De centraleuropæiske skoves historie er præget af årtusinders udnyttelse fra mennesket, og der skelnes derfor mellem skovenes botaniske og økologiske historie i forhistorisk tid, og skovenes udviklingshistorie under menneskelig påvirkning, som i Centraleuropa senest startede i bondestenalderen. Centraleuropa opfattes her som området afgrænset af Nordsøen i nord, Alperne i syd, Frankrig i vest og det tidligere Sovjetunionen i øst. Området omfatter således landene Tyskland, Polen, Tjekkiet, Slovakiet og Ungarn. I praksis er skovhistorien dog fælles også med Frankrig og Ukraine.
Mennesket har både i nutiden og i historisk tid haft umådelig stor indflydelse på skovenes udbredelse og sammesætning. Nuværende skove i Centraleuropa betragtes, med få undtagelser, ikke som naturlige, men som et kulturlandskab der har udviklet sig over årtusinder. De ældste kendte eksempler på menneskets direkte påvirkning af skoven er 1/2 mio. år gamle håndkiler, men den graden af menneskelig påvirkning så lang tid tilbage er vanskelig at bestemme; den har dog, formentlig, være forsvindende da befolkningstallet var meget lavt.
It is believed that during glacial times during the ongoing ice age Central Europe was largely deforested and, in the period of "natural" re-emergence of the forest, since the end of the last glacial period, the Würm glaciation (about 11 700 years BP), people began to play a part transforming the potential natural vegetation. Sedentary, Neolithic farmers of the Linear Pottery Culture, about 7 500 years ago, began to change the forested landscape massively.
Due to feudal structures[kilde mangler], the power over and ownership of forests was not at all clear for many centuries, which resulted in widespread overexploitation. As a result, during the period 1750-1850 forests in Central Europe had been decimated, causing a serious lack of timber. Some contemporary reports even spoke partly of desert-like landscapes at that time.
During the late 19th and 20th centuries a huge amount of artificial reforestation was implemented.
Today's forest communities in central Europe are influenced by the usefulness of the individual tree species. Apart from a few remnants of "near-natural forest" the vast majority of today's Central European forests are either artificial forests or whose present composition has arisen as a result of active or passive human intervention. Far and away the most common are commercial timber forests, which may be more or less near-natural, with beech and oak, spruce and pine. "Ancient forests" in Central Europe refer to the few remaining stands that are neither currently used for forestry nor were exploited in historical times.
Even with these, certain types of human influence, for example, forest browsing, cannot be completely ruled out. The composition and dynamics of the old Central European forests must therefore be reconstructed from these relics, from forest research areas and natural forest cells after they have ceased to be used, and by comparison with forest types in similar climatic conditions that are still true virgin forests, especially the Hyrcanian Forest on the Caspian Sea.
There are almost no data on the density and the influence of megaherbivores in prehistoric times, only conjecture. According to many forest scientists and a number of hunters, perpetual forest structures, which are advantageous for the forestry industry and the ecology, cannot be established without strong hunting measures to cull the present-day herbivores, the red and roe deer ensuring a correspondingly low density of these herbivores. Excessive stocks of deer do not only harm the forest as a commodity, but also prevent the natural regeneration of the forest through selective browsing by the animals and therefore hinder its natural development.
The megaherbivore theory argues that larger densities of game should therefore be permitted, because it would create a half-open and diverse landscape. Apart from red and roe deer there are no large herds of herbivores today and they have few natural predators. In today's cultural landscape, the establishment of permanent forest is seen as an economic and ecological goal; herbivores roving over wide areas inflict economic damage and are therefore hunted. The grazing of wild megaherbivores is therefore limited, as a landscape conservation measure, to large nature reserves in which a species-rich and semi-open landscape is to be preserved and economic objectives are rated as less important.
Forms of forest useRediger
- Silviculture and forest management dominate forestry in Central Europe today.
- Hunting is probably the earliest form of forest use. Among the most important species hunted are roe deer, various species of red deer, wild boar, red fox and some smaller mammals. In the past large carnivores - the lynx, brown bear and wolf - also belonged to this group; but today, these species have very small populations in German-speaking countries and restricted to very small areas within the region, so these animals are currently protected. Forests were kept partly as game reserves, as so called "wildbann" forests (Wildbannforste), reserved for grand hunts by the nobility, and are probably better preserved in a relatively original state as a result.
- Silvopasture is an early historical, agroforestry form of forest use, whereby cattle were driven into the forest for pasture. Depending on how intensively this was done, the forest was either thinned or died out. Woody plants that are not readily eaten, such as juniper, spread. As a result, in many places, clear, park-like countryside and juniper heaths were created in the Middle Ages and modern era. These communities later reduced as areas were reforested or as agricultural use intensified.
- Recreation activities in the forests of Central Europe increased during the 20th century as a result of the leisure society. The social function of European forests is increasingly seen as important, and competes with its classic uses.
- Protection forests (Schutzwald) are those where the economic exploitation takes a low priority. The protection they offer may refer to location (e.g. unstable soils), to objects (avalanche protection of settlements), to habitat conservation and other ecologically significant factors, or the forest as a social space. The use of forest to provide a protective function is today the third major component alongside economic forestry for wood products and hunting.
- Helge Walentowski & Susanne Winter (2007): Naturnähe im Wirtschaftswald – was ist das? Tuexenia 27: 19–26.
- Reinhard Mosandl: Geschichte der Wälder in Mitteleuropa im letzten Jahrtausend. Aktuelle Beiträge zum Verständnis der historischen Entwicklung. In Bernd Herrmann (editor): Beiträge zum Göttinger Umwelthistorischen Kolloquium 2008 - 2009. Universitätsverlag Göttingen, 2009. pp.91-114. preview at Google Books