The passage between forest and cultivated land is called – as most of you know – the forest edge. But only a few have considered the fact that forest edges are a characteristic part of the Danish landscape, but that this has not always been the case.
Previously farmers grazed their animals in the forest. However, the stock did not only eat grass, but also leaves and small branches, so many trees were never able to grow very tall. The few that did stood scattered in the forest giving a very open and fragmented canopy.
Consequently, the sun was able to reach the forest floor, which itself led to the animals having more grass to eat. But it also meant that the passage between the cultivated fields next to the forest and the forest itself were somewhat random and undefined.
Then the Statute of Forest Reserves in Denmark was passed in 1805. Grazing in the forest was forbidden, and all forests had to be fenced in by banks, so it could be clearly seen what was cultivated land and what was forest. The new, sharp boundary between forest and field meant that the trees were allowed to grow in peace – and it was then the forest edges appeared.
The reason for implementing the Forest Reserve Statute was the dramatic decline of the forest area. Previously, not many thoughts had been given to preserving the forest. According to their needs, people cut down trees for building material and firewood, and, together with animal grazing, this meant that the forest area declined significantly so that today only 4 % of Denmark’s area is covered by forest. For a long time in the 19th Century, it had been difficult to find decent wood for the Danish Royal Navy’s ships, which was one of the reasons for the Statute.
Moreover, at that time Danish forests consisted almost entirely of deciduous trees, typical species such as beech, oak, ash and birch. Not until the middle of the 1800s were conifers introduced, becoming a relatively new feature in these latitudes.