Scientists hunt climate change in Berlin parks

Scientists hunt climate change in Berlin parks
Climate change could make a morning run in Charlottenburg palace gardens a thing of the past. Photo: DPA
Scientists at Berlin's Technical University (TU) will spend three years investigating the effects of climate change in Berlin and Brandenburg as maintaining the green spaces in and around the capital becomes increasingly difficult.

“We see serious damage [to the parks] and fewer and fewer new plantings work out,” said landscape architect Professor Norbert Kühn from TU Berlin.

He said that the worst-affected plants were old native trees such as oak, beech and linden trees – of the type to be found by the hundreds in parks like the one at Potsdam's Sanssouci Palace.

Kühn and his fellow researchers believe that the warmth and dry soil caused by climate change could be damaging the plants that have traditionally populated Berlin and Brandenburg.

Parks are a particularly challenging case, because it would be difficult to replace the trees and flowers at protected historic sites with new plants that are better adapted to the new conditions.

“But there are all kinds of possibilities – a domestic oak tree is almost indistinguishable from an American one,” Kühn said.

How will the lush gardens at Potsdam's Sanssouci Palace react to the changing climate? Photo: DPA

Now the German Federal Environment Foundation (DBU) has given the scientists €350,000 to investigate the problem.

One path being explored is adding artificial substrates to the soil in plants' early years, giving them support during the time when they're establishing roots.

Other researchers will be looking into old gardening texts to find out how the green-fingered Germans of past generations kept their parks and forests looking spruce in times of drought and high temperatures.

Still more experiments will look into ways of rejuvenating damaged trees.

“We want to see if we can get them to produce more new growth, so that they can be maintained for longer,” Kühn said.

We recommend enjoying a beer in Berlin's Tiergarten while you still can. Photo: DPA

Among the parks covered by the study are two must-sees on any Berlin tourist's list: the Sanssouci palace gardens and Berlin's Charlottenburg palace.

Parks in Potsdam-Babelsberg and in Rhinesberg will also be looked at by the scientists, who will create special plantations of their own which will be open for viewing by the public from 2016.

“The effects of climate change are so far mostly restricted to forests and agriculture,” Kühn said.

He and his team hope that some of their discoveries will prove useful for keeping Germany green where it matters – in the woods and the fields – just as much as in beautiful parks.

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