Europe: A Natural History

2005, Nature  -  11 min Leave a Comment
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A stunning four-part series, charting the dramatic events which have shaped the ever-changing landscapes and wildlife of Europe.

Genesis. An epic three billion year story begins, with the unraveling of clues as to how Europe's stunning landscapes and wildlife were created.

Witness Oxford roamed by dinosaurs, the Jura vineyards of France swallowed under tropical seas, St Petersburg buried under desert sands and the mightiest event of all, the birth of the Mediterranean.

Ice Ages. Over the past two million years Europe has been swept by waves of extreme climatic change. Two kilometer thick ice sheets carved their way across the continent, reaching as far south as London, Amsterdam and Berlin. Mammoths wandered the North Sea, and even lions and hippos roamed Trafalgar Square. Then, shortly before the last great Ice Age released its grip, our ancestors set foot on the continent.

Taming the Wild. In the last 10,000 years Europe has been transformed from a largely forested, virgin landscape in to the manicured continent we know today, and at an ever-accelerating rate. As culture spread its influence across the land with monumental symbols of ownership, animals were tamed, seeds were sown, forests decimated and minerals excavated. How did wildlife cope with these drastic changes, and what impact did they have on ourselves?

A New Millennium. Today, some 730 million people live in Europe. How is wildlife adapting to this brave new world, who are the winners and losers, and what efforts are we making to help? And ultimately, given the problems with unwelcome and invasive species on the continent through international trade, and an increasingly fickle climate, the future could bring all sorts of surprises.