What if the forest itself decides? 

A lot of what we are doing in the forest is about forest management. It’s logical as we have decided to use the forest and its wonderful raw material – wood. So, we must manage the forest, and due to the certification and demands from the public, we must do it in an environmentally sound way. How do we do that? One way is to investigate how the forest would manage itself if it got the chance. I decided to visit a primeval forest close to me. 

The forest itself decides

When I was a forester student in Sweden a long time ago, I learned that Sweden has no “real” primeval forests. As good as all forest land in the country has been touched by man and used for raw materials and firewood through the centuries. What we do have, are small areas that were left for free development a long time ago and therefore (very) slowly become more and more like primeval forests. It’s called “natural forest-like” forests.

Log Max Harvester Heads

Recently I read a statement from an environmentalist who claimed that “Sweden is running out of primeval forests.” We already did, didn’t we? 

But, as mentioned, we do have forests that are almost virgin or primeval. One of them is located close to me. It’s a bit embarrassing that I have lived here for 20+ years now and have recommended others to visit it, but I have never visited this forest. Until a few weeks ago … 

Bottnaryd primeval forest

Bottnaryd primeval forest is located in south Sweden, some 20 kilometers west of the city of Jönköping. It’s a 38-hectare forest area with trees that are up to 400 years old. It’s a nature reserve and is part of the EU network Natura 2000. The forest is just on the opposite side of the road from the small town Bottnaryd. 

In other words, it’s easy to reach and a popular excursion destination. You can walk through the area on a trail, starting from a parking place. I mention this to point out that it isn’t all that natural. People move around here every day and leave traces. Still, if you leave the trail, walk into the forest, and ignore the traffic noise from two roads (one of them is the main highway between Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden’s two largest cities), it looks quite natural. 

The trail is being kept open to make it possible for the public to see this “natural-like forest”. Actually, it would have been better if the public stayed away, there was litter almost everywhere. Photo: Per Jonsson

The natural forest

Typical for an untouched forest is the amount of dead wood in all stages. As no one takes care of fallen trees they decay at their own pace, slowly until they turn into earth many years later. In the meantime, new trees grow to take over. 

A new life takes over after death. Photo: Per Jonsson
Photo: Per Jonsson

This gives a diversified forest of trees of different heights and species which is excellent for biodiversity. Also, the different stages of decay provide good living conditions for many endangered species. Endangered because the forests have been kept clean of dead wood for over 100 years and the same management methods have been used in all of Sweden.

Here you can read about what’s being done in Sweden to try to recreate the natural balance in the forest


Let’s have a look at the Bottnaryd primeval forest through my camera lens. I find this kind of forest both beautiful and cool. 

Dead and dying trees, and in the background, young trees are taking over. Photo: Per Jonsson
Photo: Per Jonsson
Dead wood in all stages of decay is typical for the natural forest. Photo: Per Jonsson
Photo: Per Jonsson

When I look at this when I spend time in an environment like this, I realize what I have mentioned before (e.g., in a previous article at the end*): The forest and nature, do very well without humans – probably better. Nature will make it. But will we (humanity)? 

* “Let´s face it – the best for nature would be if humanity disappeared from the face of the earth. It´s hard but it´s true. But who wants that? I don´t. We simply must find a way to utilize our natural resources in a sustainable way. The forest is most suitable for that, and we must make people understand it.”

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