Only Quarter of the World’s Forests are Woodlands
Forests are WoodlandsGeographers claim that in the current territory of Europe there a low percentage of land that would not be affected by agricultural activity at some point of time. This means that almost all of our forests are grown or planted on former land that had the purpose of agriculture. We no longer have primeval or ancient woodlands, so when we talk about old forests, we often understand the concept differently. It is important to explain what is defined as an ancient woodland and how it differs from current forests, why the elements of the ancient woodlands are so important for all the current forests.
Ancient Woodlands are Untouched Forests
When assessing the protection of existing forests and their biodiversity, two parallel factors are commonly used: comparing the past or past situation with the current one and comparing managed forests with those forests where human activity is absent or has never been an important factor. Such forests are called ancient woodlands, primeval or untouched forests. Although, the terminology is still an object of discussions made by experts.
The ecologists and scientists are tend to describe the term “forest” as a place that is untouched and not affected by human activity, as a result, only natural processes take place there, so that forest grows, matures, and regenerates itself. Such forests are characterized by a high number of dead trees, the diversity is wide, and the flora are often diverse and multifaceted. Another important feature is that old groves must occupy large areas. All the natural processes can take place only in massive areas. Some experts consider forests with total area of more than 100 square kilometers to be described as true ancient woodland.
It is a mistake to think that ancient woodlands are simply an old forest left for natural development where all activities of the agriculture are prohibited. Scientists claim that in order to make a simple forest into an ancient woodland, it takes from one to four generations of trees to be changed naturally. By this definition alone, it can be said that the number of true ancient woodlands is very small.
Importance For Endangered Species
Ancient forests are the natural home to many endangered species. Old forests are ideal protected areas where only natural processes take place, so the human intervention and activities of agriculture must be suspended or prohibited to stop deforestation. Many protected species are disappearing in current forests because the elements necessary for those species to exist have been removed or destroyed there. It is already known that the extinction of many protected forest organisms is caused by the lack of large mature trees, especially old oak trees, and large diameter dead wood.
Although, there are not so many ancient woodlands in Europe, there are forest plots that are characterized by certain elements of old-growth forests – these are the key forest habitats. In these small areas of forest, certain elements typical of old-growth forests have been identified. Often the key forest habitats are the habitats of endangered species. As a result, the ancient woodlands are protected by organizations and special law.