Skip to main content
main-content
Top

Hint

Swipe to navigate through the articles of this issue

Published in: Ambio 6/2015

01-10-2015 | Report

Intensive land use in the Swedish mountains between AD 800 and 1200 led to deforestation and ecosystem transformation with long-lasting effects

Authors: Lars Östlund, Greger Hörnberg, Thomas H. DeLuca, Lars Liedgren, Peder Wikström, Olle Zackrisson, Torbjörn Josefsson

Published in: Ambio | Issue 6/2015

Login to get access
share
SHARE

Abstract

Anthropogenic deforestation has shaped ecosystems worldwide. In subarctic ecosystems, primarily inhabited by native peoples, deforestation is generally considered to be mainly associated with the industrial period. Here we examined mechanisms underlying deforestation a thousand years ago in a high-mountain valley with settlement artifacts located in subarctic Scandinavia. Using the Heureka Forestry Decision Support System, we modeled pre-settlement conditions and effects of tree cutting on forest cover. To examine lack of regeneration and present nutrient status, we analyzed soil nitrogen. We found that tree cutting could have deforested the valley within some hundred years. Overexploitation left the soil depleted beyond the capacity of re-establishment of trees. We suggest that pre-historical deforestation has occurred also in subarctic ecosystems and that ecosystem boundaries were especially vulnerable to this process. This study improves our understanding of mechanisms behind human-induced ecosystem transformations and tree-line changes, and of the concept of wilderness in the Scandinavian mountain range.
Appendix
Available only for authorised users
Literature
go back to reference Arseneault, D., and S. Payette. 1997. Landscape change following deforestation at the Arctic tree line in Québec, Canada. Ecology 78: 693–706. Arseneault, D., and S. Payette. 1997. Landscape change following deforestation at the Arctic tree line in Québec, Canada. Ecology 78: 693–706.
go back to reference Bedward, M., C.C. Simpson, M.V. Ellis, and L.M. Metcalfe. 2007. Patterns and determinants of historical woodland clearing in central-western New South Wales, Australia. Geographical Research 45: 348–357. CrossRef Bedward, M., C.C. Simpson, M.V. Ellis, and L.M. Metcalfe. 2007. Patterns and determinants of historical woodland clearing in central-western New South Wales, Australia. Geographical Research 45: 348–357. CrossRef
go back to reference Bergman, I., L.G. Liedgren, L. Östlund, and O. Zackrisson. 2008. Kinship and settlements: Sami residence patterns in the Fennoscandian alpine areas around A.D. 1000. Arctic Anthropology 45: 97–110. CrossRef Bergman, I., L.G. Liedgren, L. Östlund, and O. Zackrisson. 2008. Kinship and settlements: Sami residence patterns in the Fennoscandian alpine areas around A.D. 1000. Arctic Anthropology 45: 97–110. CrossRef
go back to reference Bergman, I., O. Zackrisson, and L. Liedgren. 2013. From hunting to herding: Land use, ecosystem processes, and social transformation among Sami AD 800–1500. Arctic Anthropology 50: 25–39. CrossRef Bergman, I., O. Zackrisson, and L. Liedgren. 2013. From hunting to herding: Land use, ecosystem processes, and social transformation among Sami AD 800–1500. Arctic Anthropology 50: 25–39. CrossRef
go back to reference Berland, A., B. Shuman, and S. Manson. 2011. Simulated importance of dispersal, disturbance, and landscape history in long-term ecosystem change in the big woods of Minnesota. Ecosystems 14: 398–414. CrossRef Berland, A., B. Shuman, and S. Manson. 2011. Simulated importance of dispersal, disturbance, and landscape history in long-term ecosystem change in the big woods of Minnesota. Ecosystems 14: 398–414. CrossRef
