According to the officially used Danish definition (The National Forest and Nature Agency (Skov- og Naturstyrelsen) 1994), "Natural forest originates from the original forest cover, i.e. a forest reproduced naturally. Natural forest is thus a forest which has spontaneously generated itself on the location and which consists of naturally immigrant tree species and strains. Natural forests can be more or less influenced by culture, e.g. by logging or regeneration techniques, but the forests must not have been subject to regeneration by sowing or planting".
This definition is broader and more pragmatic than definitions and perceptions used in the other Scandinavian countries (Tanninen et al. 1994)and is comparable with the term "SEMI-NATURAL WOODLAND " (Kirby et al. 1984). A key point is the recognition of the very long term effects of former (and current) direct and indirect human impacts.
Natural forest might be managed to some degree, or be unmanaged (untouched, non-intervention forest, strict forest reserve). After an adequate amount of time without intervention, such a forest might develop some of the basic structures of a virgin forest and be considered as "VIRGIN-LIKE NATURAL FOREST". An over-riding problem is that every spot is directly or indirectly influenced by human activity; either directly by forestry operations, cutting, planting and drainage, or indirectly by manipulation of the grazing regime, air pollution, hindering the immigration and spreading of natural species and influencing the kind and amount of dominant species in the landscape. Dynamics in a non-intervention system will be affected by former activities for hundreds of years and no part of the forest can be viewed in isolation, but is an integral part of the surrounding forest and landscape.
Kirby, K.J., Petersen, G.F., Spencer, J.W., & Walker, G. J., 1984: Inventories of ancient semi-natural woodland. Nature Conservancy Council: Focus on nature conservation, 6: 67 pp.
Møller, P.F 2000: The Danish strategy for natural forests - Background, realisation and perspectives. Eesti Metsakaitsealade Võrgustiku Rajamine. University of Tartu, Estland. p. 6-12.
Tanninen, T., Storrank, B., Haugen, I., Møller, P.F., Löfgren, R., Thorsteinsson, I., & Ragnarsson, H., 1998: Natural Woodlands in the Nordic Countries. Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen. Nord 1998:6. 101 pp.
The National Forest and Nature Agency (Skov- og Naturstyrelsen) 1994: Strategy for Natural Forests and Other Forest Types of High Conservation Value in Denmark. Ministry of the Environment. 48 pp.
Peter Friis Møller firstname.lastname@example.org