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Sweden

Cultural Landscapes in Sweden

Distribution of described Cultural Landscapes in Sweden.
Distribution of described Cultural Landscapes in Sweden.

Svartådalen

Nötmyran, Svartå-area

Description of the area

The Svartå-area is situated in south central Sweden and the total area is 84 km2. The landscape is dominated by farmland covering 46%, and forest covering almost one third of the area. However, the foremost feature that distinguishes the landscape from modern farmland landscapes is the high amount of meadows, both mowed and grazed. The meadows are situated around the river Svartån, which in normal years are flooding in spring and thereby creating conditions suitable for both breeding and migratory birds. Nötmyran, the largest meadow in the area, is also one of Sweden’s largest connected areas of maintained wet meadows. Nötmyran is included in the European Union network of Natura 2000.

Management of the meadows

Traditionally the meadows were managed through scything and the grass was stored in meadow barns. During winter the grass was collected by sledge, and used as cattle fodder.   

From the mid twentieth century the importance of wet meadows decreased and the traditional management methods with it, this in turn led to increasing amount of bushes overgrowing the meadows. In the mid eighties the area of managed meadows was at its lowest. During 1987-1996 the Svartå-area and Nötmyran was restored, and the goal of the restoration being to recreate the once open meadow dominated landscape.

Today 282 ha at Nötmyran are yearly mowed, with some parts where aftermath is grazed, and almost 60 ha are grazed. Mowing is done with a mower starting from mid July, in order to recreate a more traditional management regime and to preserve the breeding bird fauna.

Natural values

The natural values of Nötmyram lie in the well managed meadows, which in turn creates an excellent place for birds during both migration and breeding. Migratory birds, such as swans, geese and ducks, gather in large numbers during spring. Since the restoration, a number of bird species, which are showing decreasing number in Swedish farmland, have increased in the area and at Nötmyran. Examples of increasing breeding birds are Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Curlew (Numenius arquata), and Skylark (Aluda arvensis).

Nötmyran in the Svartå-area with the church of Västefärnebo in the background.
Nötmyran in the Svartå-area with the church of Västefärnebo in the background.

Bråbygden

Description of the area

Bråbygden is situated in the northern parts of the county of Småland about 20 km from the Baltic coast, and consists of a number of small villages within approximately 9 km2 area. The landscape is a mosaic of small fields, meadows, pastures and grazed forest, all managed by traditional methods. The use of pollarding and an active cultivation of small arable fields, in combination with tree fencing, make Bråbygden one of the best preserved traditional agricultural landscapes in the country. There are more than 2000 pollard trees in the area, which gives the landscape a special character.

Management of the landscape

Until the mid forties every residence in the area was a farm with cattle, horses and other domestic animals, and all farmland was intensively cultivated. The area contained about seventy farms.

However, as most extensive Swedish agricultural landscapes, also Bråbygden was largely abandoned in the mid twentieth century, resulting in and overgrowing of meadows and pastures.   

In the later half of the twentieth century the natural values of Bråbygden, and its pastures and meadows, were largely disfavoured by ceased management. In order to prevent further loss of management dependent ecosystems, amongst others the World Wildlife Fund started working in the area with nature conservation plans, botanical studies, and restoration of i.e. pastures and meadows.

At present, five fulltime farmers and several part time farmers keep the landscape open, both with the help of grazing animals and mowing.

Natural values

Bråbygdens natural values consists both of the rich flora that have developed due to the traditional management that has been conducted for a long period of time. Among the prominent management dependent plant species in the area are: Antennaria dioica (Mountain Everlasting) and Arnica montana (Mountain arnica). Furthermore, a special feature of Bråbygden is the high number of pollard trees and the continuous management of these. These trees host several declining red-listed lichens for instance Gyalecta ulmi and Megalaria grossa.
Bråbygden in spring with its mixture of fields, pastures and farmyards with pollard trees.
Bråbygden in spring with its mixture of fields, pastures and farmyards with pollard trees.

Vasikkavouma

Description of the area

Vasikkavouma belongs to the landscape of bogs and mires in the north of Sweden and is situated only some five kilometres west of the city of Pajala. The landscape is dominated by pine and spruce forest and the bog of Vasikkavouma is built up along a smaller stream which flows out in the nearby Torne River. Vasikkavouma is with its 250 ha the largest continuous mowed bog in Scandinavia and today the around 70 barns that are spread over the open area gives a unique impression. Due to the rich occurrence of Water Horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile) the bog has been a large asset to the farms in the neighbouring landscape over a long time.   

Management of the Bog

The historical use of Vasikkavouma goes back as long as to the eighteen century when farmers started using the bog for cattle fodder. From the beginning the hay that was produced was put on hay drying-racks, but in the end of the nineteen century barns were built on the bog in order to store the hay.

In the mid twentieth century almost 200 barns had been raised on the bog, but as the farms in the neighbourhood stopped with dairy cows a lot of the barns were removed back to the farm yards, and the use of Vasikkavouma diminished.

In the 1980s mowing was resumed by the villages around Vasikkavouma in order to restore the bog to the way it was in the 1950s. At present, further restoration work is being done in order to expand the area which is managed as in the old times, and the hay that is taken is used as fodder for reindeer.