go back to reference Brandel, G. 1990. Volume functions for individual trees. Garpenberg: Department of Forest Yield Research. Brandel, G. 1990. Volume functions for individual trees. Garpenberg: Department of Forest Yield Research.
go back to reference Briggs, J.M., K.A. Spielmann, H. Schaafsma, K.W. Kintigh, M. Kruse, K. Morehouse, and K. Schollmeyer. 2006. Why ecology needs archaeologists and archaeology needs ecologists. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 4: 180–188. CrossRef Briggs, J.M., K.A. Spielmann, H. Schaafsma, K.W. Kintigh, M. Kruse, K. Morehouse, and K. Schollmeyer. 2006. Why ecology needs archaeologists and archaeology needs ecologists. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 4: 180–188. CrossRef
go back to reference Campbell, I.D., and J.H. McAndrews. 1993. Forest disequilibrium caused by rapid Little Ice-Age cooling. Nature 366: 336–338. CrossRef Campbell, I.D., and J.H. McAndrews. 1993. Forest disequilibrium caused by rapid Little Ice-Age cooling. Nature 366: 336–338. CrossRef
go back to reference Carlsson, B.Å., P.S. Karlsson, and B.M. Svensson. 1999. Alpine and subalpine vegetation. In Swedish plant geography. Acta Phytogeographica Suecica 84, ed. H. Rydin, P. Snoeijs, and M. Diekmann, 75–89. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell. Carlsson, B.Å., P.S. Karlsson, and B.M. Svensson. 1999. Alpine and subalpine vegetation. In Swedish plant geography. Acta Phytogeographica Suecica 84, ed. H. Rydin, P. Snoeijs, and M. Diekmann, 75–89. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell.
go back to reference DeLuca, T.H., O. Zackrisson, M.C. Nilsson, and A. Sellstedt. 2002. Quantifying nitrogen-fixation in feather moss carpets of boreal forests. Nature 419: 917–920. CrossRef DeLuca, T.H., O. Zackrisson, M.C. Nilsson, and A. Sellstedt. 2002. Quantifying nitrogen-fixation in feather moss carpets of boreal forests. Nature 419: 917–920. CrossRef
go back to reference DeLuca, T.H., and A. Sala. 2006. Frequent fire alters nitrogen transformations in ponderosa pine stands of the inland northwest. Ecology 87: 2511–2522. CrossRef DeLuca, T.H., and A. Sala. 2006. Frequent fire alters nitrogen transformations in ponderosa pine stands of the inland northwest. Ecology 87: 2511–2522. CrossRef
go back to reference DeLuca, T.H., O. Zackrisson, I. Bergman, and G. Hörnberg. 2013. Historical land use and resource depletion in spruce- Cladina forests of subarctic Sweden. Anthropocene 1: 14–22. CrossRef DeLuca, T.H., O. Zackrisson, I. Bergman, and G. Hörnberg. 2013. Historical land use and resource depletion in spruce- Cladina forests of subarctic Sweden. Anthropocene 1: 14–22. CrossRef
go back to reference Dugmore, A.J., M.J. Church, K.-A. Mairs, T.H. McGovern, S. Perdikaris, and O. Vésteinsson. 2007. Abandoned farms, volcanic impacts, and woodland management: Revisiting Þjórsárdalur, the “Pompeii of Iceland”. Arctic Anthropology 44: 1–11. CrossRef Dugmore, A.J., M.J. Church, K.-A. Mairs, T.H. McGovern, S. Perdikaris, and O. Vésteinsson. 2007. Abandoned farms, volcanic impacts, and woodland management: Revisiting Þjórsárdalur, the “Pompeii of Iceland”. Arctic Anthropology 44: 1–11. CrossRef
go back to reference Elfving, B. 2003. Ålderstilldelning till enskilda träd i skogliga tillväxtprognoser [Age assignment of individual trees in growth prognoses]. Umeå: Department of Silviculture, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Elfving, B. 2003. Ålderstilldelning till enskilda träd i skogliga tillväxtprognoser [Age assignment of individual trees in growth prognoses]. Umeå: Department of Silviculture, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
go back to reference Granström, A. 1993. Spatial and temporal variation in lightning ignitions in Sweden. Journal of Vegetation Science 4: 737–744. CrossRef Granström, A. 1993. Spatial and temporal variation in lightning ignitions in Sweden. Journal of Vegetation Science 4: 737–744. CrossRef
