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Unusual weather disrupts timber industry in Sweden, bears' sleep in Finland

Radio Sweden and YLE News

The weather has dealt Sweden’s timber industry a double blow this winter, and now loggers are looking at lower profits and more headaches as they try to salvage what’s left of their trees.

In December, Storm Sven barreled down on Sweden with strong gusts and heavy snows and was quickly followed by Storm Ivar, whose fierce winds felled between 159 million and 230 million cubic feet of forest. In total, an estimated 424 million cubic feet of timber were damaged by bad weather with forests in north hit the hardest.

Kurt Johansson owns a forest in southern Sweden. Storm Sven took 14,125 cubic feet from his land, most of which were young trees, not ready for harvest.

Johansson says thanks to the storm it took three or four days to remove the downed trees with chainsaws. If they had been standing, the job would have taken a day and a half with help from a tree harvester. Exactly how much the loss will cost him is unclear, but the damage down will certainly shrink his earnings.

“It will be pulpwood,” he says, referring to a type of lumber that's used to make paper and that usually fetches half the price timber gets on the market. Johansson adds if the trees are heavily split, the timber can be used only for firewood, which has an even lower price tag.

The timber industry is also racing against the clock, trying to get their logs to lumber mills before the spring. The springtime rains and warmer weather could make downed trees a perfect breeding ground for insects.

“We want to save as much lumber as possible,” says Björn Lyngfelt, who works for forest products company SCA.

But even Mother Nature is making that task difficult. Loggers are having trouble reaching their forests thanks to the winter’s warm weather. With higher temperatures, the ground hasn’t frozen and dirt roads leading into the woods have become muddy messes that can easily bog down trucks.

Rain forces hibernating bears from dens

Rainy weather in Finland, meanwhile, has disrupted the winter slumbers of many bears this winter.

Particularly in southeastern Finland, the rain has brought many bears out of hibernation.

Heavy rains and high waters have invaded some winter bear dens, forcing their sleepy inhabitants to seek new shelter.

Even while hibernating, bears react to external stimuli, stirring from their slumbers and then continuing their winter sleep. Despite the mild, wet weather, they sense the season, and it is not unusual that a bear will occupy two or three different dens over the same winter.

Bears now on the move are looking for dry spots to bed down again and will not start seeking food until the spring.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.