That’s how expensive the conversion of German forests is

This year alone, 4,300 hectares of forest have burned down in Germany. This is a new record, and yet it is only part of the problem. Because in the years 2018 to 2020, a total of 400,000 hectares of forest were lost. These losses are usually the result of water shortages and droughts. The bark beetle has wreaked havoc in many areas. But it was also so effective because the trees were already weakened by the ongoing drought. In just three years, about three percent of Germany’s forest areas have been lost. A development that is not sustainable in the long term. Experts and forest owners therefore agree that German forests urgently need to be converted. Instead of monocultures that are often the same, mixed forests are needed that are adapted to regional conditions.

Researchers are looking for suitable new tree species

But this is easier said than done. First of all, it sounds plausible to simply plant trees from more southern regions that can manage with less water. In fact, such attempts have already been made. However, the data obtained in this way is not yet meaningful enough to determine specific tree species that are particularly suitable. However, working according to the trial and error method entails considerable risks. This can be seen on the example of ash maple imported from North America. It is currently causing problems for forest farmers because the wood extracted in Germany often does not meet the quality requirements of the wood industry. Economic use of the forests is also planned for the future. Because it is a valuable and ideally climate neutral raw material. In addition, the switch to regionally adapted mixed forests entails costs.

The federal government has already made billions available

The German Forestry Commission estimates that a total of fifty billion euros will have to be invested over the next fifty years. This poses a certain problem, especially in the initial phase. Because here you have to invest first, while at the same time the income decreases. Staatsbosbeheer and the forest owners would therefore like financial support from the state. In fact, as a first step, the federal government made four billion euros available under the “Natural Climate Protection Action Programme”. Millions more could flow if measures are taken to preserve or expand biodiversity. However, the conversion will only succeed if the subject is pursued further in the long run. Because it will not be possible to completely rebuild all the forests in one big action. Rather, it is a long-term transformation that is gradually making the German forest more and more resilient.