go back to reference Harris, D.R. 1996. The origins and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. Harris, D.R. 1996. The origins and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
go back to reference Hellberg, E. 2004. Historical variability of deciduous trees and deciduous forests in northern Sweden: Effects of forest fires, land-use and climate. Doctoral diss., Department of Forest Vegetation Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Hellberg, E. 2004. Historical variability of deciduous trees and deciduous forests in northern Sweden: Effects of forest fires, land-use and climate. Doctoral diss., Department of Forest Vegetation Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
go back to reference Hughes, J.D. 2011. Ancient deforestation revisited. Journal of the History of Biology 44: 43–57. CrossRef Hughes, J.D. 2011. Ancient deforestation revisited. Journal of the History of Biology 44: 43–57. CrossRef
go back to reference Hörnberg, G., and L. Liedgren. 2012. Charcoal dispersal from alpine Stállo hearths in sub-arctic Sweden: Patterns observed from soil analysis and experimental burning. Asian Culture and History 4: 29–42. CrossRef Hörnberg, G., and L. Liedgren. 2012. Charcoal dispersal from alpine Stállo hearths in sub-arctic Sweden: Patterns observed from soil analysis and experimental burning. Asian Culture and History 4: 29–42. CrossRef
go back to reference Kaplan, J.O., K.M. Krumhardt, and N. Zimmermann. 2009. The prehistoric and preindustrial deforestation of Europe. Quaternary Science Reviews 28: 3016–3034. CrossRef Kaplan, J.O., K.M. Krumhardt, and N. Zimmermann. 2009. The prehistoric and preindustrial deforestation of Europe. Quaternary Science Reviews 28: 3016–3034. CrossRef
go back to reference Karlsson, H., G. Hörnberg, G. Hannon, and E.M. Nordström. 2007. Long-term vegetation changes in the northern Scandinavian forest limit: A human impact-climate synergy? The Holocene 17: 37–49. CrossRef Karlsson, H., G. Hörnberg, G. Hannon, and E.M. Nordström. 2007. Long-term vegetation changes in the northern Scandinavian forest limit: A human impact-climate synergy? The Holocene 17: 37–49. CrossRef
go back to reference Karlsson, H., A. Shevtsova, and G. Hörnberg. 2009. Vegetation development at a mountain settlement site in the Swedish Scandes during the late Holocene: Palaeoecological evidence of human-induced deforestation. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 18: 297–314. CrossRef Karlsson, H., A. Shevtsova, and G. Hörnberg. 2009. Vegetation development at a mountain settlement site in the Swedish Scandes during the late Holocene: Palaeoecological evidence of human-induced deforestation. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 18: 297–314. CrossRef
go back to reference Kullman, L. 2001. 20th century climate warming and tree-limit rise in the southern Scandes of Sweden. AMBIO 30: 72–80. CrossRef Kullman, L. 2001. 20th century climate warming and tree-limit rise in the southern Scandes of Sweden. AMBIO 30: 72–80. CrossRef
go back to reference Larsen, J.A. 1989. The northern forest border in Canada and Alaska: Biotic communities and ecological relationships. Ecological Studies 70. New York: Springer, 255 pp. Larsen, J.A. 1989. The northern forest border in Canada and Alaska: Biotic communities and ecological relationships. Ecological Studies 70. New York: Springer, 255 pp.
go back to reference Lev-Yadun, S., D.S. Lucas, and M. Weinstein-Evron. 2010. Modeling the demands for wood by the inhabitants of Masada and for the Roman siege. Journal of Arid Environments 74: 777–785. CrossRef Lev-Yadun, S., D.S. Lucas, and M. Weinstein-Evron. 2010. Modeling the demands for wood by the inhabitants of Masada and for the Roman siege. Journal of Arid Environments 74: 777–785. CrossRef
