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Chapter 11: Heathland, an ever changing landscape

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Chapter Summary

At the end of the 18th century, lowland heath was at its greatest extent in Europe. Millions of hectares of heath covered large parts of the British Isles, Denmark, north-west Germany, The Netherlands, northern Belgium, Brittany, Limousin and Gascogny in France, and northern Portugal and Galicia on the Iberian Peninsula. In many places, despite strong traditions and regulations, exploitation went to the limit. Heathland was so intensively used that productivity fell to a minimum and where thick sandy soils had facilitated its formation, shifting dunes expanded and threatened farms and hamlets or, in their turn, covered the heath. A few decades later, the landscape; along with the whole local community; had changed dramatically, having been transformed into one vast pine plantation, producing resins for the regional industrial economy. Biodiversity, cultural heritage, quality of life, leisure, landscape character, sustainable local economy, tourism: these are the new labels attached to the heathland.

Keywords: Belgium; biodiversity; cultural heritage; Heathland; landscape character; leisure; Netherlands; quality of life; sustainable local economy; tourism



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