The woods occupy about 49,800 sq km in Italy. (excluding chestnuts) of which just over 1500 belong to the state forest property; Italy, with a percentage of 16% of forests on the total area, is one of the poorest countries of forests in all of Europe, preceded only by Great Britain (4%), Holland (8%), from Denmark (9%). But while in these countries, as in others in central Europe, the forest has been uprooted to make way for crops or artificial lawns, unfortunately this has not always been the case in Italy.
According to TRANSPORTHINT, the intense deforestation, determined by the exploitation of timber for building and above all naval constructions, for industrial uses, etc., dates back to remote times and has so denuded certain mountain areas that they have been left prey to atmospheric agents and wild waters, which they now have uncovered the living rock, desolate, devoid of any sort of protective mantle. Indeed, the deforestation took place at various times and not everywhere at the same time and with the same intensity. In the Apennines, the first of great intensity seem to have occurred in the classical age, especially after the development of the maritime power of Rome, while the early Middle Ages seem to have represented a period of rest, during which the wooded mantle could indeed regain a part of lost areas. The need for timber became lively again starting from the late Middle Ages and since then deforestation, intensely resumed in the Apennines, also extended to the Alps; and it always continued, with various alternatives, but generally in an extremely rash way, despite the shrewd but sporadic interventions of some more enlightened governments.
The situation has slightly improved after the aggregation of Venice Tridentina which is the region richest in woods; followed by the Carnic and northern Julian Alps, the Tuscan Apennines, the Gargano, the Sila and the other Calabrian reliefs. Among the broad-leaved trees, beech and oak predominate; among the coniferous trees various species of pine, fir, larch. For the altimetric limits in the Alps and in the Apennines which are very often disturbed by man, see the respective entries. The poorest wooded regions are Puglia and Sardinia.
In the hilly regions and also in the coastal plains of central-southern Italy and in the islands, instead of the tall forest, scrub, a typically Mediterranean evergreen formation, was prevalent. But it too has been extirpated to a very large extent; somewhat extended areas remain in southern Lazio, central Sicily and Sardinia. Among the components of the maquis there is the Quercus suber, whose product, cork, widely harvested, fuels a notable increase in exports. On the other hand, the construction timber (fir, larch, oak, beech) that is supplied by the Italian woods, just makes up for two fifths of the national needs. There is also an almost total lack of essences in Italy (Canadian poplar, fir) which today are used for the preparation of paper pulp. The Italian state is currently promoting significant reforestation works; in recent years an average of 4,500 hectares of land have been reforested per year.
To conclude with regard to soil products, it will be remembered that in Italy, a country with a very dense and rapidly increasing population, a country in which the areas destined for agricultural use are already proportionately very extensive, the problem of using these areas in the most rational way and to conquer new spaces for cultivation, in a word the problem of the best valorisation of the national territory for the present needs and for the future growth of the country, is a problem of the highest social interest. It cannot therefore be left to private initiative, but must be tackled by the state in a totalitarian way. This is the aim of the measures for complete reclamation (for which see reclamation). Here, however, it is useful to warn that these measures do not only concern the hydraulic arrangement of marshy lands and their rehabilitation, but also the use of arid lands, which have scarce and irregular rainfall; the preservation of the mountain from degradation by wild waters, landslides, floods; the restoration and redemption of areas torn by badlands; forest protection; the improvement of mountain pastures. The measures for integral reclamation are therefore linked to all those concerning the regularization and use of water resources, and again to those concerning internal migrations, through which the settlements of the territories newly conquered for agriculture are provided for. To give an idea of the progress achieved in this grandiose, complex and multiple work, it will be said that since 1865 more than 15,000 sq km have been reclaimed. of national territory and that the complex of territories to which the various reclamation works envisaged by current laws extend covers over 37,000 sq km. The distribution of current or ongoing remediation is demonstrated by the map on page 757.