Environmentalists urge better forest care

In order to protect Germany's fragile forests, planners need to make their ecosystems more diverse, according to environmental groups who say the country hasn't learned enough from a devastating 2007 storm.

Environmentalists urge better forest care
Photo: DPA

The “Kyrill” storm in January 2007, was the most violent windstorm ever to hit the country. It killed 11 people and caused more than €7.7 billion in damages throughout northern and central Europe. It also severely damaged vast tracts of forest in North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, Hessen, Thuringia and Lower Saxony.

But environmental experts said much of that could have been avoided if mixed species of trees had been planted in German forests in the first place. Many woodlands consist of just one particular type of tree – often of the quick growing coniferous variety.

A forest consisting of the same type of tree, particularly weaker, quick growing species, has a higher risk of storm damage than mixed forests which are naturally designed to withstand strong winds.

The government announced post-Kyrill that reforestation of Germany’s wooded areas would include introducing more diverse trees to the worst-hit areas, but environmentalists have complained that although reforestation has taken place, promises of species diversity have never really been fulfilled.

“Kyrill was hugely damaging to the forest eco-system” said Hubert Weiger of the environmental group BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany). “But still only few recognise the need for stronger forests.”

The Local/DAPD/jcw

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German city residents sue government over air pollution

Seven residents in Germany are taking the government to court over the poor air quality around their homes, an organisation representing them said on Monday.

German city residents sue government over air pollution

The residents of Berlin, Duesseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich believe current government legislation is “demonstrably inadequate to protect people’s health”, according to the organisation, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH).

Levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in Germany are up to five times higher than the safe levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to DUH.

The complainants are calling for immediate action to bring about “a reduction in dangerous air pollutants from, among other things, traffic, wood burning and agriculture”, said Juergen Resch, national director of DUH.

“Politicians are doing too little to protect people like me who live on a busy road,” said complainant Volker Becker-Battaglia, from Munich.

This time last year, a new coalition government was elected in Germany on a promise to make environmental concerns one of its top priorities.

READ ALSO: Germany should ditch Christmas lights this year, says environmental group

The Greens entered power for the first time in more than two decades, promising that Germany would end coal power and generate 80 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030.

But since then, climate concerns have been overshadowed by the war in Ukraine, an acute energy crisis and record inflation.

Germany has accelerated plans to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) by sea and has even decided to reactivate mothballed coal-fired power plants.

In 2021, climate activists won a landmark victory in Germany when the constitutional court ruled that the government’s climate plans were insufficient and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

German environmental groups also last year announced a legal offensive against car giants Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW over their emissions.