A devastating combination of heat, drought, fire, storms and beetle plagues have destroyed a remarkable amount of forest area in Germany, as well as in many countries across the globe. To discuss how this affects Germany’s forests and the different measures to counteract the impact of such threats, the Federal Agriculture Minister, Julia Klöckner, convened a Forest Summit on 25 September 2019 in Berlin. On the occasion of the summit, several institutions have published their own position to point out their perspective of what is needed to strengthen climate-resilient forests.
Besides its undoubtedly high value for nature ecosystem services, forests are the largest terrestrial carbon sink we have, and are regarded as highly important for some economies. Last two years, however, many forest owners have faced financial troubles.
In order to raise the political discussion to the federal level, Minister Klöckner has launched the national “Waldgipfel” (forest summit). “Every missing tree is a missing comrade-in-arms against climate change,” minister Klöckner saidahead of the summit where around 180 participants gathered, representing both environmental groups, timber industry as well as state politicians. “Whatever we don’t reforest today, our grandchildren will, of course, miss.” 
Facing numerous challenges for the forest-sector, the German government announced to spend more than 500 million euros over the next four years to revitalize the forests. To this end, additional funds should be provided by the federal states, so that up to 800 million euros can be raised. Whereas its specific use of these funds will be discussed further, the money will be used to replant trees, remove dead trees and support (private) forest-owners.
At the end of the summit, the Minister presented a position paper (de) upon which the government’s strategy will cope with the current forest damage. The key points can be summarized as follows:
- to limit current damage, remove damaged timber and comply with road safety obligations
- to coordinate and expand timber transport and storage regionally
- to reforest damaged areas and increase overall adaptation of forests to climate change
- to balance ungulate density on silviculture
- to promote and maintain road networks; enhance general forest protection infrastructure
- to extend the support for small private forest
- to secure urgently needed qualified technical staff and provide new jobs in the forest sector that are more practice-orientated
- to expand research on forests and climate
- to improve monitoring of forest damages
- to adjust the “forest-damage-compensation” law
- to promote the use of wood from sustainable forestry
- to strengthen European and international cooperation in sustainable forestry
- to encourage society’s understanding for the importance of forests and its sustainable management
The reactions to the paper were rather mixed. The biggest concern is the lack of environmental standard when it comes to the implementation of the measurements. According to the Association of German Foresters (Bund Deutscher Forstleute), reforestation and protection will cost considerably more than the government estimates, namely around two billion euros within the next ten years. The Association of Forest Owners (Die Waldeigentümer) were relieved after the summit and called it “a strong signal to save the forests”(de).
Several forests-associations and environmental groups’ positions floated around ahead of the summit. Among others the Association of German Foresters published a list of proposed measures, also known as Carlowitz-Plan(de). The Federal Agency for Nature Conservation demands to increase the adaptability and resilience through more diversity and mixed forests (de).
There is no doubt that this first attempt, especially the direct financial aid, is an important incentive to relieve the burden on forest owners and federal states.
In the long run, however, more efforts and more international cooperation are needed to help our forests adapt to climate change and to enhance their resilience to the increasing risks of natural disturbances. What sounds like a calendar motto remains true: “Forests do not know borders.”
To discuss further approaches on a global
scale, this summit could be a valid start!
(1)Quote taken from: State aid for wooden protection
Photo credit: Frans de Wit@Flickr