Why to plant trees?
Trees are by far the best way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and to store it in a particularly long-term and sustainable way - and thus not only make a significant contribution to climate protection, but also to the protection of our valuable resource water. What forests do for our ecosystem and why reforestation makes a significant contribution to global climate protection - we met Simon Tangerding from the German Forest Protection Association for an interview.
What is the mission statement of the Association for the Protection of German Forests Landesverband Bayern eV, what is your mission?
The German Forest Protection Association has been committed to the unconditional preservation of the local forests and research into ecological forest management for over 70 years. It is a matter of course for us that all stakeholder groups are allowed to use the local forests equally. For us, the forest is an ecosystem in which it is important to reconcile nature conservation, recreation, wood use, climate protection and many other usage requirements.
In 1994, committed forest protectors founded the “We help the forest” foundation. The foundation carries out all planting campaigns with tree donors who want to lend a hand.
What are the mission statement, the goals and the tasks of the “We help the forest” foundation of the German Forest Protection Association in the Bavarian State Association?
In 1994 the foundation We help the forest was founded. Since then, all facets of the forest have been the focus of our work. We are a community of committed forest protectors who want to preserve the beauty and health of the forest, but at the same time advocate the use of wood in a way that protects the forest, i.e. ecological forestry.
In numerous work assignments, we maintain and maintain forest areas together with volunteer helpers who entrusted us. In this way we want to contribute to preserving the natural basis of life for people, animals and plants.
The aim is to give the participants the opportunity to deepen their own relationship with nature through practical work.
It is important to bring people closer to the forest and the environment and thus to strengthen environmental awareness. Working assignments with the decision-makers in our society are the focus of our commitment.
Our mission statement consists of the following points:
- We want to preserve and promote the forest and the landscape in their diversity and to anchor the idea of sustainability in all areas of society. The protection and preservation of forests close to the city and the mountain forest are of particular importance in Bavaria.
- We are committed to the forest and offer all interested people a platform to also get involved in the forest.
- We develop age-appropriate participation offers for practical job offers.
- We are part of the non-governmental forest protection and forest nature conservation and mediate between the numerous demands on the cultural asset forest. To do this, we want to involve all social groups.
- It is particularly important to us to convince the population, politics and private companies that the ecosystem services of the forest are an integral part of our lives without which a home worth living in, especially in times of climate change, cannot be maintained.
What specific goal is the WHDW Foundation pursuing and what are the effects behind this undertaking?
As forest lobbyists, it is particularly important to us to convince the population, politicians and private companies that all the services provided by the forest are an integral part of our lives, without which a home worth living in, especially in times of climate change, cannot be maintained. We must therefore act quickly when forest areas are threatened or have already been destroyed.
Why are trees and forests so relevant in relation to CO2 emissions?
When you look at all the advantages and disadvantages, wood is by far the best way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in the long term. No other way of storing CO2 is as sustainable and even the resulting by-products such as clean water, fresh, cool air, mild temperatures, beauty or tranquility are in great demand.
Where do you reforest forests and which tree species are planted?
The SDW Landesverband Bayern primarily supports the forests in Bavaria. Here, in addition to the forests near the city, the reforestation of the mountain forests north of the main Alpine ridge are of great importance.
After inspecting the area and analyzing the soil, we plant native tree species that we now think will make a valuable contribution to the forest area in question. Very often we plant oak, fir, beech, linden or maple. It is also important that we always plant several tree species. We want to create a mixed stock and not a monoculture.
How does ecological silviculture differ from non-sustainable forms of management?
The aim of ecological silviculture is to develop resilient, climate-adapted, site-appropriate, near-natural and thus stable and productive mixed forests. We learn from nature and imitate it as best we can. These forests are particularly characterized by a high structural diversity, i.e. many different tree species, are adaptable to environmental changes, can usually regenerate themselves and offer a home to a large number of native animal and plant species. Only in this way can the overall benefit of the diverse demands on the forest be realized in the best possible way. And that is exactly what our principles aim for.
Tree donations have many and above all long-term effects. If we create resilient forests today for tomorrow, in addition to climate change, we must also keep an eye on nature and species protection, such as wood as a building material for furniture and houses.
We can only achieve these goals with nature, i.e. without monocultures and clear cuts.
