Biological diversity thrives thanks to the Armed Forces

The many exercise and firing ranges of the Armed Forces around the country all have high natural values and are home to many different red list plants and animals.

The Armed Forces' exercises help to keep the sandy soils of Revingehed open. The sandy fields are home to more than 50 different types of threatened wild bees. Photo: Ekoll HB
The water-filled tracks left behind by Armed Forces' tanks are perfect breeding grounds for the natterjack toad. Photo: Ekoll HB
Revingehed sandy soils depend on the Armed Forces' wear and tear of the ground, and are home to many threatened insect species. Photo: Anja Edvardsson/Swedish Armed Forces

When there are no exercises in progress, these fields are open to the public as areas of recreation and research. However, always read the signposts and make sure that there is no exercise in progress before you enter an exercise field or firing range!

An example of an Armed Forces’ exercise field is Revingehed, 20 km east of the city of Lund in south Sweden.

"We are very protective of our exercise field that is home to a number of red list species, as for example 50 different types of wild bees", Ulf Rolin, Head of Environment at the South Skåne regiment (P 7), explains.

Revingehed consists of 4 500 hectares of sandy soils, wetlands, the lake Krankesjön and old hardwood forests, and it is a veritable paradise to many threatened and vulnerable species. The area is included in Natura 2000, an EU network aimed at saving species and habitats across Europe. Thanks to our exercises, the Armed Forces contributes to making both flora and fauna thrive.

But aren’t the tanks harming animals and nature on the exercise field?

"No, actually, quite the opposite. Our exercises are good for both plants and animals that live on Revingehed, Ulf Rolin says. We help to create a great breeding ground and environment for many species. Our tanks stir up the ground and reveals sand and spread seeds. And when we drive in the wetlands, the tracks left behind by our tanks fill with water and become perfect breeding grounds for the garlic toad and the natterjack toad, for example".

The regiment P 7, the Swedish Fortifications Agency, County Administrative Board, municipality, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and the tenant farmers meet several times a year to produce an action plan for the coming year. The purpose of the action plan is the maintenance of the field’s natural values. Revingehed participates in the Semi-Aquatic Life EU project aimed at restoring and preserving aquatic insects and amphibians. The County Administrative Board also runs a pollination project to preserve the wild bees living in the field.

So, what is so special with the forests on Revingehed?

"We almost only have hardwood forests. A great part of the beech forest is more than a hundred years old. Dead trees are left to decay and are perfect homes to a huge amount of insect species".

"Revingehed also sports the unique bird lake Krankesjön, a popular breeding ground for many different types of birds, such as the black grouse, grebe and mute swan. This is an incredibly interesting place and the University of Lund conduct much research at the lake and the surrounding wet meadows".

"Nature conservation at Revingehed is carried out in many different ways, Ulf Rolin says. Our tanks wear and stir up the ground, which is necessary for i.a. spreading seeds, we dig holes, and we have some 900 grazing cows on the meadows".

All employees and conscript personnel must attend at least two ground and environment training courses during their time at P 7 regiment. There are also specific training courses for those who work with fuel and chemicals on how to avoid spillage and contamination and how to carry out bio-remediation.

"All who work at P 7 have a high level of environmental awareness. Our exercises enhance natural conservation, it is amazing to see how well they complement each other",  Ulf Rolin concludes.