How's the German forest doing?

Wie geht's dem deutschen Wald?

A conversation with Michelle Sundermann from the State Forestry Office of Hesse

by Tanita Steckel

Photo: private

Without trees there is no swinging in the great outdoors. But: what trees are there in Germany at all? And how are they?

The forest scientist and press spokeswoman for the State Forestry Office of Hesse, Michelle Sundermann, answered our questions. It starts today with part 1 of our super exciting conversation. 

Ms. Sundermann, which forests predominate in Germany?

More than 85% of the Hessian forest are mixed forests with different proportions of tree species. HessenForst has been successfully promoting mixed forests for many years.

And what are the advantages and disadvantages of that?

Mixed forests are stable and productive at the same time. They also offer many ecological niches and are therefore rich in species. Maintenance and wood harvesting are more complex and therefore more expensive than pure stocks of the same age though. On the other hand, they are less endangered by drought, storms, fire or harmful organisms. In addition, the wood growth is higher with a suitable mixture and targeted care. 

Mixed forests bind more than 10 t CO per hectare and year2. The mix lowers the risks that climate change brings. In addition, they are visually appealing and enrich the landscape.

Which forest types are particularly susceptible to which risks?

Basically, pure stands are more susceptible to biotic damage and abiotic damage. This phenomenon is often exacerbated by the fact that many pure stands are of the same age.

Storm events with extreme wind strengths, long periods of drought and extreme summer temperatures affect most of the tree species that occur in our region.

Damage from insects or fungi usually occurs on certain host species. The resistance of trees to pests is greater the more vital they are. In turn, vitality is closely related to environmental factors. For example, if a spruce suffers from a lack of water, it can produce and release less resin to ward off bark beetles.

And what about the Hessian forest? These are mainly mixed forests after all...

The forest is currently in a poor condition in many places in Hesse.

The years 2018, 2019 and 2020 were marked by extreme weather conditions. Storms, periods of drought in the growing seasons and summer temperatures of up to 40°C damaged most trees and also favored the mass reproduction of insects.

We are currently in the worst state of health since 1984. The state of the forest has been documented and published annually since then. The results of the current Forest condition report show the extent of the damage.  


We thank Ms. Sundermann for taking the time for this interview. The second part of this conversation will be released next Friday, January 22nd, 21st.