Close-to-nature forestry is based on the natural composition of tree species. Unnatural forest stands such as pure coniferous stands must be quickly upgraded with several tree species and converted into stable mixed forests. This is the only way we can maintain the fertility of our forest soils, protect water as a resource and maintain the productivity of the forests.
Seedlings must primarily be able to grow naturally. Planting of seedlings is only permitted where there are no mother trees. We thus promote a natural selection process, preserve genetic resources and preserve trees whose roots are deeply anchored in natural soil.
Many forest stands in Bavaria do not yet meet these requirements. Let's do it.
On average, how long does it take for a tree to offset CO2 at full capacity?
During photosynthesis, the tree removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The glucose is in turn used by the tree so that the carbon dioxide is stored in the wood in the form of carbon (C).
This process begins as soon as the first green leaf is found on the seedling. However, large amounts of CO2 are then only stored from the age of about 15 years.
A 35 m high spruce with an age of approx. 100 years has a diameter of 50 cm (measured at a height of 1.3 m above the ground). The wood volume including branches but without roots is 3.4 m3. The entire biomass contained therein has a dry weight of almost 1.4 tons; half of the wooden body is made of carbon, so 0.7 tons. That means: A 35m high spruce has stored 0.7 tons of carbon. This corresponds to a CO2 absorption of 2.6 tons of CO2 (conversion factor 3.67).
A 120-year-old and approx. 35 m high beech tree with a diameter of 50 cm (measured at a height of 1.3 m) has a dry weight of 1.9 tons, i.e. around 0.95 tons of carbon. This multiplied by 3.67 gives 3.5 tons of CO2.
A beech of the same height and diameter stores almost a ton more CO2 than a spruce. This is because the wood density is higher in beech.
Is forest suitable as a way to combat the greenhouse effect?
The forest plays a decisive role in combating the greenhouse effect - and in three respects: First, it removes CO2 from the atmosphere. Secondly, this storage is extended if wood is used for new buildings, modernizations, extensions or furniture and the carbon contained is fixed in this way.
A low-energy house made of wood, for example, relieves the atmosphere of around 80 tons of carbon dioxide. Thirdly, wood replaces other energy-intensive materials such as steel or concrete, which are manufactured using finite raw materials. Of course, this only applies if the forests are managed carefully and over the long term. You should never harvest more than what grows back.
Tree planting alone is not a panacea to stop climate change. This requires efforts to avoid CO2 emissions in all areas.
Our focus is the topic of water. What exactly do trees have to do with water protection?
Water protection includes both flood protection and the protection of our drinking water. In the Bavarian foothills of the Alps, we record an average of around 1000 liters of precipitation per square meter every year. Around half is filtered by trees and soil, stored and slowly released into the groundwater. The other 50% of rainwater never reaches the forest floor. This water gets caught on the needles and leaves or in the humus layer and evaporates again over the course of the year.
If you calculate the rainfall per hectare (10,000 square meters) of forest area, it rains an average of 10 million liters per hectare. Of this, around 5 million liters are fed into the groundwater.
Which national events is the association involved in?
Of course, we participate in community plantings, for example on UN World Water Day, International Forest Day, unit digging, Bavarian Forest Day, Forest Nature Conservation Day, ..., .... etc. In total, together with volunteers in 2020, approx 100,000 trees will be planted. The special feature of these campaigns is that anyone can register and take part! Whether alone or with friends and family, everyone is an active help for us.
Why are afforestation also necessary in Germany?
In Germany, too, the last hot summers with little precipitation have caused great damage. If we add the autumn and spring storms, the amount of damaged wood in Germany now amounts to 160,000,000 cubic meters. 245,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed. The reforestation of this area costs around €1.2 billion.
In Bavaria, around 16,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed. In order to enable proper reforestation, there are costs of around €5,000 per hectare, i.e. €80 million. In addition, there are around 200,000 hectares of forest that urgently need to be converted and enriched with other tree species. These areas are otherwise highly endangered by climate change. In 2019, too, it did not rain enough in many regions of Bavaria, so that we have to expect further large-scale forest area losses.
In your opinion, have the topics of reforestation and protection of forests already arrived sufficiently in the perception of mankind?
Forests, the preservation of forest areas and the worldwide destruction of forests are attracting ever greater interest among the general public. This applies to the protection of forests worldwide, but also in Germany, for example when it comes to sacrificing forest areas for infrastructure measures.
