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Author: Dennis Roitsch

Bitten by the same bug – German spruce in jeopardy

“Scientists alarmed by bark beetle boom” (ScienceDaily, 2019), “French forests scarred as heatwaves bring bark beetle infestation” (Euronews, 2019a), “Czech forest owners face $1.7 billion loss this year from bark beetle crisis” (Euronews, 2019b) and finally “Merkel promises €500m to revitalise German forests” (Guardian, 2019) – these were only some of the many forest-related headlines in European news in the past months.

It is obvious: How weather affects our forests, would not have made it to the news ten years ago – but following the unprecedented hot temperatures, long dry spells as well as severe storm events in Central Europe, everybody was talking about the state of our forests. These extreme weather events are a not only a huge burden for human health but also for entire natural ecosystems. In Germany, extreme temperatures contributed to the extremely dire state of about 180,000 ha of forested area and taxpayer support of 800 million Euros for reforestation measures (FAZ, 2019). In the past, evolution gave flora and fauna the opportunity to adapt to changing environmental conditions and climates but the pace and scale of climatic changes that we experience today, give our natural world a mountain to climb, regardless of the money thrown at the problem.

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Future global forest governance: Learning across generations

This summer, office temperatures soared, the fan was blowing full throttle and my afternoon ice cream melted faster than I could eat it. I was not the only one under severe heat stress though. As I looked from my office window, I could see that the consistently high temperatures had affected trees and vegetation. Leaves had changed color and treetops looked thinner. The dry and hot weather in Germany and beyond since May also made forest fires inevitable. This year all of Europe suffered from peat and forest fires that started earlier and burned for longer than normal.
These are worrisome observations for me as individual and as junior scientist. Given the scale of deforestation and forest degradation globally, which is one underlying cause of rising emissions and a changing global climate, I feel uncertain about what and how my contribution could look like in addressing an issue of the scale of deforestation and forest degradation.
I feel the urgency to act when I observe consequences of 1°C of global warming, but also because in the future, we will be more people on our planet. More people who require food, jobs and strive for higher living conditions. This will add even more pressure on forest ecosystems and possibly cause further degradation. To interrupt this vicious circle and to make forests more resilient to these threats globally, I think we need to have a rules-based framework at the global level that addresses these challenges effectively. Something that gives guidance and regulates any illegal, destructive and harmful activities that affect forests – and ultimately us.

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