17 Nov 2021, 12:49
Sören Amelang

Climate change hits intensively managed forests more than natural ones – Greenpeace

Clean Energy Wire

The recent hot and dry summers have caused massive damages to Germany’s forests, according to a report published by the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development and commissioned by environmental NGO Greenpeace. Between 2018 and 2020 alone, an area of almost 12,000 square kilometres - 13 times the area of the capital Berlin or about seven percent of the area investigated - has declined in vitality, the researchers said based on an analysis of satellite images. "In many places, intensive forestry is partly responsible for the condition of forests and woodlands," Greenpeace said. "Clear-cutting and intensive thinning of the canopy weaken forests' climate adaptation and lead to a significant increase in ambient temperatures. Deciduous forests and the near-natural forests in national parks have managed the drought years comparatively better."

Monocultures, non-native tree species, the use of heavy machinery, reforestation, the use of pesticides and clear-cutting of damaged forests all weaken ecosystems and contribute significantly to climate-related damages, the report said. "Not only drought in the soil was decisive for whether trees died or suffered damage in the past years with extreme temperatures. Rather, forestry also plays a decisive role." Greenpeace said current policies promote intensive forest management and offer little incentive for more natural woodlands. "If our forests are to continue to be our allies against the climate crisis and species extinction, and to help us adapt to more and more extreme weather events, forests must not be managed in the way they currently are."

About one-third of Germany’s surface is covered by forests, mostly of mixed tree species. But extreme weather events, especially droughts and subsequent bark beetle infestations, have done great damage. In its new Forest Strategy 2050, issued in September, the agriculture ministry said Germany’s forests needed to be adapted to global warming in order to remain intact and contribute to balancing the country’s emissions. But NGOs have criticised the plan as a "mere forestry strategy" that seeks to maximise the woodlands' economic value rather than their contribution to healthy ecosystems.

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Sören Amelang

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