Monday, July 06, 2009

on a forest path

4. At the sea shore.

Can you hear the waves lapping? When the ice melted, the long valley of the Indal river became an inlet of the sea. You are standing now at the highest coastline (HK), i.e. the highest level attained by the waters of the Eastern Sea* at this location. During the Ice Age the land was pressed downwards by the tremendous weight of the inland ice-sheet. When the ice disappeared the land began to lift again. Here the HK is 250 meters above the current sea-level. Even today the land continues to rise at a rate of around 7mm per year.

Look back at the path above the signpost. Where the waves never reached, finer rock-particles still remain. The ground is moister and richer in nutrients. That makes it easier for plants to get established. In the woods we've been passing through, mosses dominate the ground-layer. Bilberry together with lingonberry** are the commonest low shrubs***. But at the highest coastline the ground becomes dryer. On the path leading down from the signpost the rock-particles are coarser and conditions are more arid. Bilberry becomes less frequent and there is more heather, lingon and crowberry. Reindeer-lichen replaces some of the mosses at ground-level.

Juniper flourishes in the open forest. As a result of timber-thinning many junipers are released from a meagre existence in dense woodland. Look at the ones along the footpath. Near the power-lines in particular there are some that are more tree-like than bush-like. That is not so very common in the north of Sweden.

5. Peat extraction

The farmers in the village came together to cut peat. Peat-cutting continued sporadically into the 20th century. Water is needed for peat-formation. Sphagnum peat is the most common sort but sedges can also form peat. Here in Långmyran both sphagnum moss and various kinds of sedge grow today.

[From a leaflet found at Bispfors in SE Jämtland.]

* Östersjön: Swedish name for the Gulf of Bothnia.
** Vaccinium vitis-idaea , in Britain restricted to the NW and named cowberry in British floras, but probably the Swedish name lingonberry is now more familiar, because of the national obsession with going to IKEA and scoffing meatballs while scribbling wish-lists of flatpack furniture.
*** The untranslateable Swedish word is "risen", meaning thin twiggy growth, e.g. from which you can cut a switch to flick away mosquitoes.

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