Germany and France report forestry collapse
Germany’s forests purportedly face ecological collapse with more than 1 million established trees dying in the last year from drought, storms and bark beetle plagues.
Millions of seedlings planted to restore forests had failed to grow, said Ulrich Dohle, chairman of the 10,000-strong Bunds Deutscher Forstleute (BDF) forestry trade union.
“It’s a catastrophe. German forests are close to collapsing,” Dohle told the media. “These are no longer single unusual weather events. That is climate change.”
Germany’s rivers fell to record lows last year and parched forests are now prone to fire.
France is reporting similar problems with the worst bark beetle infestation in two decades reported in eastern France. Timber prices have plummeted as forestry firms fell trees before they die.
Timber industry organisation Fibois Grand Est estimated that 3-4 million cubic metres of French public forests would be infected this year. Last year 1.2 million cubic metres were infected, costing the industry nearly €80 million.
Eike Wilmsmeier of France’s National Forest Agency (ONF) said the beetle infestation was spreading widely across eastern France.
“We don’t know how far it will go, we don’t know when it will stop,” Wilmsmeier said.
High-quality softwood has fallen to €60-80 per cubic metre for timber that needs to be cut. It has fallen by around a third over the last 18 months as the market is flooded with infested trees.
Back in Germany, Helge Bruelheide of the Centre for Integrative Biodiversity, said: “If the trend prevails and the annual precipitation sinks below 400mm, then there will be areas in Germany that will no longer be forestable.”
Densely forested Lüdenscheid in central Germany had seen its rainfall fall from 1,000mm in 2017 to 483mm last year.
Germany’s Institute of Hydrology (BFG) reported that only the River Rhine was currently “unimpaired” for shipping although it is also expected to fall this summer. Dohle said heavy winter snow in early 2018 broke branches, weakened trees’ natural defences and left them exposed to fungal infections.
The snows were “followed by drought and bark beetle infestation” that targeted the European spruce.
Germany’s prized European red beech had also been dying off after being widely planted over the past decade in the hope of creating diverse, sustainable forests, Dohle said.
He said more staff were needed to fix the damage and carry out the extra plantings ordered by Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner.
Forestry staffing had fallen by 50 per cent in the last 20 years, Dohle added.
Germany and France have just endured a record heatwave. Picture credit: Wikimedia