Article

Mobility without Wheels: The Economy and Ecology of Timber Floating in Sweden, 1850–1980

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Abstract

The ability to float logs downriver was essential to the developing timber industry of nineteenth-century Sweden. The construction of floatways opened up forest resources in roadless areas. Forestry work fitted in with the socio-economic framework of the sparsely populated agrarian society of the day. This study analyses the rise and decline of waterborne timber transport. The floatway network grew as the timber 'frontier' retreated across the Scandinavian peninsula, and floating became by far the most cost-effective way of transporting logs. In the twentieth century hydroelectric power plants began to compete for the use of the waterways, while changes in the forest (smaller trees) affected the viability of timber floating. Factors that had worked in its favour now undermined its economics, but nevertheless the timberfloating era lasted much longer than elsewhere in the northern hemisphere.

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... But if a real forest scene, it is interesting to consider whether these operations did take place, and why. One explanation is that the timber was prepared for transportation by riverdebarking improved buoyancy (Winberg, 1944, cited in Törnlund andÖstlund, 2006), and most timber was transported to mills and markets by river in Sweden (Törnlund and Östlund, 2006) and elsewhere in Scandinavia in the early part of the twentieth century. ...
... But if a real forest scene, it is interesting to consider whether these operations did take place, and why. One explanation is that the timber was prepared for transportation by riverdebarking improved buoyancy (Winberg, 1944, cited in Törnlund andÖstlund, 2006), and most timber was transported to mills and markets by river in Sweden (Törnlund and Östlund, 2006) and elsewhere in Scandinavia in the early part of the twentieth century. ...
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This paper reviews the extent to which paintings of trees, woods and forests have been taken up and appreciated by the forestry and arboricultural professions. It selectively points to some works of art that illuminate from an historical perspective, and gives examples of paintings from which insight can be gained to the benefit of both forestry and artistic vocations. Further cooperation between these professions is encouraged in order that greater value can be obtained from works of art.
... The studied streams are situated in northern Finland and Sweden, which belong to Fennoscandia in northern Europe, where the primary human impact is forestry-related and not urbanization. These streams were little impacted by humans up to the mid-1800s, but were successively and extensively modified to support intensive timber floating from the mid-1800s to around the mid-1900s (Törnlund and Östlund, 2006). Thereafter, the floated streams were abandoned for a few decades before restorationists started restoring impacted reaches. ...
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We reviewed follow-up studies from Finnish and Swedish streams that have been restored after timber-floating to assess the abiotic and biotic responses to restoration. More specifically, from a review of 18 case studies (16 published and 2 unpublished) we determined whether different taxonomic groups react differently or require different periods of time to respond to the same type of restoration. Restoration entailed returning coarse sediment (cobbles and boulders) and sometimes large wood to previously channelized turbulent reaches, primarily with the objective of meeting habitat requirements of naturally reproducing salmonid fish. The restored streams showed a consistent increase in channel complexity and retention capacity, but the biotic responses were weak or absent in most species groups. Aquatic mosses growing on boulders were drastically reduced shortly after restoration but in most studies they recovered after a few years. Riparian plants, macroinvertebrates, and fish did not show any consistent trends in response. We discuss seven alternative explanations to these inconsistent results and conclude that two decades is probably too short a time for most organisms to recover. We recommend long-term monitoring using standardized methods, a landscape-scale perspective, and a wider range of organisms to improve the basis for judging to what extent restoration in boreal streams has achieved its goal of reducing the impacts from timber-floating. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... Furthermore, the farmers were less occupied with agricultural activities during the winter when the logging took place, thus providing a welcome income. In connection with logging, floating of timber down the rivers also provided a source of income for farmers (Törnlund and Östlund 2006). ...
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... In southern Sweden, human interventions started to have a significant impact on broadleaved forests with the first evidence of extensive agriculture about 2,000 years ago (Lindbladh et al., 2007). During the industrialization, and particularly after the economic boom of the post Second World War era, the forest industry became one of the pillars of the Swedish economy (Törnlund & Östlund, 2006). As a consequence, reforestation and afforestation with fast growing conifers such as Norway spruce (Picea abies L.) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) has been promoted, and are currently dominating what was once a landscape dominated by mixed temperate broadleaved forests (Lindbladh et al., 2014). ...
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... This volatility hampers the development of restoration practices and implies that many restoration projects suffer from poor planning or design and inadequate implementation (Brudvig et al., 2017;Suding, 2011). In northern Sweden and Finland, most rapids (steep, turbulent, boulderbed channels) have been channelised to facilitate timber-floating, which started in the mid-1800s and continued for more than a century (Törnlund & Östlund, 2006). Thereafter, the timber-floated streams and rivers were abandoned for a few decades until the realisation that they were degraded systems that should be restored. ...
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... The industrial exploitation of forests had accelerated in the second half of the nineteenth century, to supply soaring demand in the industrialized heart of Europe. Rivers and streams were reshaped into floatways to take timber from the interior to the coast, opening up new logging areas for exploitation (Törnlund and Östlund 2006). In this first phase of exploitation, larger trees were cut down and transformed into sawn products. ...
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