwise, we let the forests develop naturally. In northern Sweden, there are examples of old-growth forests that have thrived perfectly fine without human intervention for 5,000 years!
With such significant challenges and so little actual protected forest – how do you keep hope for old-growth forests alive?
More and more people are discovering our work, and the number of donors is growing. This is hopeful because we are entirely dependent on donations from individuals and businesses. With even more monthly donors, we could do even more. We have very minimal administrative expenses, so you can be sure that your lovingly donated funds go where they should. They are "buried" in a forest hill – and they stay there forever!
Icebug donates 1% of its annual sales to environmental organizations and projects, whether we make a profit or not.
*Here: naturarvet.se/minska-avverkning-och-skydda-gammelskogen (Swedish) you can delve into Lo Jarl's reasoning and factual basis, which is based on the Swedish Forest Agency's knowledge base "Effektanalys av några skogliga åtgärders påverkan på kolsänkan". Read the report here. (The report is in Swedish)