For many of us, when we're feeling stressed or anxious we escape to places like the forest to unwind. But what if our beloved forests are under stress? Due to the effects of climate change, summers are getting hotter and drier. As a result, the water table is dropping, meaning young trees and shallow-rooted species can no longer reach that most important elixir of life: water. Signs of this so-called ‘drought stress’ include bare patches, dry tree crowns, bark beetle infestations or even the death of the trees themselves.
Large-scale spruce monocultures, which prefer a wet, alpine climate, are particularly hard hit. Throughout Germany, but also in Austria and Switzerland, you can witness the sad sight of large, previously forested areas razed to the ground by pests or storms. Our forests as we know them, the Earth’s green lungs, are changing.
But there is still hope for preservation. Many plantations are being converted into diverse and species-rich mixed forests. The planting of new species from other regions of the world, such as the Douglas fir and the black walnut, represent rays of hope.
In this Collection, we present you with 18 day Tours: 16 for each state in Germany, plus one each for Austria and Switzerland, as the drought is not only affecting the German forests. From many vantage points, towers and treetop trails, you can witness the bare patches in the canopy for yourself, giving you a unique perspective on the issue. Most of the Tours can be reached by public transport, though some are only accessible by car.
Natural forests give us so much: they filter pollutants from the air, store large amounts of CO2 in both the soil and the wood, and provide us with valuable oxygen every day. It's time to give something back to them. Every one of us — each and every individual — can contribute to the preservation of our forests.
Climate change isn’t the only challenge we face. The extreme extraction of groundwater or the draining of wetlands for residential areas and farmland are making it increasingly difficult for trees to survive. Let's work together to conserve water and preserve our forests! The challenge is great, but it also offers opportunities, because the future could once again become more vibrant, species-rich and colourful.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
As in Brandenburg, the trees in Berlin suffer from the sandy soil. Despite the proximity to the Wannsee and the Havel, shallow-rooted species such as pines are increasingly drying up, and oaks and beeches have to expend a lot of energy to get the elixir of life. Dry summers keep the groundwater level falling. More and more giant trees do not survive this.
The Harz forests have been plundered and changed for centuries. Large amounts of wood were required for ore extraction, which almost made the native deciduous forests disappear. In the past, fast-growing spruce trees were reforested, but they were not adapted to the low altitudes in the Harz Mountains and dried out in moderate summers - a great food for the bark beetle.
Although beeches are particularly drought-resistant, tree deaths occurred in the Hainich National Park (one of the largest original beech forests in Germany) due to the unusually dry summers. Ancient giant trees showed damage such as brown leaves, dry branches or even died completely. The effects of climate change are analyzed here in regular workshops and strategies for the Hainich beech forest are developed.
Although the Steigerwald is a mixed deciduous forest, clear traces of the persistent years of drought can also be seen here. In Bavaria, in some forest areas, 70 percent of the trees are damaged or even dead. In the hot summers of recent years, the spruce and pine trees in particular have suffered, but in the Steigerwald the beeches and oaks are also struggling to survive.
Tree death does not stop at national borders: Austria's forests are also massively affected by the increasing drought. Within a year, in the Waldviertel alone, the bark beetle destroyed a forest area the size of half of Vienna. Afforestation with more robust mixed forest is inevitable. On the slopes of the Thaya Valley in Lower Austria, you can see dead spruce trees between the young deciduous trees at every turn.
The Pfynwald is the largest contiguous pine forest in Switzerland and is located in the picturesque Rhone Valley. In recent decades, drought and downpour have had a particularly strong impact here, which is why the valley is one of the driest inner-alpine valleys in the Alps today. This has an impact on the pines, some of which are over 100 years old. The mighty giant trees increasingly show symptoms of drought such as strong bark beetle infestation and eventually die.