In consequence of variations in geology and soils, in climate, and in its wide extent in longitude, latitude and altitude, the Scandinavian mountain chain exhibits major variations in natural conditions. Nature is constantly influenced by processes that include both natural forces and human activity.
In the early 1990s, there was an intense media debate about current damage to the montane vegetation, which many believed they could observe.
In 1992, the World Wide Foundation for Nature, WWF, invited representatives of responsible authorities, reindeer-husbandry interests, voluntary conservation bodies and interested researchers to a conference, which, somewhat erroneously, came to be called the 'Reindeer grazing conference', but which included a spectrum of factors that can affect the montane vegetation.
One result of this conference was that, in 1993, WWF initiated a research project, extending over several years, intended to provide information about temporal changes in montane vegetation.
Experimental areas distributed along the Swedish mountain chain were selected: the southernmost are on Fulufjället in Dalama, and the northernmost are ea. 15 km S of Tavvavuoma in Swedish Lapland. (Some placenames are given in modern North-Saamish spelling in Appendix 2) The vegetation types studied were Grass heath, Meadow with low herbs, Dry heath, Birch forest-heath type with lichens and Birch forest-heath with mosses. These cover all major montane areas and are important grazing areas for reindeer.
At all study sites, six adjacent plots were selected, half of which were fenced to deny access to larger herbivores, and half were left open for grazing by all herbivores. The composition of plant communities in the field, bottom and tree layer in plots was estimated in 1995-96, and re-estimated three to four years later.
Generally, marginal or no effects of enclosure were seen on the vegetation communities, and there were no differences between vegetation types.
Up to the end of the 19th century, travellers in the montane region, both Saami and outsiders, ocularly assessed the plant cover. As a rule, they reported a good supply of reindeer fodder plants, especially lichen species.
From the end of the 19th century, there began to be observations of severely denuded lichen cover, especially in areas exposed to a veritable invasion of Saami and reindeer from the north-Norwegian and north-Finnish reindeer grazing areas. Incomers from those areas introduced an extensive form of reindeer husbandry, developed to suit conditions on the Finnmarksvidda and in northernmost Finland, where large reindeer herds could readily find grazing on well-demarcated headlands and islands during the snowfree season, without much supervision.
The conflicts of interest between the incomers, and indigenous Saami who wished to carry on an intensive form of reindeer husbandry, with closely supervised herds, were great. From the beginning of the 20th century, state interventions, in the form of commissions of enquiry and field surveys, were instituted. Their aim was to resolve existing conflicts, to ensure a sustainable access to grazing, and satisfactory profitability. The results cannot be said to have been satisfactory.
Uppsala: Svenska växtgeografiska sällsk. , 2007. , 106 s. : ill. (vissa i färg), diagr., tab. p.
rangelands, grassland management, nature conservation, highlands, Sweden