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Halland's forests during the last 300 years: a review of Malmstrom (1939)

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Carl Malmstrom's historical forest maps of the province of Halland, in south-western Sweden, were published over 70 years ago, but are still important to science and conservation. They show the transformation of a seventeenth century landscape of temperate broadleaves to a landscape dominated by open land and heather (Calluna vulgaris) in the nineteenth century, and to a landscape of coniferous forest plantations in the twentieth century. This article summarizes and reviews the original research, first published in Swedish in 1939. Malmstrom concludes that the large changes to forest abundance and composition over the last 300 years were predominantly the product of human endeavours. The most important causal factors behind the decrease in forest area until the mid-nineteenth century were the incentives to increase arable land and meadows, the grazing and burning of Calluna heaths, and logging for timber, fencing and firewood. The subsequent increase in forest abundance after this period were due to agricultural improvements, the cessation of heather burning and active reforestation. Malmstrom had a relatively holistic view of the ecosystem for his time, yet his perspective remains that of an early twentieth century silviculturalist as he did not put his observations into the context of conservation or landscape ecology. Despite acknowledging that beech forest is the natural vegetation for the area, he still concludes that coniferous plantations have won full domiciliary rights. Recent research has confirmed Malmstrom's views on the patterns and processes that characterized changes in land use and forest composition in the province of Halland, although there has been some question as to the “naturalness” of seventeenth century beech forests.

Keywords: Beech; Calluna heaths; Fagus sylvatica; forest history; historical maps; landscape transformation; naturalness; pollen analysis

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre, Alnarp, Sweden

Publication date: February 1, 2011

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