How did wooded meadows develop and what are the reasons of their disappearance?

Communities resembling wooded meadows started to develop around ancient settlements about 7000-8000 years ago. Extensive cattle-breeding spread to Estonia about 4000 years ago, most probably this was the period when notable enlargement of the area of wooded meadows took place. In the end of the 19th century the area of mown and grazed wooded meadows had increased to 850 000 ha (18 per cent of Estonian area). After this natural meadows started to disappear. Some of these communities were cultivated and used as crop fields or intensive grasslands. Despite of those transitional processes the area of wooded meadows decreased quite slowly until the Second World War.

The collectivisation of farms was one of the first reasons why wooded meadows started to disappear quickly in the 1950ies. Land and animals were turned into common property; collective farmers were allowed to keep only some few animals and haymaking made no reason anymore. The decrease in the area of wooded meadows was mainly caused by the abandonment of manual labour that accompanied the transition to large-scale production. The changeover from extensive to intensive land-use was the reason why wooded meadows disappeared also in the whole of Western Europe.