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From the book What If? of Randall Munroe aka XKCD's author:

There would be more large animals 1,000 years ago. Today’s disconnected patchwork of northeastern old-growth forests is nearly free of large predators; we have some bears, few wolves and coyotes, and virtually no mountain lions. (Our deer populations, on the other hand, have exploded, thanks in part to the removal of large predators.)

What does disconnected patchwork of forest mean? From my understanding a patchwork is a thing that is composed of different elements, but I don't understand what the patchwork of forest is, and how it looks like when it's disconnected.

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    Consider several different 'old-growth forests' all in the northeast that are not connected to each other. – Alan Carmack Sep 3 '16 at 14:07
  • Even the first sentence seems fishy to me: "There would be more large animals 1,000 years ago." Shouldn't it be "There would have been more large animals 1,000 years ago" – Ébe Isaac Sep 3 '16 at 16:35
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    @Ébe Isaac: Not necessarily. It's a matter of emphasis / nuance / stylistic choice. If the writer is thinking in terms of what we would discover if we were to look into the matter now (or in the future), the version cited by OP would be more appropriate. If he's thinking more in terms of what it was like then perhaps "Past Perfect Conditional" (would have been) might be better, but then things get a bit confused because we have to ask why use a conditional at all (why not just say There were more large animals then?). – FumbleFingers Sep 3 '16 at 16:48
  • @ÉbeIsaac Grabbed my own copy for this. The author, dealing with What If scenarios, describes what would happen if you travel back in time 1000 years. The use of "would be" is absolutely correct. – Arda Xi Sep 3 '16 at 16:49
  • @ArdaXi Now I understand -- time travel. – Ébe Isaac Sep 3 '16 at 16:54
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A patchwork can also mean alternating mix of environments. The forests are in patches across an area of non-forest, for example. Think of little isolated woods, rather than one big forest. However, before it was just the big forest.

  • Welcome to ELL, @Jessica ! Please take a few minutes to review our tour and help center pages. We hope you will ask some questions of your own. – P. E. Dant Sep 4 '16 at 5:23

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