Europe Goes Green(er)

Forest cover in Europe has grown a third in the last century.

December 10, 2014

Europeans once used wood for just about everything: building, cooking, making furniture, constructing ships, and even producing metal. So it’s no surprise that by 1900 the continent had almost no forests to speak of. But now those expanses of oak, beech, spruce, and ash are together a third bigger than they were a century ago

After World War II (mortar blasts and tanks didn’t do trees any favors), countries began reforestation projects, more people moved into cities, and green spaces slowly began to return. Advances in agriculture helped, too. With better irrigation systems, farmers needed less land to produce the same amount of food, which caused some crop fields to turn into grasslands and then patches of trees. (Many farmers under communism also left lands fallow since they couldn't compete in the global market.) The forest-visualization project of Dutch researcher Richard Fuchs show us how Europe has transformed. If you look at places like Scotland and Spain now, there’s so much forest, well, you can barely see the trees.

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