Climate Change

This is how German forestry is trying to hold its ground


German forestry needs to be more proactive as last year, the country lost 3,000 football pitches worth of forest to fires alone. Image: Julia Joppien on Unsplash

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Almost a third of Germany is covered in forest – compared to just over a 10th of the UK and a fifth of China. That’s an estimated 90 billion trees.

But storms, drought, fires and infestations of bark beetles – which can be fatal to trees weakened by exceptionally hot and dry weather – are devastating the nation’s woodlands.

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German forestry in action

The country is fighting back. In August, the army was deployed to speed up the process of felling affected trees, so the wood could still be used for timber. But that caused a drop in prices, threatening the industry.


Silviculture – the practice of sustainable forestry – is a vital part of the German economy, accounting for around 1.3 million jobs and an annual turnover of around $184 billion.

“More than 100 million solid cubic metres of damaged wood are causing a drastic fall in prices on the timber market – which is why many forestry companies are facing the end,” says Albert Stegemann, the chairman of the working group on nutrition and agriculture of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group.

At a National Forest Summit in Berlin, Environment Minister Julia Klöckner announced measures including at least $540 million to replant Germany’s woodlands, saying: "The trees that are missing cannot contribute to reducing CO2 emissions."

According to Stegemann, the forests bind 127 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

German forestry rate from 1990 to 2016 Image: Statista

Protection package

In 2018, an area of forest the size of 3,300 football pitches was lost due to fires alone. In total, around 105 million cubic meters of damaged wood are expected for the years 2018 and 2019.

Last year, Klöckner launched measures to cope with the issue, including the clearing of affected areas and storage of damaged wood; monitoring, prevention and control of harmful organisms; prevention and control of forest fires and reforestation - an important decision towards German forestry.


In the long-term, the plan is to adapt the forest ecosystem to meet the challenges of climate change, which will include:

- Planting drought-tolerant tree species

- Improving the water storage ability of forest soils

- Creating a mix of tree species with different needs and characteristics (such as trees with deeper and shallower root systems)

The country is also encouraging all of its citizens and the younger generations to get involved in replanting. October 3 is designated as the day of ‘United Digging’ (#Einheitsbuddeln), with the hope that if every German planted a tree, 83 million would be planted a year.


What’s the World Economic Forum doing about deforestation?

Germany is not alone in its efforts to plant trees – many governments and organizations are recognizing the vital importance of trees to act as carbon sinks.

This year, Ethiopia claimed it had set a world record for planting 350 million trees in a day, while 13.6 billion trees have been planted so far in Plant for the Planet’s Trillion Tree Campaign.

The army is helping in German forestry by clearing effected patches of the forests.
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Related topics:
Climate ChangeFuture of the EnvironmentForests
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