Bio­lo­gy and landscape

The tab­le mountains of Väs­ter­göt­land have pro­vi­ded the con­di­tions for com­ple­tely uni­que natu­ral envi­ron­ments. The vari­a­tion in rocks and com­po­si­tion of the bed­rock makes for an unu­su­al­ly lar­ge vari­a­tion in eco­systems. The­re are alvars, rich fens, elks, beech forests, orchids, nesting birds of prey, dan­ci­ng cra­nes, and deep spru­ce forests.

Due to the lar­ge drop height and the uni­que bed­rock in the tab­le mountains, you can expe­ri­ence com­ple­tely dif­fe­rent envi­ron­ments with dif­fe­rent orga­nic life over a drop height of only 75–100 metres. From bar­ren heat­hs on the dia­ba­se at the top to rich fens at the base of the talus slo­pes. From arid and sun­ny mea­dows in the south to mos­sy boul­ders in per­pe­tu­al sha­dow in the north. From bro­ad-lea­ved deci­du­ous forests stretching up to the level of the tab­le mountain sur­fa­ces to hazel thic­kets which make you feel like you walk in tun­nels along the foot­pat­hs whe­re the talus slo­pes meet the sur­rounding farm­lands. The ground flo­ra is hea­vily influ­enced by cal­ci­um from the sedi­men­ta­ry rocks in the tab­le mountains, and the posi­tion of the cal­ci­um lay­er is of gre­at impor­tan­ce for the flo­ra on and around the mountains.

The forests on the slo­pes are a uni­que fea­tu­re with a sur­pri­sing diver­si­ty and gre­at value. The ter­rain is spectacu­lar, vari­a­tion is high, and sur­pri­ses abound. It is the­re­fo­re no won­der that more and more of our slo­pe forests become natu­re reser­ves. Many rese­ar­chers claim that the slo­pe forests con­sti­tu­te the poten­ti­al­ly most spe­ci­es-rich eco­sy­stem in the country. The bro­ad-lea­ved deci­du­ous slo­pe forests are among the most untouched eco­systems in Swe­den and are the­re­fo­re alre­a­dy valu­ab­le refu­ges for thre­a­tened spe­ci­es. In all like­li­hood, they will become even more impor­tant in the futu­re if they are allo­wed to evol­ve untouched.

Alvars can be found in a few pla­ces in the geo­park. Alvars are spe­ci­al becau­se of the limesto­ne bed­rock cove­red with a thin lay­er of soil and plant life. This pro­vi­des a bar­ren envi­ron­ment cha­rac­te­ri­sed by droughts and floods. You can often spot bare limesto­ne wit­hout any soil cover. All of this makes for a very spe­ci­al ani­mal and plant life. 

The ice age depo­sits in the regi­on also result in high vari­a­tion in eco­systems and bio­lo­gy, for examp­le in the kame lands­cape in Val­le Härad. The­re are seve­ral natu­re reser­ves here, Höjen­torp-Drott­ning­kul­len being the lar­gest. The area is cha­rac­te­ri­sed by many ridges, hills, and lakes and is famous for its win­ding roads through small-sca­le farmland. 

What would the Väs­ter­göt­land plain be wit­hout the birds? Each year, the fields and the air are fil­led with retur­ning migra­to­ry birds. Lake Horn­bor­ga (Horn­bor­ga­sjön in Swe­dish) is the obvious spot for anyo­ne wishing to expe­ri­ence this – espe­ci­al­ly the “dan­ce of the cra­nes”, the cra­nes’ spe­ci­al mating beha­viour in which tens of thousands of cra­nes gat­her at Lake Horn­bor­ga befo­re they con­ti­nue nort­h­wards to their bree­ding grounds.

Lake Horn­bor­ga for­med after the last ice age. During the late 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ri­es, the lake was lowered to cre­a­te farm­land, but it was resto­red in the 1990s. To expe­ri­ence the “dan­ce of the cra­nes” or to learn more about the ani­mal and plant life around Lake Horn­bor­ga, we recom­mend a visit to Natu­rum Horn­bor­ga­sjön.

The ear­ly-pur­p­le orchid, Orchis mascu­la, on the alvar at Öster­pla­na hed, Kinnekulle.
Pho­to: Natur­cent­rum AB

The kame lands­cape at Val­le Härad.
Pho­to: Mar­tin Maars

The mighty “dan­ce of the cra­nes” at lake Hornborgasjön.
Pho­to: Jesper Anhede