01. Life Bridging the Gap

Oak trees can become extremely old. In Sweden, we still have some well-functioning oak woodlands that are largely connected. When previously grazed oak meadows are abandoned, the land quickly becomes overgrown. Gradually the land become so dark that the species that grow there move away or die out. With time, the oak trees die as well.
Betande kor i ekhage i Johannishus Åsar naturreservat.

Oak woodlands are also lost to exploitation such as the construction of buildings and roads. Our oak woodlands can house a vast number of species and have few or no equivalents. Yet several analyses show that for many years their area has shrunk considerably and that we need to preserve and take care of what is left, but also restore previously grazed oak meadows that have been overgrown, to retain the species.

As regards the management of nature reserve management, for many years county administrations and municipalities, together with landowners and animal keepers, have worked to clear around old oaks, and to open up and restore previously grazed oak meadows – so that the grazing animals can once again graze them. Several projects have also worked on this before.

When we wrote the application for the Life Bridging the Gap project, we felt that now is the time to take this management one step further — by raising our sights and beginning the important work of getting these valuable areas to connect in a landscape perspective, and to develop solutions for our future work. For instance, thinking about when a suitable time would be to work with planting and how veteranisation can be used to bridge the age gap.

The Life Bridging the Gap project has been running between 2016—2022. Within the project, the county administrative boards of Blekinge, Kalmar and Östergötland, as well as the Municipality of Linköping, have been working in 30 valuable oak woodlands, improving their conservation status. In this guide, we describe the measures we have implemented in the project and our experiences while doing so.