Country Profiles

Sweden - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Sweden has a varied landscape with many different ecotypes. Most of the country’s regions have a long history associated with intensive forestry, agricultural or hydroelectric development. Some of the most species-rich habitats are found in the rural areas and the semi-natural grasslands, which cover 8% of the total land area. In the past century, these grasslands have been reduced to only a fraction of their previous extent and almost half of the red-listed species (2020 of 4338) can be found in the agricultural landscape. Between 2000 and 2005, more red-listed species in the agricultural landscape showed signs of deterioration rather than improvement, being mainly threatened by small population size and fragmented distribution. Indeed, in the Swedish agricultural landscape, 132 species have become extinct.

Forests cover about 58% of the Swedish land surface. In spite of a dramatic decline in the 20th century, Sweden still has the largest area of old-growth boreal forests in Western Europe. According to the 2007 Swedish Report to the European Commission on the implementation on the Habitats Directive, many of the forest habitats have failed to reach a favorable conservation status. About half of the red-listed species in Sweden can be found in the forest (2221 of 4338). Between 2000 and 2005, the number of red-listed species with deteriorating status was equal to the number of red-listed species with improving status. There are 23.75 million ha of productive forest land in the country, of which only 900,000 ha are legally protected. Habitats currently with a favorable conservation status are mainly found within the northern mountain range, and rocky areas throughout the country where levels of exploitation are low and land use is less intense. However, the status of red-listed species deteriorated rather than increased between 2000 and 2005 in the mountain ecosystem.

Sweden is a country rich in wetlands, with 9% of land area being covered by lakes and over 10% by wetlands. Wetlands and freshwater ecosystems harbour 15% and 7% of the Swedish red-listed species (622 and 268 of 4338). In both ecosystems, especially in freshwater, the status of red-listed species improved rather than deteriorated between 2000 and 2005. Many of the freshwater fish populations, especially in the north, have recovered, due to a combination of improved water quality, restoration measures and fisheries management. However, some of the most important fish species are still far from their natural population size, due to fragmentation and reduced habitat availability.

In the north of the Baltic Sea, the continued land uplift creates unique coastal habitats, and the brackish water of the Baltic also leads to unique conditions for flora and fauna. Despite considerable efforts over the past three decades, the environmental status of the Baltic Sea, Kattegat and Skagerrak remains poor. Many of the marine habitats reportedly failed to reach a favourable conservation status. Marine ecosystems and sea shores harbour about 6% and 8% of the Swedish red-listed species (286 and 329 of 4338). In both ecosystems, particularly marine ecosystems, more red-listed species deteriorated rather than improved between 2000 and 2005 and, for several fish species and populations (e.g. eel), the situation is very serious. Still, there are some encouraging trends, such as the progress being made in establishing marine nature reserves, no-fishing areas, and sustained decrease in the illegal discharge of oil into the Baltic.

There are ample indications that the loss of biodiversity is continuing, although the rate has decreased and measures taken to reduce the loss have been stepped up. Vascular plants, macrofungi, butterflies and beetles are groups of flora and fauna containing particularly large numbers of threatened species, and the proportions of such species among brachiopods, amphibians, reptiles, anthozoa and mammals are especially high. The 2007 national assessment of the conservation status of species and habitats concludes that 20 out of 28 listed habitats have unfavorable conservation status in all Swedish biogeographic regions (alpine, continental, and boreal). In most cases, the unfavorable status is due to deficit of both habitat area and habitat quality.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Main threats to biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems are intensification on one hand, and abandonment on the other. Agricultural intensification, due to economic and technical development, has led to the creation of larger and more intensively farmed units and the abandonment of semi-natural habitats. The main threats to forest biodiversity include the simplification of forest ecosystems as a result of forest practices, logging of high-value core areas, fertilization and use of exotic tree species, diseases and large outbreaks of pests, removal of dead wood and the lack of natural disturbance regimes, etc. The increasing effects of climate change are also a major component of pressures on ecosystems, especially in the mountain ecosystems. Regarding wetlands and freshwater ecosystems, up to a quarter of Sweden’s original area of wetlands is estimated to have disappeared due to drainage, lowering of water levels in lakes and the straightening of watercourses. The wetland inventory shows that more than 80% of the remaining wetlands are affected to varying degrees by human interventions such as drainage, agriculture and forestry, roads and off-road driving and peat extraction. As a result of land use, many aquatic environments have decreased in extent, become fragmented or isolated. The rising demand for timber, pulpwood grain and bioenergy, such as stumps and slash, are forces that generate effects on freshwater habitats. The most serious effect today is the clear-cutting along aquatic habitats which leaves no functional buffer zone, and removes vegetation and sediments in streams and ditches which promote drainage. There are around 100 freshwater-related species today which are considered threatened due to lack of suitable habitats. Threats to marine and coastal biodiversity include expansive fishing, eutrophication, alien species, oil transport, boat traffic, heavy development pressure, increased population pressure, tourism activities in sensitive areas and climate change.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The first Biodiversity Strategy, approved by Parliament in 1995, was followed by the development of sectorally-focused action plans, which were subsequently largely superseded by the adoption of a system of 16 environmental quality objectives emphasizing the attainment of environmental quality within a generation. Biodiversity is included in many of the 16 objectives as well as in their interim targets. These sectoral action plans have now been superseded by more specific strategies and action plans within and across sectors, developed in accordance with the environmental quality objectives. In 2010, a review of the environmental quality objectives was initiated, with Parliament adopting important clarifications and amendments. An implementation timeframe, follow-up and review of the objectives by the year 2020 was considered, established and approved by the Government on a provisional basis. The overall goal is to consider Sweden’s environmental impact on the international scale, including goals on ecosystem recovery, ecosystem services, biological diversity, human health, resource efficiency, natural resource management, sustainable energy use and sustainable consumption and production. A committee was established to develop strategies and milestone targets for implementing the objectives. In April 2012, the Government adopted a revised set of detailed specifications on the objectives to guide implementation while providing criteria for follow-up. The objectives thus perform the function of national 2020 targets, with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011-2020) and EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 having been taken into account during the course of their development.

