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Map of Europe's last ancient forests

Background - 1 August, 2005
Deciduous forests once covered almost the whole of central and western Europe. Today the continent's only undisturbed forests are in the far north. Sweden and Finland have only three percent of the forest that used to cover Europe. Only 14 percent of the forests in European Russia remain.

Tengmalm owl in the last old growth forests of Finland.

These forests provide the only area of refuge for many species ofplants and animals. But these forests are also under threat. At least 150 square kilometres of ancient forest fall victim to the chainsaw every year. New vegetation can take years to grow in polar regionswhere the summers are short.

The common perception that Russia is a country with unlimited natural resources is a myth. In reality the country's undisturbed forests, and particularly the last large intact ancient forests, are shrinking rapidly. Exploitation of wood and timber, road building, mining, pipelines and railways are cutting the forest up into small fragments.

© Greenpeace/Global Forest Watch

Potentially intact ancient forest, >50,000 heactares

Other forests

Sources: Intact forest landscapes of Sweden and Finland, Taiga Rescue Network 2000

Intact landscapes of Russia, Greenpeace Russia and GFW 2001, Current forest cover, University of Maryland 2000