Douglas-fir – firing up foresters since 1827

Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is not just any tree. It is arguably one of the most controversial tree species in Europe. This controversy is mostly due to its success on this side of the Atlantic; it is the second most common non-native tree species in Europe and thus creates a lot of conflict potential. The debate has become somewhat polarised around the presumed invasiveness in sensitive natural areas on the one hand and the production of high-quality wood on the other hand. This book tries to provide the debaters with scientific data.

Many foresters see Douglas-fir as the perfect replacement for Norway spruce which has been suffering from drought stress and bark beetle outbreaks in recent years. The tree grows fast and produces excellent timber, while remaining rather inconspicuous in its central European surroundings, resembling Norway spruce or Silver fir. Nonetheless, not everything about the species is positive.

Actions of environmental organisations have favoured a negative perception of the species among the larger public, and this threatens to impact the production capacity of forest regions where the species forms an important part of the stands. On the other hand, while Douglas-fir is renowned for being fairly drought resistant and less prone to insect attacks than many other coniferous trees, it is not immune to pests and natural hazards, and its place in our ecosystem is not entirely clear yet. Many aspects are at play and even for specialists it is not always easy to make a correct assessment.

Combining perspectives

Whatever the opinion on Douglas-fir, it is here to stay. In our globalised world, the exchange of plant and animal species is unavoidable. The key message is to make the best of the situation, both from and economic and an environmental perspective. The book Douglas-fir – an option for Europe” provides a solid scientific background for fact-based decision making, balancing not only the two aforementioned perspectives but also the social impact, which is not be neglected. The combined effort of many of authors  among them myself and my colleague Marcus Lindner, who was also one of the editors of the study  has led to what is probably the most comprehensive practical overview of what is known about the species in Europe.

Practical information

Douglas-fir – an option for Europe” has been published by the European Forest Institute in the What Science Can Tell Us– series. The publication is based upon work from COST Action FP1403 NNEXT, supported by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology).

Full reference: Spiecker, H., Lindner, M. and Schuler, J. (eds.). 2019. Douglas-fir – an option for Europe. EFI What Science Can Tell Us 9.

Download the report free here.

4 comments

  1. “Actions of environmental organisations have favoured a negative perception of the species among the larger public”

    What exactly are the issues here? landscaping? Thanks

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    1. One famous example comes from Germany where activists ripped out Douglas seedlings from a plantation in Bavaria and dropped them off in front of the Forest Ministry building (https://www.greenpeace.de/themen/walder/waldnutzung/die-douglasie-retterin-der-not). The reason was that Douglas fir would supposedly not be adapted to the local climate and should not take the place of the native beech., which has its climate optimum in Bavaria. However, it also showed signs of a clever communication campaign on a so far little-known topic (cf. http://fs.tum.de/rivo/2014ss/AFZ-2014-02_23-27.pdf)
      Similar actions but on a more local scale have occurred in France, where the landscape impact probably plays a bigger role due to the wide-spread use of plantations and clear-cuts and the expansion of Douglas fir in formerly open landscapes (Auvergne, Limousin,…)

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  2. I see the book has the name correctly hyphenated Douglas-fir (it isn’t a Fir Abies) . . . shame this blog gets it wrong, misleading its readers 😦

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    1. Hello, thanks for the comment. Both spellings are accepted, but for consistency purposes the hyphenated version is preferable and I will change it accordingly.

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