Sweden intends to submit a detailed outline for a revised and updated NBSAP at a later date (possibly at the same time the fifth national report is submitted).

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Significant progress has been made in regard to the protection of a wide range of particularly important habitats, such as old-growth forests, species-rich meadows and pastures on semi-natural grasslands, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers and marine habitats. Significant wetlands and rivers have also been restored. The conservation of plants is assessed through the development of red lists and the preparation of reports to the European Union about the status of conservation of species included in the Habitats Directives. Furthermore, more than half of the forestry sector is now operating within the framework of the forest certification system (FSC and PEFC).

Action plans have been or are being developed for many threatened plant species. Together with the conservation work undertaken by the Flora Guardians, site protection and common awareness of red-listed species, a great portion of threatened species are under conservation. About 4000 sites have been designated to the Natura 2000 network. The Swedish EPA embarked on a large-scale set of action programmes for threatened species in 2004 and will have adopted some 200 programmes by 2010. These will serve as guides for action to conserve and promote some 400 species that have been singled out. For example, the action plan for trees of high conservation value in the cultural and urban landscape is expected to benefit at least 400 species on the Swedish Red List. The country has also made great efforts in reducing pollution of various sources, such as SO2 emission, ozone-depleting gases and many toxic compounds. Nordens Ark, a private non-profit foundation, devoted to the conservation of endangered animals, promotes ex situ breeding and reintroduction programmes. The national programmes for breeding of threatened species are coordinated by the Swedish Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Sectoral integration is fundamental to Sweden’s implementation of the Convention. Through national policies and laws, a clear responsibility is given to each sector for conservation and sustainable use. Many sectors, such as forestry, agriculture, fishery, tourism, transport and infrastructure, have included biodiversity issues in their sectoral strategies, plans and programmes. For instance, the Swedish Board of Fisheries analyzed the application of the Ecosystem Approach and proposed a number of targets and measures for sustainable use. Another example is the National Board for Housing, Building and Planning, which promotes green areas in city planning and landscape planning. The Ecosystem Approach has been adopted in the concept of Landscape Strategies which has been tried in seven pilot studies at the local level and has proven to be a valuable tool for more efficient sectoral work for achieving conservation and sustainable use at the landscape level, with a large involvement of different stakeholders. The Ecosystem Approach is also used in municipal planning processes.

Legislation is in place for regulating projects likely to have a significant impact on biodiversity. Environmental impact assessments are explicitly required for all projects to be undertaken within the Natura 2000 network and all environmentally-hazardous projects, water regulating activities, gravel extraction or similar activities. Sweden has also developed a clear policy for international development cooperation that includes biodiversity issues, including genetic resources. In order to meet the threat posed by invasive alien species and mobilise a cooperative approach at all levels of government for preventing harm to biological diversity, a proposal for a national strategy and action plan was developed to coordinate actions to prevent, eradicate and control invasive alien species. Most intentional releases of alien species are strictly regulated, and risk analysis and permit systems are in place.

Sweden has introduced a number of incentive measures aimed at the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and a few harmful incentives have been eliminated. The national programme for local investments for sustainable development provides a strong incentive for local authorities. A total of 195 conservation and sustainable use projects were awarded 400 million SEK in government grants. The management of species-rich abandoned semi-natural habitats is a priority conservation measure taken to preserve the value of all meadow and pasture lands. Therefore, the national aim focuses on the area of habitats subject to an environmental management scheme under the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The area of semi-natural grassland within the CAP system increased from 390,800 to 471,028 ha between 2001 and 2006. Indeed, 68 action programmes have been introduced, with measures affecting more than 150 species in the farm landscape. Landowners voluntarily apply for economic compensation for restoring and managing certain habitats identified in the system. The payments for management and restoration have had a profound positive effect on the amount of species-rich habitat managed by the remaining farms.

Sweden has a range of universities and government organizations to support research, education and training in the field of identification, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Local governments and municipalities also implement projects aiming to increase public awareness of biodiversity. An eco-labelling system is implemented for tourism activities and there are a number of tourism development projects run by local authorities that result in the development of environmentally-friendly tourism, with the participation of local communities.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

There are a wide range of initiatives and programmes for ecosystem-level monitoring. The National Inventory of Landscapes has been established where landscape is surveyed every five years by field visits and air photo interpretation, covering all terrestrial ecosystems. For freshwater ecosystems, sample-based inventorying is carried out, along with yearly monitoring at selected sites. Monitoring of pollution and eutrophication and their effects is one of the major aims of the freshwater and marine monitoring programmes. The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences is commissioned to undertake monitoring and assessment of the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources, covering forests, agricultural landscapes, lakes, watercourses and species. Tourism impacts on biodiversity are also being monitored. The Swedish Species Information Centre is responsible for the update of the Red Lists and the Red Data Books. National expert committees are established to coordinate activities for different taxonomy groups. Basic inventories have been developed for about 4000 Swedish protected areas that form part of the Natura 2000 network. In addition, a national programme for plant genetic resources is being implemented to inventory plants in terms of traditional use, collect samples and document associated local knowledge. A national programme for animal genetic resources is also under development.