go back to reference Liedgren, L., and I. Bergman. 2009. Aspects of the construction of prehistoric Stállo-foundations and Stállo-buildings. Acta Borealia 26: 3–26. CrossRef Liedgren, L., and I. Bergman. 2009. Aspects of the construction of prehistoric Stállo-foundations and Stállo-buildings. Acta Borealia 26: 3–26. CrossRef
go back to reference Liedgren, L.G., I. Bergman, G. Hörnberg, O. Zackrisson, E. Hellberg, L. Östlund, and T.H. DeLuca. 2007. Radiocarbon dating of prehistoric hearths in alpine northern Sweden: Problems and possibilities. Journal of Archaeological Science 34: 1276–1288. CrossRef Liedgren, L.G., I. Bergman, G. Hörnberg, O. Zackrisson, E. Hellberg, L. Östlund, and T.H. DeLuca. 2007. Radiocarbon dating of prehistoric hearths in alpine northern Sweden: Problems and possibilities. Journal of Archaeological Science 34: 1276–1288. CrossRef
go back to reference Liedgren, L.G., and L. Östlund. 2011. Heat, smoke and fuel consumption in a high mountain stállo-hut, northern Sweden: Experimental burning of fresh birch wood during winter. Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 903–912. CrossRef Liedgren, L.G., and L. Östlund. 2011. Heat, smoke and fuel consumption in a high mountain stállo-hut, northern Sweden: Experimental burning of fresh birch wood during winter. Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 903–912. CrossRef
go back to reference McWethy, D.B., C. Whitlock, J.M. Wilmshurst, M.S. McGlone, M. Fromont, X. Li, A. Dieffenbacher-Krall, W.O. Hobbs, S.C. Fritz, and E.R. Cook. 2010. Rapid landscape transformation in South Island, New Zealand, following initial Polynesian settlement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107: 21343–21348. CrossRef McWethy, D.B., C. Whitlock, J.M. Wilmshurst, M.S. McGlone, M. Fromont, X. Li, A. Dieffenbacher-Krall, W.O. Hobbs, S.C. Fritz, and E.R. Cook. 2010. Rapid landscape transformation in South Island, New Zealand, following initial Polynesian settlement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107: 21343–21348. CrossRef
go back to reference Moen, J. 2008. Climate change: Effects on the ecological basis for reindeer husbandry in Sweden. AMBIO 37: 304–311. CrossRef Moen, J. 2008. Climate change: Effects on the ecological basis for reindeer husbandry in Sweden. AMBIO 37: 304–311. CrossRef
go back to reference Mulk, I.M. 1994. Sirkas: A Sami hunting society in transition AD 1–1600. Doctoral diss., Department of Archaeology, University of Umeå. Mulk, I.M. 1994. Sirkas: A Sami hunting society in transition AD 1–1600. Doctoral diss., Department of Archaeology, University of Umeå.
go back to reference Osborn, T.J., and K.R. Briffa. 2006. The spatial extent of 20th-century warmth in the context of the past 1200 years. Science 311: 841–844. CrossRef Osborn, T.J., and K.R. Briffa. 2006. The spatial extent of 20th-century warmth in the context of the past 1200 years. Science 311: 841–844. CrossRef
go back to reference Scheffer, M., and S.R. Carpenter. 2003. Catastrophic regime shifts in ecosystems: Linking theory to observation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 18: 648–656. CrossRef Scheffer, M., and S.R. Carpenter. 2003. Catastrophic regime shifts in ecosystems: Linking theory to observation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 18: 648–656. CrossRef
go back to reference Scheller, R.M., and D.J. Mladenoff. 2007. An ecological classification of forest landscape simulation models: Tools and strategies for understanding broad-scale forested ecosystems. Landscape Ecology 22: 491–505. CrossRef Scheller, R.M., and D.J. Mladenoff. 2007. An ecological classification of forest landscape simulation models: Tools and strategies for understanding broad-scale forested ecosystems. Landscape Ecology 22: 491–505. CrossRef
