A letter in The Week describes the number of trees Britain consumed before the 19yh Century.
“Cost of our colonial past
To The Daily Telegraph
It is difficult to overestimate how many trees were needed before iron and then steel replaced wood for shipbuilding in the 19th century in Britain (“Colonial shipbuilding nearly wiped out native bat”). It took an astonishing 6,000 mature oak trees to build a single ship of the line.
In the 1860s it was estimated that Britain needed 400,000 acres of timber annually to build the ships needed for defence and commerce.
So, the development of iron shipbuilding and steam power saved what little forest we had left from further plundering for ships. This came at a cost, of course, that we are only now starting to pay.
Dr Paul Stott, Newcastle University