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After the coronavirus has dominated everything for the past few weeks, the topics that brought German foresters sleepless nights last year appear again in the industry: the bark beetle and the drought. The lack of rain is particularly worrying for the logging companies.

At first the worries seemed to be over because it had rained a lot in February. The top soil was well moistened throughout Germany, and reforestation of the damaged areas could begin. But then the rain stopped again, especially April was far too dry. The target for precipitation was just 3% by the middle of the month.

A third dry year would be a disaster

According to calculations by the German Weather Service (DWD), less than 10 l / m² of rainfall fell from March 14, 2020 to April 18. At the same time, sunshine, very dry air and occasionally fresh to strong wind ensured high evaporation rates of around 6 l / m² per day. The water requirement of the plants was significantly higher than the amount of precipitation during this period.

You can see in the graph that there is an exceptional drought in the dark red regions. The winter precipitation had actually filled the soil water reservoirs in Germany well; in February, large parts of Germany even fell two to three times the usual amount of precipitation.

Only at the beginning of May do the meteorologists see signs of some rain. However, it should not be enough to end the drought. For the German Weather Service, a trend of the past eleven years has continued, in which April was always too dry. A third consecutive drought would be a disaster for the forestry industry.

Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöcker described the situation in the German forests as difficult. Although the damage of recent years has not yet been recovered, the first forest fires are already occurring. In a video message from April 21, she also expressed worries about the further spread of the bark beetles. “We take the concerns and fears foresters very serious,” she said. For this reason, the Federal Ministry is making available € 98 million this year to deal with forest damage and another € 40 million to adapt the forests to climate change.

Mixed forest is better for the future

With a view of the drying topsoil, Dr. Klaus Merker, President of the Lower Saxony State Forests (NLF) said: “The mixed forest of different tree species planted on these areas should withstand the changed climate of the future. To do this, the seedlings have to grow first. ”The water supply to the larger, deep-rooted trees is initially secured thanks to the moisture in the deeper layers of the ground due to the rainfall in February. “This will certainly benefit the body’s defenses, especially the spruce against the bark beetle. But even if we get a cool and humid summer, as we would like it to be in the forest, the long-term effects of the past two drought years will keep us busy for a long time. ” he says.

German timber industry under heavy pressure

The German forestry and timber industry was already in a state of emergency before the coronavirus pandemic: storms, drought and bark beetles have been threatening the industry for over two years.

The German companies had already reached their limits in order to cope with the amount of damaged wood and now need support, while the current coronavirus crisis is exacerbating the situation. According to a German Sawing and Timber Industry Federation (DeSH) survey, 70% of the German sawmill companies are already negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Between 2018 and 2020, storms, droughts, fires and bark beetle infestations in Germany caused around 160 million cubic meters of damaged wood on an area of ​​245,000 ha.

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