Surprising amount of primary forest remains in Europe, but little of it in PA status, study finds
Dotted by historic cities nestled in a patchwork countryside of fields and pasture, today’s Europe is at once urban and bucolic. But where sheep range over grassy knolls, bison used to roam through forests; where sunflowers and tulips grow, wolves once hunted. And fairytales warned children to stay out of the woods.
But the woods that once covered Europe is now largely gone, cleared by human settlers to grow food and build houses starting around 6,000 years ago. And with the woods went the animals that used to live in them. Grey wolves are now relegated to small pockets of habitat here and there, as are Eurasian brown bears and European bison. Just one large tract of intact lowland forest remains in Europe – an old-growth oasis straddling the border of Poland and Belarus whose 15th century designation as a hunting ground for royalty spared it from the axe.