There are currently 3.04 trillion trees and 7.2 billion people on Earth. Theoretically, this means that each person would have to take care of 422 trees, assuming they were all arborists. But, who takes care of trees in other countries? How do other arborists work in other parts of the world? What rules and regulations do they have to follow? What dangerous animals and plants are there? We aim to answer all these questions in our new series, “Arboriculture around the World.”
Our third of twelve destinations for answering these questions is in northern Europe, in Scandinavia, as we stop in Sweden. The country, which covers almost 450,000 square kilometers, is home not only to moose, lynxes, Pippi Longstocking and IKEA, but also to almost 10.5 million people. This means that there are more than 200 fewer people living on one square kilometer of the kingdom than in Germany. Sweden has been part of the European Union since 1995, but the euro did not replace the Swedish krona as a currency. In the south of the country is arborist Boel Hammarstrand.
We were lucky that Boel found the time to answer our questions during an interview, giving us the opportunity to learn more about the arboriculture scene in Sweden.
Boel, where did you grow up and where do you work now?
I grew up in Eslöv, Scania, Sweden. I currently work mostly around Scania, but through all of Sweden too.
There are different ways to become an arborist in Germany. How does the training to become an arborist work in your country? Is a certain level of schooling required here, or a degree?
In Sweden there are two arborist schools that offer a two year education, one in Stockholm and one in Alnarp, Scania. I think the most common way to become an arborist in Sweden is to attend one of the two schools. The less common way is to do shorter courses or just start working as an apprentice and learn on the job. I highly recommend some kind of formal education in Sweden as it is free of charge to the student.
How long have you been doing tree care? How did you get into arboriculture? And have you always wanted to be an arborist?
I started working as an arborist in 2006. During my last year at collage i did work experience abroad, in the UK. During school i never saw the point in learning English as: „Everyone in Sweden speaks Swedish“ but after spending a few weeks in the UK i figuered it might be handy so after i graduated i went back to the UK to work as an apprentice for the company there wich were an arborist company, with the intention to learn English, i learned both English and fell in love with the profession of arboriculture and trees. I never had the intention to become an arborist, it just happened by alot of happy little coincidence.
Our followers on Facebook and Instagram are very clearly divided. 90% are male, 10% are female. What do you think is the distribution between male and female arborists in your country?
Its hard to say what the distribution between male and females within the profession is in Sweden, ist definitely a male dominated profession, but including all aspects of arboriculture and not just climbing arborists there might be close to 30% females throughout the profession.
How would you describe the arboriculture community in your country? How are you connected to the international community?
I think the arb community in Sweden is awsome, ist super friendly and inclusive. We have a few tree associations in Sweden that do events and courses, so there is a wide range of things happening throughout the year and country. Sweden works hard to keep and stay connected internationally, by working closely with neighbouring countries to host joint events. This year the Swedish and Danish tree associations are hosting an ArbCamp together in the south of Sweden, 3-4 th of june.
Could you imagine working abroad? If yes, where? If no, why not? Or do you already have experience in this field?
Pre covid i did alot of travelling around the world to the USA, Canada, Taiwan and around Europe, mostly for tree climbing competition, but also for a bit of work. Climbing in different countries and with different people gives a different perspective wich is a great way to develop as a climber. I really miss travelling and hoping to be able to start traveling more again soon!
Let’s move on to the technical questions.
What equipment do you use? Do you import equipment or are there also local manufacturers?
In Sweden we have a few manufacturers and retailers, so that we can get hold of a range of equipment. Most retailers will carry stock from recognised brands and manufacturers to offer a wide range of equipment. Sometimes if i cant get hold of the equipment i want in the colour i want i will order it from somewhere that have that item in stock, but most of my equipment i order from my local dealer to keep local./p>
What kind of regulations – for equipment – excist in your country? How strictly are these followed and controlled?
As Sweden is part of the European Union we have a lot of European rules and regulations that we need to follow, we also have regulations from our own health and safety executive. The equipment need to be inspect at a regular basis, prior to work and after work. Depending on where you work, different companies have different strategies in place for how to record and monitor the inspections.
Do you climb SRT or DRT? Or both in combination?
I use a combination of SRT and MRS, the right tool and system for the tree and the job at hand. Beeing able to pick and choose from a multiple of options and equipment makes for a more diverse climb.
What is your preferred rope device or friction hitch cord?
The new purple Rope Runner Pro.
What is your favorite tool or product?
Everything purple! I have some great purple blocks, carabiners, foot acenders and a purple „Unicorn Queen“ saka. I love my Stein Vega Plus harness, ist super supportive and comfortable.
