East Vättern Scarp Landscape Biosphere Reserve

       Country Sweden
       Region/Province/ or State Jönköping
       Web Address https://www.ostravatterbranterna.se
       Date Founded 2012
       Size (hectares) 105,520
       Distinguishing Features The biosphere reserve contains several deep lakes. Of these, Lake Vättern is Sweden’s largest cold water lake, and the fifth largest lake in Europe
       Main Industries (in terms of employment) tourism, hunting, fishery, agriculture, silviculture, commerce


Our history

The East Vättern Scarp Landscape project began in 1998 as a forum for resolving conflicts between stakeholders connected with production and conservation of forest and natural assets of the region. The project group brought together representatives of seven organisations: the Gränna Forest Coalition, Jönköping municipality, the Federation of Swedish Farmers, the Jönköping County Administrative Board, the Swedish Forest Agency, Södra and the World Wildle Fund For Nature (WWF). After several years, the project entered a dialogue phase where mapping of forest and grasslands with trees of particular ecological importance had a key roled. New forest production plans, nature reserves and volonteur agreements where toals to implement the compomises achieved. With the passage of time, this work took on more of the form of a cooperation project.

The long process towards today’s spirit of cooperation has drawn attention for the way in which landowners, authorities and non-profit nature conservation together constructively seek to develop ways of combining farming and forestry with preservation of the landscape’s natural assets.

Conflict, dialogue and cooperation

The development towards the biosphere reserve can be divided into three phases: conflict, dialogue and cooperation, each of them covering about five years. The group’s original aims of preserving and developing the natural assets were extended to also include the economic exploitation. In his book ‘A wonderful Friday’, Roger Olsson tells the exciting story of the East Vättern Scarp Landscape’s journey from conflict to cooperation. As time went by, the project group wanted to make the cooperation permanent. A number of alternatives were analysed, and the biosphere reserve model was considered the best answer o local needs. Linking the East Vättern Scarp Landscape project to the UN organ UNESCO meant that the local experiences were disseminated worldwide and the project became part of a large international network.

Sweden’s fifth biosphere reserve

The aim was achieved in 2012, when the East Vättern Scarp Landscape became Sweden’s fifth biosphere reserve. With this, the activities were extended further, with a clear focus on all elements of sustainable development, i.e. ecological, economic and social. The project group was replaced by an association whose ambition is to work towards making the East Vättern Scarp Landscape a model region for sustainable development.

In May 2015 the 2016 to 2021 Biosphere Programme – a strategy for sustainable development in the East Vättern Scarp Landscape – was presented.

Focus areas of the East Vättern Scarp Landscape Biosphere Reserve

The East Vättern Scarp Landscape is a unique part of Sweden. Deep lakes, open natural pastures and steep hillsides have given the region high biological, cultural-historical and aesthetical natural assets. There are many places with spectacular views over Lake Vättern only a stone’s throw from a small-scale agricultural landscape. The varying topography, different climate zones and human cultivation offer many different types of countryside.

Nature and landscape

The UNESCO East Vättern Scarp Landscape Biosphere Reserve extends from Tenhult in the south to Adelöv in the north. The local climate and topography are the basis of the variation and natural assets in the landscape. Additionally, human beings have, over the course of thousands of years, formed the biosphere – the living part of the earth’s crust – and continue to do so today. By hay making, grazing and collecting leaves, land users in the region have developed pastures with a great diversity of species related to grassland, bushes and trees. It is a biological heritage from the work of previous generations, and one that we have a shared responsibility to continue.

Spectacular and small-scale

In the East Vättern Scarp Landscape there are areas that have been farmed traditionally for a long time and scree slopes that are almost untouched by humans, oak copses belonging to feudal estates and deciduous meadows next to small hamlets, recreational environments near conurbations and quiet forest landscapes. The cultivated landscape is to a large extent living and in many places well-preserved with a mosaic of natural habitats. Soil types change dramatically from rich loam with temperate deciduous forest to rocky terrain with Scots pine. Between these extremes there are, inter alia, natural pastures and deciduous meadows, scarp woodlands with mixed forests of aspen and spruce, and screes where practically all species of Swedish deciduous trees occur. The variation in vegetation and flora is unique, and it is hard to find equivalents, even beyond the county. Because of Vättern’s location between the west and east coasts, the region is a meeting point for western and eastern and for northern and southern species.

Large parts of the East Vättern Scarp Landscape belong to the county of Gränna – Visingsö. Visingsö has always been an attractive place. The island has ancient remains from all eras, with a concentration from the Iron Age. Visingsö was once Sweden’s centre of power, as its position in the middle of Vättern and southern Sweden made the island an ideal central point in the kingdom that emerged in the early Middle Ages. Vättern can be regarded as that period’s equivalent of today’s E4 main road, allowing fast and relatively safe travel. During the mid-16th century, Count Per Brahe the elder initiated the construction of palaces and other monumental buildings in the county.

In contrast to the stately homes and park landscapes of the county and the nobility, there is a small-scale farming landscape with the buildings and environments that formed part of the lives of crofters and peasants. Fringed fields, peasant gardens, wooded grasslands, verges and pollarded trees surround small red-painted crofts, houses and farm buildings. Because of the topography of the landscape and the farming tradition that lives on in the area, the agrarian environments are unusually well preserved and well-tended.

Our six focus areas

  • The work in the biosphere programme has resulted in six focus areas that will form the basis of the association’s work during the coming years.
    These are:
  • The Biosphere Academy
  • Energy and climate
  • Gastronomic region
  • Living landscape
  • Tourism and outdoor recreation
  • The East Vättern Scarp Landscape Brand

None of these focus areas is more important than the others, even though the emphasis during a particular period may be on one of them. The focus areas for the next five years are presented below.

The six areas are linked; it is hard to draw clear dividing lines between them. The Biosphere Academy and the Brand, for example, cut through all the areas. Living landscape, Tourism and outdoor recreation and Gastronomic region are clearly interlinked. It is, and will continue to be, important for the biosphere reserve to have the responsiveness and flexibility to act when opportunities arise or conditions change. This is especially important in cooperation with land users, landowners and organisations that take their own initiatives and should be able to expect support from the biosphere organisation. In the framework of the overall priorities that guide our activities, there should therefore always be plenty of space for revision of short-term plans.

We are all part of the biosphere! For this reason, we cooperate in the East Vättern Scarp Landscape to preserve, develop and support the vitality, natural and cultural heritage, knowledge and practice of the local community – for us and for future generations.