Germany's sick forests

8th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

9 December 2004, BERLIN - German forests are growing faster than ever with timber reserves at "historic highs" but record numbers of trees are showing damage from last year's drought and pollution, the government said. Only 28 percent of trees in Germany show no damage - "less than ever before", said the annual Report on the State of the Forest 2004. The report is based on surveys by state foresters who estimate damage to the top branches of trees. Worst hit are beech trees with over 50 percent showing a c

9 December 2004

BERLIN - German forests are growing faster than ever with timber reserves at "historic highs" but record numbers of trees are showing damage from last year's drought and pollution, the government said.

Only 28 percent of trees in Germany show no damage - "less than ever before", said the annual Report on the State of the Forest 2004.

The report is based on surveys by state foresters who estimate damage to the top branches of trees.

Worst hit are beech trees with over 50 percent showing a clear loss of leaves, the report said. The more hardy pine tree, which grows well in sandy, dry regions, is the least impacted with 17 percent showing damage.

"The state of our forests is alarming. The cause is above all a delayed impact of the extreme summer of 2003," said Consumer and Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast at a news briefing.

Kuenast noted, however, that forests in Germany are "growing faster than ever before" and that timber reserves being carried over on a year-to-year basis in the country are at "a historic high."

She admitted it might seem like a contradiction but the government wanted to increase the use of home-grown wood by 20 percent over the next decade as a contribution to saving Germany's forests.

Privately owned forests needed to earn money to pay for measures such as treatment of soil with lime to offset the impact of pollution and sour rain, she said, adding they also need to fund the shift from plantations with a single type of tree to mixed forests.

Other measures included government and European Union moves to cut pollution, reduce ammonia production from agriculture and promote renewable energy including biomass produced by burning wood pellets, said Kuenast.

The state of the forest report is critcized by some as being a momentary "snap-shot" of the condition of Germany's trees. In the early 1980s, many environmentalists said it proved Germany's forests were dying in a phenomenon dubbed "Waldsterben."

But Kuenast herself, a member of the Greens party, recently admitted that Waldsterben had not taken place.

About one-third of Germany is covered by trees and forestry and related sectors provide far more jobs than industry in many states such as North Rhine-Westphalia where some 260,000 people work in timber sectors compared with 130,000 in the chemicals sector, according to a recent study.

DPA

Subject: German news 

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