go back to reference Scheller, R.M., S. Van Tuyl, K. Clark, N.G. Hayden, J. Hom, and D.J. Mladenoff. 2008. Simulation of forest change in the New Jersey Pine Barrens under current and pre-colonial conditions. Forest Ecology and Management 255: 1489–1500. CrossRef Scheller, R.M., S. Van Tuyl, K. Clark, N.G. Hayden, J. Hom, and D.J. Mladenoff. 2008. Simulation of forest change in the New Jersey Pine Barrens under current and pre-colonial conditions. Forest Ecology and Management 255: 1489–1500. CrossRef
go back to reference Schofield, J.E., and K. Edwards. 2011. Grazing impacts and woodland management in Eriksfjord: Betula, coprophilous fungi and the Norse settlement of Greenland. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 20: 181–197. CrossRef Schofield, J.E., and K. Edwards. 2011. Grazing impacts and woodland management in Eriksfjord: Betula, coprophilous fungi and the Norse settlement of Greenland. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 20: 181–197. CrossRef
go back to reference Shackleton, C.M., and F. Prins. 1992. Charcoal analysis and the principle of least effort: A conceptual model. Journal of Archaeological Science 19: 631–637. CrossRef Shackleton, C.M., and F. Prins. 1992. Charcoal analysis and the principle of least effort: A conceptual model. Journal of Archaeological Science 19: 631–637. CrossRef
go back to reference Simpson, I.A., O. Vésteinsson, W.P. Adderley, and T.H. McGovern. 2003. Fuel resource utilisation in landscapes of settlement. Journal of Archaeological Science 30: 1401–1420. CrossRef Simpson, I.A., O. Vésteinsson, W.P. Adderley, and T.H. McGovern. 2003. Fuel resource utilisation in landscapes of settlement. Journal of Archaeological Science 30: 1401–1420. CrossRef
go back to reference Smithwick, E.A.H., M.G. Turner, M.C. Mack, and F.S. Chapin. 2005. Postfire soil N cycling in northern conifer forests affected by severe, stand-replacing wildfires. Ecosystems 8: 163–181. CrossRef Smithwick, E.A.H., M.G. Turner, M.C. Mack, and F.S. Chapin. 2005. Postfire soil N cycling in northern conifer forests affected by severe, stand-replacing wildfires. Ecosystems 8: 163–181. CrossRef
go back to reference Soudzilovskaia, N.A., and V.G. Onipchenko. 2005. Experimental investigation of fertilization and irrigation effects on an alpine heath, northwestern Caucasus, Russia. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 37: 602–610. CrossRef Soudzilovskaia, N.A., and V.G. Onipchenko. 2005. Experimental investigation of fertilization and irrigation effects on an alpine heath, northwestern Caucasus, Russia. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 37: 602–610. CrossRef
go back to reference Staland, H., J. Salmonsson, and G. Hörnberg. 2011. A thousand years of human impact in the northern Scandinavian mountain range: Long-lasting effects on forest lines and vegetation. The Holocene 21: 379–391. CrossRef Staland, H., J. Salmonsson, and G. Hörnberg. 2011. A thousand years of human impact in the northern Scandinavian mountain range: Long-lasting effects on forest lines and vegetation. The Holocene 21: 379–391. CrossRef
go back to reference Storli, I. 1994. “Stallo”- boplassene: spor etter de første fjellsamer? [“Stallo” settlements: Traces of the first mountain Sami?]. Oslo: Novus, 141 pp. Storli, I. 1994. “Stallo”- boplassene: spor etter de første fjellsamer? [“Stallo” settlements: Traces of the first mountain Sami?]. Oslo: Novus, 141 pp.
go back to reference Sugita, S. 2007. Theory of quantitative reconstruction of vegetation II: All you need is LOVE. The Holocene 17: 243–257. CrossRef Sugita, S. 2007. Theory of quantitative reconstruction of vegetation II: All you need is LOVE. The Holocene 17: 243–257. CrossRef
