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Species preservation has permeated Swedish nature conservation. Pressure recently exerted on the Swedish National Board of Forestry by environmentalists has resulted in large-scale inventories of areas ('key habitats') that contain or are assumed to contain red-listed species. 40,000 key habitat sites have been identified in forests with private ownership and a similar number is expected in company and state forests. The companies will themselves implement the inventories. Key habitat sites now appear to cover 0.8% (some 200,000 ha) of the productive forest land. The protection and management of the key habitat site is, to a large extent, left to the individual owner. The inventories considered mainly the occurrence of bryophyte, fungal and lichen species, and the population or community concepts were not taken into account. There is therefore a lack of understanding of the key habitat sites as to extinction risks, successional trends, spatial population dynamics, and community interactions. Functional sites should be identified, probably based on some especially sensitive species in the communities. Some preliminary studies in a particular key habitat demonstrate great problems for conservation, e.g. with succession, species dependence on area and on specific habitat features, and an independence of the species richness of different taxa in various sites. Many key habitat sites cannot be left without some management if the species pool is to be preserved. Therefore, it is suggested that adaptive management with large-scale experimentation with buffer zones, corridors and supply of limiting resources be adopted. At the same time monitoring appears necessary to certify the persistence of representative species.