this post belongs to the 5th anniversary Festival of the Trees, which is online now.
It's hard to imagine, but a long time ago, the whole of Germany (just as most of Europe) was covered with forest. Then, bit by bit, tree by tree, people turned parts of the forest to farmland. Then the age of industrialization began - and with it, the forests kept shrinking.
It was around 1980 that things reached a low-point in Germany: due to a combination of acid rain, draught and insects, about 25% of the remaining forest was damaged. The word to sum up the crisis was: "Waldsterben"- "Forest dying". (If you check wikipedia, you will find a long article in German on it: Waldsterben.)
The crisis led to several save-the-forest-and-nature-in-general-programs. Since then, the pollution of the air and the rivers decreased noticably. Endangered species are returning. And the forests are growing again.
Now, in June 2011, the UNO issued an "European forest report" - the good news is that the forest areas in Europe stopped shrinking, and even are increasing again. The German magazine "Welt" has an infomap of Europe that shows the forest situation in each country: the color of the country indicates the percentage of forest: Germany is in the 31-45% range, Europe's "forest" countries are Sweden and Finland with more than 60% forest:
(About the map: the dots give the absolute account of forest in a country, measured in million hectare. For example, Germany has 11,1 million hectares of forest - and Russia: 809, more than all European countries summed up.)
But not all is good news: seen globally, the forests are shrinking, especially in South America. And some of the growth is due to large monocultures tree plantations.
The completed UN Report is online here: State of the World's Forests 2011.
For some articles based on it, try "Forests in Europe and North America are growing but remain vulnerable to threats" and "UN report: Europe's forests are growing".
(more tree blog posts: label/tree)