Natural values

The natural values of Vasikkavouma do not so much lie in the specific species that grow on the bog, but the plants together make up a plant community which is becoming more and more uncommon in Sweden. However, there are some red-listed species growing here such as Marsh Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus) and Hudson Bay Sedge (Carex heleonastes).

In spring, migrating birds are using Vasikkavouma as resting ground, primarily ducks and geese. Breeding species which can be seen foraging over the bog is Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) and Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus).

Alvar-land of Öland

Description of the landscape

On the southern part of the island of Öland, in the Baltic Sea, lies the vast agricultural landscape of the Alvar. The bedrock is made up of a limestone dominated plateau which gives both a thin soil cover and highly special conditions both for the floral communities, as well as species of vertebrates and invertebrates. Further reasons for the high diversity of this landscape are the long continuity of management, variable precipitation and fluctuating water supply which have created good conditions for the specialisation of species. The human activity in the area goes as far back as 3000-1800 BC, and as a consequence the landscape has been formed to the unique look that has been preserved to the present day. The agriculture landscape of southern Öland is today considered a world heritage area.

Management

The open landscape of the Alvar is dependent on a living agriculture with grazing animals in order to keep its look. Historically, the look of the land has varied with the pressure from human activity. In the mid 1800-century, the combination of wood collection for cooking and heating, and intensive grazing made the Alvar landscape free from both trees and shrubs. During the following 150 years the human population of Öland increased putting even more pressure on Alvar-land. In the beginning of the twentieth century almost one third of the people living on Öland immigrated to America with relieved land use to follow.

Hoary Rock-rose
Hoary Rock-rose

In the decades following the 1950s, the use and importance of Alvar-land for livestock grazing decreased due to low profitability resulting in an excessive growth of vegetation and loss of low productive natural pastures. However, since the mid 1990s the grazing of Alvar-land has been resurgent, in part due to environmental measures such as grazing compensation and restoration projects.

The only way to keep the natural values of this landscape is to continue the management regime and land use that has formed it for the last 5000 years.

Natural values

The natural values of alvaret is strongly interlinked to the special abiotic and biotic factors of the island and the composition of species is strongly influenced both by the dry and warm climate, and the limestone bedrock, as well as the long continuity of the landscape being kept open by human hand.

Both the flora and fauna communities consist of species from ecosystems varying from mountains, steppe and taiga. On the Alvar, species that today have their main range in alpine areas are living side by side with common Swedish species and species with their main breeding range in southern Europe. Under these conditions there has also evolved a number of endemic plant species that is only to be found here in the world, one example being the Hoary Rock-rose (Helianthemum oelandicum).

Of the bird fauna there are mainly wader birds that suffered from the decreased management regime in the second half of the twentieth century. Three species that decreased substantially before the mid 1990s where: Black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) and Golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria), with population declines between 77-85%. Another species that in Sweden are strongly connected to the Alvar-land is Montague’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), and about 70% of the breeding population in Sweden are to be found on Öland.
Alvar-land
Alvar-land

Nyvallen

Description of the area

Nyvallen lies in the county of Härjedalen on the northeast slope of the Sån-mountain, only some 70 kilometres west of the border to Norway. It lies in the transition between the coniferous forest and the alpine birch forest, and the landscape around is dominated by open mowed meadows and forest affected by many years of grazing by cattle. Nyvallen is a summer farm holding that has been used since the beginning of the 18th century. This long continuity of management, in combination with a still active summer farm holding use at the place, makes it one of the most representative and valuable summer farm holdings in Sweden.

Management of the landscape

The tradition of summer farm holding has a long history in Sweden, with its foundation in the people keeping livestock as far back as the Iron Age. The life and use of summer farm holdings was at its peak in the later half of the 19th century and usually two to three different places was used during the season. In the 20th century, as the profitability of extensive farming decreased, so did the use of summer farm holdings. In the area of the Sån-mountain at least nine different summer farm holding was in use – today Nyvallen is the only one still left.

The summer farm holding of Nyvallen has been in use for 300 years and although there has been times of lower activity, no sever degradation of the managed landscape in the surroundings has occurred. Between the years 1991-94, the meadow was restored resulting in an increase of several species characteristic for high-level grasslands. The management of the meadow is done in a traditional way by scything and the hay is dried on hayracks. After this the cows are let in to after graze the meadow.

The grazing animals are an important part of the summer farm holding. After the milking in the morning the cows are let out and forage over large areas before returning in the evening. Due to the presence of bears around the Sån-mountain the animals are kept in a farmhouse during night.

Natural values

The Natural values of Nyvallen lies in the mowed meadows which due to its long continuity and low impact of manure, consists of well developed and characteristic flora with species such as Yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) and Spotted cat’s-ear (Hypochoeris maculata).

Also, the rare occurrence of a grazed forest with its characteristic openness and special mixture of floral species, adds to the natural values of the landscape surrounding the summer farm holding.

Summer farm holding with the Sån-mountain in the background. Photo by Hans Rönnhagen
Summer farm holding with the Sån-mountain in the background. Photo by Hans Rönnhagen