Size of forest property dictates choice of forest management

When it comes to factors that affect how private forest owners choose to manage their forest, distance to the estate, income, profession or gender seem to be of a secondary nature compared to the size of the estate.

Half of the productive forest area in Sweden is owned by small-scale private forest owners. Their choice of management strategy therefore affects the forest composition and structure for half of the Swedish forest area. That in turn affects a great many ecosystem services such as wood supply, carbon storage, biodiversity and recreation. Researchers at SLU and Umeå University that examine changes in private ownership, and, amongst other things, consequences on forest management, took a closer look at which factors are most relevant when private forest owners choose their management strategy.

 

Economic importance

 

Jeannette Eggers (SLU) and her research colleagues write in a scientific article that the differences in choice of management strategies are, surprisingly, not as great between different categories of forest owners. Factors like gender, age, distance to the property, profession and income mattered less than for example interest in and knowledge about forest. However, the most influential factor when deciding upon management strategy was the size of the property. For owners of larger properties,  income from forestry is more important and thus they manage their forest with more focus on productivity compared to owners of smaller properties.

 

Forest owners change, but not the management strategy

 

Today, one third of Sweden’s 330 000 forest owners live a long distance from their forest property (non-residents) compared to one fifth in 1976. The share of female forest owners has almost doubled during the last decades, from 21% in 1976 to almost 40% today. It is also becoming more common to own the property with someone else. All these trends are expected to continue. However, regardless of the change in forest owners’ composition, management strategies do not change notably: – Despite research showing us that female forest owners to a greater extent prioritise other forest values and are often less interested in forest issues, they still rely on the income of the forest and manage the forest more or less the same as male owners, says Jeannette Eggers, one of the researchers behind the study performed within the PLURAL project.

– That the management strategy does not differ more could be due to the forest sector still being very conservative and production oriented. One interesting thing we saw in our analysis is that non-resident owners have as much interest in forest issues as residents that live on or close to their property. The interest in the forest property does not seem to fade when you move away from it, Jeannette Eggers continues.

 

If the size changes, so does the strategy

 

All this implies that changes in forest owner composition probably does not have a large impact on forest management. But if forest properties become larger through for instance acquisition, chances are that the management strategy becomes more production oriented – something that might have bearing on the forest landscape in Sweden.

 

Facts

The Swedish research council FORMAS through the PLURAL project – living and acting in several places, funded the article and the study. The study was made through a survey where 1169 forest owners responded to which forest management strategy they used.

The article: Eggers, J., Lämås, T., Lind, T. och Öhman, K. (2014) Factors Influencing the Choice of Management Strategy among Small-Scale Private Forest Owners in Sweden. Forests 5(7), 1695-1716

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Jeannette Eggers

Jeannette Eggers is a PhD in Forest Resource Management and mainly works with forest scenario analyses. Earlier research includes forest resource modelling under different climate and land-use scenarios, carbon balance within forestry, environmental restrictions for biomass availability from forests and effect assessment of European policy on biodiversity.

Torgny Lind
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Torgny holds a PhD in Forestry, and works a great deal with the decision support system Heureka and its software, as well as forest inventory. Torgny conducts analyses of the development of the forest as a resource over time for larger areas, with the help of scenario analyses; he also conducts sustainability analyses connected to the forest as a resource, with attention to the entire value chain from forest to final product. Torgny is active at the Department of Forest Resource Management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Tomas Lämås

Tomas Lämås is an associated professor who research about forestry planning in a wide perspective, primarily regarding decision support systems (DSS) for multi-objective forestry. As a part of this, Tomas is heading the program for Forest Sustainability Analysis (SHa) that uses the Heureka DSS as a technical platform. The mission statement is that through competence, personal and tools provide an infrastructure for sustainability analysis within research, education and commissioned work. A particular focus is on adapting the Heureka DSS in a relevant way for new problem areas. Tomas works at the Department of Forest Resource Management at The Swedish University of Agricultural Science.

Karin Öhman
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Karin Öhman is an associated professor that through her research develops new tools and models that can be used for planning of a multi objective forestry. The research can be divided in two parts. The first part concerns optimization and is a qualitative tool that can be used to find optimal solutions based on specific objectives and constraints. The optimization gives us possibilities to investigate the cost connected to one objective for getting more of another objective. However, to find the solution that represents the best balance between different objectives we also need to know the preferences of the decision makers. As a result, the second part concerns how decision makers and other stakeholder’s preferences may be included in the planning process by using multi criteria decision analysis. Multi criteria decision analysis gives us the possibility to make trade offs between the objectives and it is the preferences of the decision makers that decide. Karin works at the Department of Forest Resource Management at The Swedish University of Agricultural Science.


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