Agriculture, forestry and fishing

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Agriculture, forestry and fishing in Sweden need to adapt both to the climate change already noticeable today and to future changes to the climate.

The climate has a direct impact on these industries. Sectors such as agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, fishing and reindeer herding are among those that will be most clearly affected by climate change.

According to SMHI’s climate scenarios, Sweden is expected to experience an increase in average temperature, a longer growing season, increased but more unevenly distributed precipitation and more extreme weather situations. As the climate changes, adaptations will be necessary in crop cultivation, animal husbandry, forestry, fishing and reindeer herding.

Agriculture may benefit, but a changing climate involves greater risks

In agriculture, a changing climate represents greater risks. Harvests may be negatively impacted as a result of either increased or reduced precipitation. There will be increased risks of drought and flooding, reduced water accessibility, spreading of disease and invasive species and increased heat stress. Climate change may lead to more disruptions to trade and infrastructure in the event of extreme weather situations. 

In the short and medium term, Swedish agriculture may benefit from larger harvests of certain crops and the cultivation of new crops. Animal husbandry may benefit from an extended grazing season as well as from livestock spending more time outdoors.

Agriculture needs to spread the risks

In order to achieve a sustainable production of food, agriculture needs to adapt to meet the conditions of a changing climate. Changes to water management, the cultivation of a greater diversity of crops and plant varieties, and agroforestry are some examples of measures for adaptation. A greater diversity of cultivated crops and a diversification of cultivation methods can spread the risks. With regard to animal husbandry, heatwaves can be managed with the use of cooling environments for some cathegories of animals. Increased domestic production of food can reduce the vulnerability to global disruptions to food production, trade and infrastructure. 

Climate zones moving northwards 

A warmer climate could result in a longer growing season for Sweden’s forests and therefore lead to increased growth. Climate zones are moving northwards, which makes it possible for tree species that, in today’s climate, are only found in the south of the country to spread further north. 

Increased risk of forest fires and more forest damage 

A changing climate also causes new and increased risks of damage to the forest. The risk of forest fires will increase considerably – particularly in southern Sweden. Certain pests, both insects and fungi, find it easier to thrive in a warmer climate. Dry years make the rejuvenation of forests more difficult. There may be an increase in storm damage to trees. A changing climate may also enable invasive species of non-native trees to spread more easily.

A need for diversity and robustness in forestry

In order to achieve a long-term sustainable management of forests, the forest industry needs to adapt to meet the conditions of a changing climate. The forests of the future could be adapted by spreading the risks across a greater number of tree species. Mixed forests that increase the diversity of native tree species provide increased security and robustness. More deciduous forests and wetlands reduce the risk of the spreading of forest fires. Continuous-cover forestry reduces the risk of storm-felling. Methods for continuous-cover forestry increase robustness against extreme weather situations. The continuous forest cover protects the ground, making it is less vulnerable to landslips, landslides and erosion.

In a changing climate with more extreme climatic variations, the services provided by the forest to the ecosystem, such as water purification and protection against landslips and landslides, erosion and flooding, become even more important.

Warmer and more acidic oceans

As the climate changes, the oceans will become warmer. The increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will also result in the acidification of the oceans. This will have consequences for the ecosystems, fish stocks and the fishing industries. Higher water temperatures increase the pressures on marine ecosystems. The ecosystems in inland lakes will also be affected.

The oceans closer to the world’s polar regions will experience greater impact and warming than those further away from the poles. The Baltic Sea is a unique inland sea with brackish water, which is already particularly exposed to environmental disruption. Apart from rising water temperatures, a changing climate may also result in lower levels of salinity in the Baltic Sea.

Certain species of fish may benefit from warmer water, although it will have a detrimental effect on other species. Species that depend on colder surroundings are particularly sensitive to rising temperatures.

Increasing acidification will mean that certain sea creatures (such as oysters and mussels) will find it more difficult to grow their protective shells and skeletons.  The continued acidification of the seas could lead to mass extinction of shell-forming organisms. 

A holistic approach is needed for marine ecosystems 

The challenges posed by the warming and acidification of the oceans require a holistic approach. The sole global measure to restrict the acidification of the world’s oceans is to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Global, regional and local measures must be taken in order to reduce the total environmental impact on the oceans.

Increased vulnerability for reindeer herding 

Reindeer herding is dependent upon well-functioning ecosystems, which means that it is particularly vulnerable to changes in the climate. Substantial changes in the weather, the delaying of the seasons and increased unpredictability are among the effects of a changing climate that represent major challenges to the reindeer herding sector – both now and in the future. 

Among other things, climate change will result in increased uncertainty, poorer winter grazing, a lack of cooling patches of snow in the summer, and uncertainty with regard to ice conditions when moving reindeer herds. The climatic impact has resulted in reindeer herding requiring more substantial resources. A changing climate also has a social and economic impact on Sámi communities. Sámi people have an exclusive right to reindeer herding in Sweden.

Reindeer herding depends on a cohesive landscape

The combination of climate change and increased exploitation, makes adaptation measures for reindeer herding more difficult. Reindeer herding can adapt to climate change by reducing vulnerabilities and increasing resilience. Climate adaptation for this sector needs a holistic approach, since reindeer herding depends on a cohesive landscape and a functional ecosystem.