What is wild? Is it enough for nature to develop its powers freely, unaffected by human influences? How can we save or restore great biodiversity? Biologist and nature filmmaker Jan Haft explores these questions in his book. He writes that many of us view the forest in particular as native nature. And in fact, sooner or later dense forests grow into areas where we let humans take their course. For a long time, researchers also assumed that Europe was primarily forest before it was formed by humans.
But why is the species diversity in the canopy of tall trees relatively low? Why do insects, reptiles, and many other animals so often roam human-shaped landscapes like gravel pits, cattle pastures, or military training grounds, just as there is a greater variety of rare plants there? In search of answers, the author interviewed several experts. This confirmed his impression: most animal and plant species native to Europe are not adapted to forests, but rather to open landscapes. Even large forest trees such as oaks will not survive in a dense forest without forests. Because young offspring need sunlight, which is carried away from them by the older trees in a forest that grows enormously. They only have a brief chance if one of the giants falls and rips a hole in the leaf canopy – but even then they are rapidly grown by the beech trees, whose offspring also grow in the shade and are already on the starting blocks.
The lack of sunlight in the forest is also a problem for the vast majority of insects, amphibians and reptiles. According to experts, nine out of ten domestic birds need open land to survive and reproduce. Likewise, most mammals are adapted to open landscapes—although today they often escape into forests as a last resort from humans. No matter what group of organisms you look at—be it animals, plants, or fungi: it is true of all of them that only a small fraction of species depend on the forest as a habitat or can only survive there. In a hypothetical scenario where we allow forests to grow across Europe, thousands of species would become extinct.
“Explorer. Communicator. Music geek. Web buff. Social media nerd. Food fanatic.”