Germany faces a climate crisis that creeps up on its lush landscapes, including the Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
The once green field in Reinhardswald nature park has turned bare and dry when viewed up close. The ground is almost empty, with only white trunks and brittle sticks that stretches over some 50 acres. As weather conditions remain dry and warm, spruce trees that once stood in the landscape had gone prone to bark beetle infestation and weak by lack of water.
“Once the bark has peeled off, the trees look a bit like bones,” said Peter Meyer, head of forest nature conservation at the North-West German Forest Research Institute in Göttingen and Hann Münden.
“Then the beetle can just drill into the tree, lay eggs underneath the bark, and the larvae feed on the tree, interrupting the water supply, and that makes the tree die,” Meyer explains. “Drought is the trigger for bark beetle infestations.”
Germany’s Climate Election Campaign
(Photo : Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
An aerial view shows dead spruce trees suffering from drought stress next to green beeches in a forest near Iserlohn, western Germany, on June 11, 2021
Records show that Germany has suffered drought and warm conditions the most in year 2018 since it began 140 years ago. The country did not just suffer from historic droughts, but also heavy outpours and deadly flood in other regions. Now, even the country’s fairy tale forests are not exempted. Which is why candidates of Germany’s federal election includes climate crisis in their campaign trails.
It seems like Germany’s next chancellor will have to start listing down climate challenges aligning with their goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. This includes switch from fossil fuels to renewables.
Just months subsequent to the election, the whole town in western Germany was submerged in deadly floods, killing over 180 people. This summer’s floods urged environment minister Svenja Schulze to declare that: “Climate Change has arrived in Germany.”
Whether or not the Western European country can meet its emissions-reduction goals is still a question. Contrary to the belief, steering Europe’s largest economy has gone quiet far down the road as the economy rebounds from the pandemic.
Declining forest health
2020 record shows only 21% among 10,000 trees across the country is considered a healthy tree.
“Crown condition is like a medical thermometer; it shows how the trees are doing. The survey shows: our forests are sick,” said Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner.
Spruces, which makes up 25% of the country’s forests were mainly attacked by bark beetles. Last year, around 43.3 million cubic meters of damaged timber had been infested and had to be cut down, according to the Federal Office of Statistics.
Spruce trees in Reinhardswald Nature Park within hiking distance of Sleeping Beauty’s castle can be dated back to around 80 years, Meyer estimates. Meyer, who has studied trees for more than three decades, sees signs of new growth which he says “if left to its own devices, the forest can heal.”
Experts hope that forests like woodland, which has been spared from bark beetle infestation, could provide insights on how to make the tree species more resistant to future warming temperatures.
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