The last primary forests

Published on: Last updated:

Temps de lecture : 2 minutes  

2011, année des forêts : les dernières forêts primaires

The virgin forest: we’ve all dreamed of it at least once in our lives. Setting foot in unexplored places, penetrating the tangled vegetation of a terra incognita. It is a fantasy fuelled by legend, literature and film, whose suspenseful narratives cultivate the image of an unspoilt natural environment in an unknown location. Yet the virgin forest, in the strict sense of the term, does not exist. Even in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest, traces of human presence have been found, some dating back thousands of years.

However, there are 1.4 billion hectares of ‘primary’ (old-growth) forests – wooded areas often difficult to access that have never been exploited or hindered by man.

According to the FAO, these primary forests represent 36% – almost a third – of global forest coverage, and are found mainly in the tropics. But their surface has shrunk 40 million hectares in the last ten years. Few vestiges remain in the West, after the massive deforestation of the past centuries; the ancient forest of Bia?owie?a, in Poland, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the last primary forested areas in Europe.

Other forests are called ‘secondary’, however wild their appearance. The vegetation has been cleared sporadically and has regrown, but is no longer the original growth. They are often maintained artificially, at least in part.

Primary forests boast an incomparably rich biodiversity, far superior to that of secondary forests. This extreme diversity is what makes them so valuable, but it also explains why we are unable to restore them. As they disappear, there is only one thing we can do: protect them, arm ourselves with patience and let nature take its course. Experts believe that a forest can regenerate itself and regain its former biological richness. But that can only happen within a period of about seven centuries – an eternity in comparison with the speed of current

Extrait du livre « Des forêts et des hommes » rédigé par la rédaction de GoodPlanet à l’occasion de l’année internationale des forêts et disponible aux éditions de la Martinière.

Pour en savoir plus rendez-vous sur le site Des Forêts et des Hommes

Media Query: