Sunday, June 20, 2010

To build up a forest

I'm in the middle of the agricultural area in the county Scania, southern Sweden. This is the best place for agriculture in Sweden and now heavily industrialized, with mile-long section of arable land in each direction and only few trees. Although Linnaeus said in the 1700's that soil erosion was a big problem in Scania and would be even worse in the future, and the solution for that in the 1800's; miles of willows planted as wind barrier and animal food, has now been saw down in favor of wider roads for cars, this in the 1900's. So soil erosion has been prevalent in recent years, and may be worse with a different climate (link to a report of a longer study on the correlation between weather and soil erosion in the area). Farmers, government, or any, must become better to build up barriers between the fields, to prevent the soil to move.

Here, in the middle of the agricultural area, some of those "any"; namely two brothers, began to plant trees at their own land. When the family bought more land, they planted more trees and a plan to grow a whole forest was in their minds.

Some trees (oak, hazel,
beech, cherries and wild apples, some showed
in the pictures) was planted
here as seeds, and
seedlings and are today
over 2 meter tall trees. But still, here is no forest. It's just a plan for a small forest, which is waiting and is planned to be here. Trees are carefully planted in the soil, and planned to not come too close to each other. And thoughts goes through my so-called ecologist mind, of how a forest grow back naturally, and how long this strategy would take to build up a forest. Even if its a small one. What can you can do with the land, when you are waiting; (my (ironic) solution were); build a private amusement park, a golf course or a wetland (with trees on its side).

The land is too big to use for permaculture or anything like that and a small vegetable plot is already there. So it is just a long wait, for a forest to take place. A land for the nature and with nature, a place where nature grows back. Even if more animals like deers are desired, the small trees need protection so the forest can take place and more food for them can grow here. Again a small contradiction of pure nature and a helping hand.

Some of the trees are newly planted in the soil, and are just tiny seedlings, so to protect them against grazing animals such as deer, some protection was invented (shown in the pictures, nets, baskets and wood strips).

This week, with a report in my mind on how the present of hazel give a clue that we had a open landscape in the past as a result from grazing by large herbivores (article from Dr. Frans Vera, who argue that hazel and oaks needs open space, but to protect from grazing animals, they grow up with a protection of bushes with thorns, can't find the right ones but another; page 5, The effects of large herbivores on vegetation dynamics in temperate Europe), we went for an ecological experiment; small raspberry plants were found, dug up and we plant them around the small tree seedlings to protect them from grazing (first picture below).

Some of the older trees got a better soil from a tip from a girlfriends father. We went out and dug some square meters around 10 of the trees to take away competition from grass and herbs, then some mulch and a lot of water. On the top we placed newspaper, with rocks and grass to hold it, to make it moist and free from new grass (second picture below).

I think we did a good job. But this is a slow process. If any have a similar experience.. this project need some more good tips.

In this part of Scania, plans to try to plant (back) some of the old willow rows are ongoing. A dialog shall start this year, from which farmers and land owners can have a say and would be convinced to plant willows on their land, the dialogue is organized from Leader Söderslätt, as a part of the Swedish rural area program, under the EU LEADER initiative. The strongest argument is that willow rows is a part of the cultural history (article about the willow planting dialog, in Swedish), but more willows would, if the rows are more connected to each other, allow animals to walk longer distances, which would be good for biodiversity but what about arable land and grazing on vegetables? Truth is that heavily industrialized agriculture doesn't need animals.

Most and first, we need to see that there is enough trees to prevent soil erosion. Sweden have many programs in other countries with tree planting and other actions to build up better arable land and prevent soil erosion, from our aid organization SIDA, maybe they should go to southern Sweden and help out a little too?

This part of Scania is so beautiful, with the open landscape and a stormy ocean so close that it is easy to forget about the problems here, but projects as those mentioned, is a prove that some very interested people around here wants to uncover the difficult truth, to make it a better place from the holistic view to ensure future living.

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