Since the mesolithic period, forest clearance in Europe has been underway, accelerating after the introduction of arable farming from about 7000 to 1000 years ago. By mediaeval times the demands on the forest came from a number of activities including; swine herding, monastic clearance, metal smelting, ship building and increased clearance for agriculture.
Many woods and forests are under threat from single species introductions, especially fast growing pines and conifers as well as the effects of pollution, notably 'acid rain'.
By the 19th century the lowland mixed oak forest of western Europe was largely destroyed. The Caledonian pine forests of Scotland came under pressure from the 18th century. By the 1980's forest cover in the UK had been reduced to 10%, while in Iceland, settled in the 9th century AD, the dwarf birch thickets and localised birch forests, were by 1976 reduced to 1% of their original extent. The average woodland cover in western Europe is 30% cover. In Ireland it is reduced to 5%.