It is a widely held belief that a climax vegetation of closed forest systems covered the lowlands of Central and Western Europe before humans intervened in prehistoric times to develop agriculture. If this intervention had not taken place, it would still be there and so if left, the grassland vegetation and fields we see today would revert to its natural closed forest state, although with a reduced number of wild species.
This book challenges this view, using examples from history, pollen analyses and studies on the ecology of tree and shrub species such as oak and hazel. It tests the hypotheses that the climax vegetation is a closed canopy forest against the alternative one in which species composition and succession of vegetation were governed by herbivores and that the Central and Western European lowlands were covered by a park-like landscape consisting of grasslands, scrub, solitary trees and groves bordered by a mantle and fringe vegetation. Comparative information from North America is also included, because the forests there are commonly regarded as being analogous to the primeval vegetation in Europe.
This title is a revised, updated and expanded translation of a book published in Dutch.
1: General introduction and formulation of the problem
2: Succession, the climax forest and the role of large herbivores
3: Palynology, the forest as climax in prehistoric times and the effects of humans
4: The use of the wilderness from the Middle Ages to 1900
5: Spontaneous succession in forest reserves in the lowlands of Western and Central Europe
6: Establishment of trees and shrubs in relation to light and grazing
7: Final synthesis and conclusions