Why are trees dying in my area

Dead trees: is the Harz National Park dying?

Is climate change to blame?

Climate change is part of the cause of the dead trees, explains Friedhart Knolle from the Harz National Park:

Climate change is fully there. We can see that in these pictures too. But: These areas are not dead. The forest as such does not die here.

In the core zone of the Harz National Park, the forest repairs itself, explains Friedhart Knolle. A few years after damage, the trees regenerated and new generations grew up.

But the hot summer of 2018 left its mark on the trees and the drought weakened the trees. The current heat does the rest. Spruce trees actually need a lot of cold and grow above all at higher altitudes. This is where climate change comes into play: Climate change has taken away the cold, snowy winters from the spruce trees, explains Friedhart Knolle.

Nature and ecology are actually only reacting and adapting to the new climatic conditions.

Trees react to pollutants

But not climate change alone is the cause of tree death. The increased level of pollutants in the air also contributed to this.

At the moment, these are mainly traffic pollutants. The nitrogen oxides, keyword NOx, are on everyone's lips. That is, the stress that lies on the spruce is a pollution stress. And that is now massively increased by global warming.

The Harz National Park also sees it as its task to draw attention to this problem. Friedhart Knolle finds it terrifying that he sees such pictures from Canada, Russia and other parts of Europe.

That is a global climate change. That must really worry us. The national park is basically just a shop window in which you can see how the forest is really doing.

Bark beetles are a problem for spruce trees

The spruce dying is not only found in monoculture forests. The spruce trees also die in mixed forests. In addition, there is the eight-toothed spruce bark beetle, which prefers to attack sick and weakened spruces, explains Friedhart Knolle. These old spruces, which are over 60 years old, have been weakened by pollutants and climate change - and cannot defend themselves against the beetle. Younger spruce trees secrete resin to drive away the bark beetle.

The forest will look different in the future

The causes of spruce death are complex and varied: The drought summer due to climate change, pollutants and pests contribute to the death of the spruce, Friedhart Knolle knows:

These factors have pre-stressed the spruce, so to speak, and now it is getting its final kick.

But the regeneration of the trees in the Harz is still working, so Friedhart Knolle is confident despite everything:

The forest won't die. We have to worry about forestry. The forest as such will survive in the national park, but it will look different than most people imagine today. The forest changes its face massively.

Can we still save the forest?

The situation is serious. That is why the Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner has announced a reforestation program. For Friedhart Knolle, however, the elimination of climate change is in the foreground:

You have to work on the roots of the problem: that means fighting climate change. If we continue to emit CO2 as we do now, we shouldn't be surprised if carbon dioxide causes huge problems worldwide. In addition, we have to enter into a diverse forestry with mixed stands. Because they are more stable to climate change. The forest shows us what the environmental situation is like.

But even individuals can do something to save the forest, says Friedhart Knolle:

There are many millions of sources of emissions worldwide: agriculture, industrial sources, automobile traffic. Everyone is involved somewhere. If everyone somewhere does a little to fight that, then we can achieve a lot in Germany and in Europe.

Friedhart Knolle is aware that the forest will not be saved from now on:

We have mammoth tasks ahead of us: The problem has developed over decades and since then we have known that climate change is changing our ecosystems. We will have to work on a solution for decades. But if we don't start now, it will eventually be too late.

Other central German forests are also affected

But trees don't just die in the Harz Mountains. The trees in the Hainich National Park are also in a bad way. There are guided hikes there that explain how beeches die.