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15 Aug 2019, 12:34
Freja Eriksen

Opencast coal mining dries out Germany's embattled Hambach Forest – study

Clean Energy Wire

German energy company RWE's opencast lignite mine is causing "heat and drought stress" to the edges of the adjacent, embattled Hambach Forest, according to a study by researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Eberswalde University, commissioned by Greenpeace Germany. "The opencast mine acts like a gigantic kitchen extractor hood on the forest. Rising heated air sucks moisture out of the forest and the entire surrounding area," explained study co-author Pierre Ibisch. Morever, trees one the woodland's edge facing the open pit are more prone to strong winds, which can effectively fell them, the study found. The effects of the opencast mines on the forest have "so far been underestimated", he added. The study suggests reforesting a 500 meter-wide "buffer zone" and ending the clearing of the forest.

The Hambach Forest has become a climate action symbol for activists who want to prevent the forest’s clearing for coal mine expansion. A court ruling halted the clearing in 2018. In February, RWE agreed to abstain from clearing the forest until the autumn of 2020.

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