Consequences of intensive forest harvesting on the recovery of Swedish lakes from acidification and on critical load exceedances

Acrossmuch of the northern hemisphere, lakes are at risk of re-acidification due to incomplete recovery fromhistorical acidification and pressures associated withmore intensive forest biomass harvesting. Critical load (CL) calculations aimed at estimating the amount of pollutants an ecosystem can receive without suffering adverse consequences are dependent on these factors. Here, we present a modelling study of the potential effects of intensified forest harvesting on re-acidification of a set of 3239 Swedish lakes based on scenarios with varying intensities of forest biomass harvest and acid deposition. There is some evidence that forestrywould have caused a certain level of acidification even if deposition remained at 1860 levels. We show that all plausible harvest scenarios delay recovery due to increased rates of base cation removal. Scenario resultswere used to estimate critical loads for the entire population of lakes in Sweden. The forestry intensity included in critical load calculations is a political decision. After scaling calculations to the national level, it was apparent that a high but plausible forest harvest intensity would lead to an increase in the area of CL exceedances and that even after significant reductions in forest harvest intensity, there would still be areas with CL exceedances. Our results show that forest harvest intensity and regional environmental change must be carefully considered in future CL calculations.

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Last updated: 2021-05-17

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

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IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute has a wide environmental profile. We combine applied research and development with close collaboration between industry and the public sphere. Our consultancy is evidence-based, and our research is characterized by interdisciplinary science and system thinking.

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