Hardly anyone is aware of how dramatic the situation will be in the future.
What does the reforestation of forests do for global climate protection?
The global reforestation of forests would be possible on an area of 0.9 billion hectares and could absorb two thirds of man-made CO2 emissions. This would be an effective way to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. This is the conclusion of a study by ETH Zurich recently published in Science.
Bastin JF, Finegold Y, Garcia C, Mollicone D, Rezende M, Routh D, Zohner CM, Crowther TW: The global tree restoration potential, Science, 5 July 2019, doi: 10.1126/science.aax0848 [ http://dx . doi.org/10.1126/science.aax0848 ]
What can each individual do to get involved in forest protection?
There are numerous ways to get involved in forest conservation. If you want to lend a hand, you can actively support tree planting campaigns or donate trees. The German Forest Protection Association and many other local environmental organizations offer campaigns that help protect the forests.
Responsible use of wood as a resource is particularly important. Be careful not to waste paper and/or other wood products unnecessarily (coffee mugs, bakery bags, etc.). The use of recycling products (Blue Angel mark) helps here. When buying wood products, you should make sure that the wood comes from sustainable forestry (recognizable by the PEFC, Naturland or FSC seal) and that valuable rainforest wood is not processed. Try to avoid products with palm oil and reduce your meat consumption. This is how you can support the preservation of rainforests globally.
Find out about the forest and experience the forest! Because you only protect what you know and love!
Who oversees the projects?
After consultation with those responsible on site, our forest rangers take care of the implementation of the projects. Every step is accompanied, from the first contact with the forest owners to the soil analysis and on-site implementation. We carry out a site inspection of the areas with the forest owner. Then sensible tree species for the campaign are suggested and discussed with the owners.
What other ecosystem services do forests offer?
In addition to the functions already mentioned, such as wood use, climate protection, CO2 storage and water protection, the forest ecosystem makes other important contributions to society.
A very important point that has become more and more public in recent years is the topic of forests and health. It has been scientifically proven that regular exposure to the forest has a positive effect on people's health. But you don't just benefit physically. Stays in the forest also help to relax and let your body and soul dangle. The head and the thoughts are aired again and space is made for creativity and extraordinary ideas.
Which headline would you like to read about WHDW in the future?
“Citizens help make the world a better place through practical actions”
Which trees are these and when and where are they planted?
When planting, only locally appropriate tree species with certified origins are used. It is important that trees are planted that will also be able to cope with the changing climatic conditions in the future. There is already a lot of scientific research and knowledge on this. Particular attention is paid to a good mixture of tree species, so that stable mixed forests are created, which benefit biodiversity and also human needs.
Rare species such as white elm, black walnut, field maple, tree hazel but also our all-rounders fir, oak or cherry are being planted with increasing frequency. The typical planting months are November to March. If so-called ball plants are used, in which the roots are surrounded by soil, planting can take place almost all year round. Here the roots do not dry out as quickly and successful growth is more likely, even under difficult conditions. Planting also takes place in the mountains throughout the year.
The planted areas are often damaged areas, eg old spruce stands that have been severely damaged by windthrow, drought and bark beetles. Another goal of the foundation is to support the regular conversion of forests from monocultures to mixed forests.
Why don't forests regenerate themselves?
Forests have the potential to regenerate themselves. Naturally, Germany would be largely covered with beech and mixed deciduous forests. However, for centuries and especially after the world wars, people have been reforesting large areas in Germany with fast-growing spruce and pine monocultures. This also applies to locations where these tree species do not do well and, above all, will have more and more problems in the future. If the old trees die there, young trees can grow back. However, the soil mostly contains seeds from the old trees – i.e. again pines and spruces. In order to generate stable mixed stands for the future, it is important to introduce other tree species into these stands.
Wood is a valuable resource. A renewable raw material that is climate-neutral, binds CO2 and fulfills many other important functions. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense that humans use this raw material in a responsible manner in order to conserve other finite resources on earth.
So if we leave the forests that have already been modified by humans to themselves, we will not soon get the stocks that have both long-term positive effects on the ecosystem and also offer many advantages for people. If we now give nature a little help, as foresters have been doing in an exemplary manner for many years, we can support the forest ecosystem and achieve sustainable effects more quickly.
And quick action is of great importance for all future generations.