Prior to the arrival of man, the island was covered with dense forests consisting mainly of tall and slow growing trees. On the low lying lands along the coast, Palm savannah was to be found. At low altitudes there were Diospyros/Elaeodendron forests and on the plateau, forests of Sapotaceae.
All of the Palm savannah disappeared very early on with the arrival and subsequent settlement of man early in the 17th century. That was very quickly followed by the disappearance of the Diospyros/Elaeodendron forests, cut down by the French for ship building and houses. Later on the British cut down large tracts of Sapotaceae forests to make way for habitation and cultivated fields.
The end result is that today less than 1% of the area of Mauritius is now covered with native vegetation, exotics having invaded much of the forests.
The forest cover of Mauritius amounts to only 56,880 hectares, which barely represents 30% of the total surface area of the island. That surface cover is the absolute minimum required. Two thirds of this cover are privately owned forests (34 540 hectares), the remainder being state land forests.
6540 hectares of private forests are protected by law as mountain or river reserves and 4585 hectares of state forests are protected as nature or islets reserves.
A further 12000 hectares are forest plantations, 79% of which is planted with pine or other soft woods.(1994)
source: Institute For Environmental and Legal Studies