go back to reference Söderberg, U. 1992. Functions for forest management. Height, form height and bark thickness of individual trees. Report 52. Umeå: Department of Forest Survey, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Söderberg, U. 1992. Functions for forest management. Height, form height and bark thickness of individual trees. Report 52. Umeå: Department of Forest Survey, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
go back to reference Trbojevic, N., D.E. Mooney, and A.J. Bell. 2012. A firewood experiment at Eiríksstaðir: A step towards quantifying the use of firewood for daily household needs in Viking Age Iceland. Archaeologia Islandica 9: 29–40. Trbojevic, N., D.E. Mooney, and A.J. Bell. 2012. A firewood experiment at Eiríksstaðir: A step towards quantifying the use of firewood for daily household needs in Viking Age Iceland. Archaeologia Islandica 9: 29–40.
go back to reference Wielgolaski, F.E., P.S. Karlsson, S. Neuvonen, and D. Thannheiser. 2005. Plant ecology, herbivory, and human impact in Nordic mountain birch forests, 365. Berlin: Springer. Wielgolaski, F.E., P.S. Karlsson, S. Neuvonen, and D. Thannheiser. 2005. Plant ecology, herbivory, and human impact in Nordic mountain birch forests, 365. Berlin: Springer.
go back to reference Wikström, P., L. Edenius, B. Elfving, L.O. Eriksson, T. Lämås, J. Sonesson, K. Öhman, J. Wallerman, C. Waller, and F. Klintebäck. 2011. The Heureka forestry decision support system: An overview. Mathematical and Computational Forestry and Natural Resources Sciences 3: 87–94. Wikström, P., L. Edenius, B. Elfving, L.O. Eriksson, T. Lämås, J. Sonesson, K. Öhman, J. Wallerman, C. Waller, and F. Klintebäck. 2011. The Heureka forestry decision support system: An overview. Mathematical and Computational Forestry and Natural Resources Sciences 3: 87–94.
go back to reference Williams, M. 2003. Deforesting the earth: From prehistory to global crisis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Williams, M. 2003. Deforesting the earth: From prehistory to global crisis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
go back to reference von Stedingk, H., and R.M. Fyfe. 2009. The use of pollen analysis to reveal Holocene treeline dynamics: A modelling approach. The Holocene 19: 273–283. CrossRef von Stedingk, H., and R.M. Fyfe. 2009. The use of pollen analysis to reveal Holocene treeline dynamics: A modelling approach. The Holocene 19: 273–283. CrossRef
go back to reference Wookey, P.A., and C.H. Robinson. 1997. Responsiveness and resilience of high Arctic ecosystems to environmental change. Opera Botanica 132: 215–232. Wookey, P.A., and C.H. Robinson. 1997. Responsiveness and resilience of high Arctic ecosystems to environmental change. Opera Botanica 132: 215–232.
go back to reference Zackrisson, O., T.H. DeLuca, F. Gentili, A. Sellstedt, and A. Jaderlund. 2009. Nitrogen fixation in mixed Hylocomium splendens moss communities. Oecologia 160: 309–319. CrossRef Zackrisson, O., T.H. DeLuca, F. Gentili, A. Sellstedt, and A. Jaderlund. 2009. Nitrogen fixation in mixed Hylocomium splendens moss communities. Oecologia 160: 309–319. CrossRef
Metadata
Title
Intensive land use in the Swedish mountains between AD 800 and 1200 led to deforestation and ecosystem transformation with long-lasting effects
Authors
Lars Östlund
Greger Hörnberg
Thomas H. DeLuca
Lars Liedgren
Peder Wikström
Olle Zackrisson
Torbjörn Josefsson
Publication date
01-10-2015
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
Ambio / Issue 6/2015
Print ISSN: 0044-7447
Electronic ISSN: 1654-7209
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-015-0634-z

Other articles of this Issue 6/2015

Ambio 6/2015 Go to the issue