Råhoved Forest on scenic Stevns is prime forest. Apart from
being at the top of the list for nature lovers, bird watchers and
hunters, this forest, characterised by beech trees, is a textbook
example of 'natural' or 'close-to-nature' forest management, which
allows the forest to regenerate gradually through natural
The forest belongs to the Gjorslev estate where focus is on
deciduous forests managed according to close-to-nature principles.
The estate has a total of about 750 hectares of forest. Around 80%
is today deciduous forest, most of which is being managed according
to close-to-nature principles, and this percentage will increase in
the years to come, explains estate owner Peter Henrik Tesdorpf.
Climate change means that Norway spruce, the most common tree
species in Danish forestry, can no longer be considered a good
"Norway spruce will cope poorly in the climate scenario we are
facing. These tees will not be able to yield proper timber in a
place like this. So even though it will mean fewer cubic metres of
wood, we will be investing in other species that are more suitable
for the future climate," says Peter Henrik Tesdorpf.
The conversion at Gjorslev to even more deciduous forest, managed
according to close-to-nature principles has taken place gradually
over a longer period of time and not only as a response to climate
change. The conversion is also good business.
"It is extremely expensive to plant and protect new trees, so it is
a real advantage to let the trees regenerate through natural
seeding and spend the resources on nurturing the forest instead,"
explains Peter Henrik Tesdorpf.
Spreading the risk
In close-to-nature forest management, new trees are established
through natural seeding under the crowns of the existing trees, and
in this way the forest will have a mix of uneven-aged trees. This
management method still requires a lot of work. Some of the trees
have to be cleared every four years and the forest floor must be
harrowed so that new trees can more easily regenerate themselves.
However, the method is significantly cheaper than traditional
clearcutting, where entire forest areas are planted at once.
Furthermore, close-to-nature forests have the advantage of being
more robust against expected climate change impacts, says Bo
Larsen, professor in silviculture at the University of
"By mixing different tree species and trees of different ages, you
get a forest where you can change the composition of trees over
time by choosing the trees to be removed during thinning and the
trees to be allowed to regenerate. In this way foresters can
spread their risk and adapt forests to climate change impacts as
they become reality," Bo Larsen argues.
He has spoken in favour of introducing close-to-nature forest
management in Danish forests since the 1990s. Today, all state
forests and some municipal forests are undergoing conversion to
close-to-nature forests. However, a great number of privately owned
forests are still being managed as monocultures, and Norway spruce
is still the most common and widespread species in Danish forestry,
Bo Larsen explains.
Norway spruce as well as Sitka spruce, which is also fairly
widespread in Denmark, are among the species that will probably be
most affected by climate change.
The direst problems for Danish forestry will probably be more
droughts in summer and more frequent and more heavy storms in
autumn. Changes that will have a severe impact on both Norway
spruce and Sitka spruce. Furthermore, it appears that Norway spruce
needs fairly cold winters in order to thrive, which fits badly with
the fact that we can expect warmer winters in future. Bo Larsen is
however in no way dismissing Norway spruce or conifers as such from
"For example, we're expecting much from North American Douglas fir.
And there is nothing to hinder us from having Norway spruce in our
forests in future, as long as they are part of a mixed forest,"
says Bo Larsen.
Waiting for better prices
At the Gjorslev estate, the forestry business is only just making
ends meet. The reason the estate's forests on Stevns are not
yielding more profits at the moment is mainly because of the many
beech forests on the estate today. They may be very pretty, but
unfortunately beech wood is not selling well. Beech wood is being
rejected to the advantage of lighter species such as ash and maple.
However, one must be very patient in forestry. Trees that are
planted today, will not be harvested for 50 to 120 years. When
beech wood is again selling well, the forests on the Gjorslev
estate will be harbouring great value, explains estate owner Peter
In the meantime, one can rejoice over the fact that Råhoved Forest
and other close-to-nature forests are good habitats for game and
often very beautiful as well.
"The idea is to create forests that are robust and can supply
high-quality timber. But they should also have a high degree of
biodiversity and offer exciting outdoor recreation. Which is
exactly what close-to-nature forests offer," Bo Larsen