The USA have redwood trees, Japan the cherry blossoms. Which tree is special to your country? & What is your favorite tree?
In Sweden we have a lot of birches, beeches, pines, spruces and oaks. Sweden have a lot of old mature trees, such as Kvilleken. It is about 1,000 years old and has a volume of about 60 cubic meters, a height of 14 meters and a circumference of about 13 meters. This makes the oak one of Sweden’s thickest trees. We also have old Tjikko. The at least 9,560-year-old old Tjikko fir on Fulufjället has received a lot of attention worldwide. It is believed to be the oldest spruce clones that have been dated.
Canada has bears, India has tigers, Germany has the oak processionary moth and Australia has many poisonous and dangerous animals. What is the most dangerous animal in the tree or in the environment that could get in your way?
The most dangerous animal that we have in Sweden is the Human, or the angry neighbour. Both can cause a lot of damage to a tree and make an arborists work hard, gruesome and tiering.
But not only animals can be dangerous. What are the most dangerous plants you can encounter?
In regards to poisonous and dangerous things Sweden is a very „boring“ country. We dont have a lot of plants or animals that can kill you. We have wolves and bears and moose, but we don‘t really encounter them up in trees. Same with gigant hogweed and nettles.
In Germany, some species of flora and fauna are protected. Do you also have species to watch out for or do you protect things in your own way?
In Sweden we have protected flora and fauna, that we need to be aware of and respectful to. Trees can also be protected for different reasons such as age, bio diversity, circumference or hollows in the tree. Trees can also be protected if they have been, could have been or are part of a avenue of atleast five trees. Some of the animals that we could come across are nesting birds, bats and red squirrels.
In Germany, the peak season for tree care usually starts in April. In which month or at which time of year is the peak season for tree care in your country?
In Sweden I think the type of work varies more with the seasons, in autumn there are more fellings and removals and in spring more pruning work. I think there is a resonable steady flow throughout the year and i always seam to keep really busy.
Depending on the country, there are different seasons or dry and rainy seasons. What was the most extreme weather you worked in? Heat? Ice? Rain? Storm?
Sweden is a long country so the weather varies a lot from north to south. I am mostly based in the far south of Sweden and we don‘t really get too much extreme weather here, it gets warmer in summer maybe up to 35 C (95 f) on the really hot days and colder in winter -10 C (14 f) on the colder days. Far north there can be as cold as -30° C (-22° f) in winter. The coldest i have worked in is probably about -23° C (-10° f) and the warmest about 42° C (108° f). Working in the snow, when ist between 3° and -10° C (37° – 14° f) is probably what i find hardest, when the snow melt and freezes to the carabiners or the hitch freeze to the rope or the rope freeze solid. Or when ist 30° C one day and 20° C the next, then i get too cold and need to wear a sweter, and then my head overheat and i get heatexhaustion.
In some countries it is not easy to call an ambulance quickly. How quickly would an emergency rescue service reach you if you needed one?
Again Sweden is a very long country so depending on where you were at it would differ, also if you are in very remote areas it would probably be longer. I think the average response time in sweden is about 15-18 minutes for the highest priority emergency calls.
What role do local governments and communities play in promoting and supporting tree care in your home country?
The last few years have seen a raise in how bigger contracts are developed, there are alot more focus to make sure ist qualified arborists that are actually on site doing rhe work, and this is part of the contracts. When the cities and the councils care more about trees normal people seam to do too.
What are the future prospects for tree care in your home country and what can be done to maintain and promote the health and beauty of trees?
I think the Swedish Tree Association is doing alot of things to help promote good practice and good treecare within Sweden. The association is doing a lot with developing new standards, leaflets and information in Swedish that is available on their webpage. The school, Hvilan Utbildning is also doing a lot to make sure ist relevant and current information that they are teaching. Information sharing and networking helps maintain and promote good arboriculture.
And the last question. What was your most spectacular or beautiful workday that you will never forget?
I love my job, so picking out one day is super difficult. I love the days when you get to a site and its a „all day“ or your a person short, but you find good solutions and manage to get the job done anyway. The days when you find the extra good solutions are great. Beeing outside working in the sun is awsome, working with amazing people makes life fun! All days are good days! Travelling past places where i have been working makes me remember the jobs, trees, climbs and conversations I were having at the time.
Boel, that’s it for the interview. At this point, thank you again for this great opportunity and your participation. It’s incredible how different the scene already is in a few thousand kilometers. Stay healthy and keep having fun at work. If you want to know more about Boel and the arboriculture scene in Sweden, feel free to stop by her Instagram channel.
Our next destination will follow at the end of April. We will travel to the land of cherry blossoms and the rising sun: Japan! Until then, climb up safe!