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The spruce bark beetle has already done as much damage to Sweden’s forests so far this year as in all of 2019, when the beetles damaged record amounts of wood in the largest Nordic economy.

According to the Swedish Forest Agency, the beetles have destroyed almost 7 million cubic meters of wood in the south and middle of Sweden, matching last year’s extreme. In 2018, the beetles destroyed about 3-4 million cubic meters of timber.

“This first assessment of this year’s damage shows that we still have very big problems with spruce bark beetles and that this year too it has caused billions in losses for forest owners in the southern half of the country,” said Kerstin Strom, who oversees the agency’s efforts to contain the issue.

The difference compared to last year is that we see a shift north with increased damage in Svealand and reduced damage in Götaland. The preliminary figures show that approximately 4.5 million cubic meters of forest were damaged in Svealand, while the figure in Götaland is at approximately 2 million cubic meters. Last year, the figures were roughly the opposite between the regions.

The increased damage in Svealand was expected, as the outbreak of spruce bark beetle started later here compared to Götaland. An attack cycle usually extends over 3-4 years and therefore it is natural to see a decrease in Götaland while the curve is still rising in Svealand.

”We had expected major damage in Svealand, but these preliminary figures are still alarming. Now we need to analyze what the large increase may be due to, especially in Västmanland and Sörmland where the extent of the damage seems to be the worst,” says Kerstin Ström.

”Now we see that the efforts made in Götaland since the outbreak started in the summer of 2018 have had an effect. The awareness of forest owners has increased and a huge gathering of forces has been made to find and fight the attacks. At the same time, even 2 million cubic meters is a very high figure, so we can absolutely not start to relax,” says Henrik Holmberg, forest management and contractor developer, at Södra Skog.

The preliminary assessment of this year’s damage levels is based on inventories made by the Swedish Forest Agency, Södra Skogsägarna and Billerud Korsnäs at the end of August and the beginning of September. The final estimate of this year’s bark beetle damage will take place later this year and is based on an objective damage inventory at regional level made by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

For the past two years, the Swedish Forest Agency has been running the collaboration project Stop the Beetles. As of 2020, the project includes around 20 forestry companies, organizations and authorities in Götaland and Svealand. The goal is to limit the attacks and damage by spruce bark beetle as far as possible through collaboration and increased activity in the forest. Large parts of southern and central Sweden have also been designated as a control area for spruce bark beetles.

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