Urban forest statistics
Here you will find statistics about how the forests near our urban areas look like, who owns them and how they are managed.
Forest can play a vital role in people's everyday lives, and the urban forests need to accommodate a wide range of needs.
What do urban forests look like?
Area of urban forest
A total of 4.3 million hectares of forest land, or 15 percent of the forest land in Sweden, is urban forest. Most of the urban forest, 4 million hectares, consists of productive forest land.
Forest land is land with trees higher than 5 meters and a canopy cover of more than 10 percent, or trees able to reach these thresholds without production activities.
Protected urban forest
In Norrland, the proportion of the urban forest that consists of protected areas is 0.7 percent, which is significantly lower than for non-urban forests, where 15 percent is protected. In southern Sweden, the proportion of the urban forest that consists of protected areas 2.9 percent, which is just under half compared to the non-urban forests with 6 percent.
Protected forest consists of National parks, Nature reserves with regulations against forestry, Habitat protection areas, Natura 2000 with designated forest habitats, Nature conservation agreements including Eco-parks and White-Backed Woodpecker Action Plans, agreements between the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the Swedish Fortifications Agency, Habitat protection areas and nature reserves for which the decision is not final and binding and land compensation for the establishment of nature reserves
In general, there are only minor differences in the age distribution of the forest in the different urban zones and the non-urban forests. Non-urban forests have a higher proportion of forests older than 120 years compared with urban forests.
Distribution of tree species
The proportion of broadleaf and mixed forests increases the closer you get to the urban area. For all parts of the country except northern Norrland, there is between twice and three times as much broad-leaf and mixed forest in the zone up to 300 metres from the urban area compared with the non-urban forest. Northern Norrland follows the same trend, with an increasing proportion of mixed and broadleaf forest the closer you get to the urban area, however the non-urban forest has a higher proportion of broad-leaf and mixed forest than in the other parts of the country.
The proportion of forest land classified as old forest is lower in the urban forest than in the non-urban forest for all parts of the country except Götaland. In Götaland, the proportion of old forest closer than 1000 meters from the urban area is greater than in the forest that is not urban forest.
The proportion of old forest on productive forest land varies from a maximum of 12 percent in urban forests within 1 kilometre of urban areas in northern Norrland to 3 percent in urban forests 2-3 kilometres from urban areas in southern Norrland.
The largest proportion of old forest can be found in northern Norrland and this applies to all the urban zones as well as the non-urban forests.
Old forest refers to forest land with an average tree age of more than 140 years in Norrland and Dalarna, Värmland and Örebro counties (Boreal region) and over 120 years in the rest of the country (Boreonemoral and nemoral region).
Older broadleaf forest
In southern Sweden, the proportion of productive forest land with older broadleaf forests increases the closer you are to urban areas. In the zone 300 metres from urban areas in Götaland and Svealand, the proportion of older broadleaf forest is more than twice as large as it is in the non-urban forests.
In northern Norrland, the proportion of older broadleaf forest is equal to or lower in the urban forest than in the non-urban forest.
In southern Norrland, the proportion of older, broadleaf forest increases with distance from urban areas.
Older broadleaf forest is forest that is on average older than 80 years in the boreal region and older than 60 years in the boreonemoral and nemoral regions, and where at least 3/10 of the basal area consists of broadleaf trees.
Regarding the occurrence of forests with a significant amount of dead wood, there is no clear pattern, and the level is generally between 5-10 % of the productive forest land area both within and outside the urban zone for all parts of the country.
A significant amount of dead wood is defined as more than 20 cubic metres per hectare of dead wood that is 20 cm or more in diameter.
Trees with a diameter of at least 40 cm
The presence of large trees is one of the indicators in the environmental objective. In this summary we have had to adapt the definition slightly to maintain sufficient statistical certainty. The definition of large trees used here is trees with a diameter at breast height of at least 40 cm.
The number of large living trees per hectare is greatest in close proximity to urban areas and decreases with the distance away from the urban areas. Within 300 metres of the urban areas, there are between twice and three times as many large trees per hectare in all parts of the country compared to the non-urban forest.
Who owns the urban forest?
About half of the forest up to 300 metres from the urban areas is owned by individual owners. Municipalities and regions own 32 percent. As the distance from urban areas increases, the proportion owned by municipalities and regions decreases and the proportion owned by individual owners increases. 75 percent of the forest 2-3 km from the urban area is owned by individual owners. Private limited companies own 12 percent or less of the urban forest regardless of the distance from the urban areas.
The pattern of ownership for non-urban forests has a more even distribution; individual owners own 42 percent, private limited companies own 25 percent and other owners own 31 percent.
How is the urban forest managed?
Annual regeneration felling
During the 2021/2022 felling season, regeneration felling in urban forests was around 43,000 hectares. This corresponds to 1.07 percent of the urban productive forest land area, which is slightly more than for the non-urban forest where the regeneration felling was 0.9 percent.
The felling intensity in the urban forest increases with the distance from the urban area. For all parts of the country, the felling intensity 2-3 km from the urban area is equal to or greater than in the non-urban forests.
Contiguous bare land
A felling can be perceived to be contiguous even if the felling has taken place at different times and linked to different felling cases. To take account of this, we have aggregated fellings conducted over a three-year period and which have a common boundary to form areas of contiguous bare forestland. If an area of bare forestland crosses several different urban zones, then it contributes to the average value for each of the zones.
In northern Norrland, the average contiguous area of bare land increases with distance from the urban area. The bare land area increases from a median of 2 hectares in the area 300 meters from the urban area to 4 hectares in the non-urban forest. The corresponding values for the 95th percentile are 9.5 hectares and 23 hectares.
Southern Norrland shows a similar trend as northern Norrland with an increasing area of bare land with increasing distance from the urban areas. The median value goes from 2.2 hectares in the 300-meter zone to 3 hectares in non-urban forests.
In Svealand, the differences between the different distances to urban areas are smaller. The median value increases from 2.3 hectares up to 300 metres from the urban area to 2.6 hectares in the area 2 to 3 kilometres from the urban area. The median value for non-urban forests is 2.4 hectares, which is lower than for urban forests.
Götaland differs from the other parts of the country in that both the median and 95th percentile values are similar for all urban zones and the non-urban forests.
- Last Updated: 12/21/2023