Liebe Waldbesitzer und Waldbesitzerinnen, liebe Förster und Försterinnen in NRW und Baden-Württemberg, ja, dieser Blogpost richtet sich an Sie! (und an all diejenigen, die eben…
Author: Jeanne Roux
“In the forests are things you could lie in the moss for years pondering about.” (Franz Kafka)
With this quotation from a famous local poet, we started our SINCERE project workshop in 2019 in the city of Prague. Experts and enthusiasts of spiritual and cultural values of forests from across Europe and Asia came together for three days to discuss how the “spiritual values of forests” have been relevant in the past as well as the present.
The result is an exploratory study, based on knowledge from 18 inter-disciplinary experts including natural and social scientists, recently published in Ecology & Society. Funeral forests, forest therapy, and forest bathing: these are all “new” trends, especially in Europe. What is the spiritual fuss over forests about? That’s what we wanted to find out!
But this spiritual interest in forests is not new at all. Humans have had a close relationship with forests and have been intrigued by their magical nature since forever. Societies depended on forests also for their spiritual development, e.g., sacred natural sites (sacred groves), of which some still exist today. We also know that forests and trees are often central in myths and folklore – thinking about the Brothers Grimm fairytales, but also myths including the mystical and magical power of certain tree species such as the oak…. (and again, even in art and films today such as Lord of the Ring’s Treebeard character and Avatar).
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” -John Muir
Forests have more to offer than timber and wood products. Through its multifunctional nature, it provides several other goods and services such as carbon sequestration, erosion control and the provision of clean water. These benefits which people obtain from forests can collectively be referred to as “forest ecosystem services”.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) 2005 report classifies ecosystem services into three categories:
- Provisioning services (e.g. food, fresh water, firewood)
- Regulatory services (e.g. climate regulation, carbon sequestration)
- Cultural ecosystem services (nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experiences)