Forests cover 11.4 million hectares, almost one-third of Germany, and are thus a significant part of the landscape. Almost half of forested areas are privately owned, 29% of forests are state lands, 4% federally owned and 19% owned by corporations. The Federal Forest Inventory reports on developments of various parameters (species distribution, tree sizes, land-use, dead wood, etc.) in German forests every 10 years, with the next data collection starting in April 2021. More recent updates since the 2012 report were provided in the 2019 federal Climate Change Monitoring Report: in 2018 and 2019 the exceptionally hot and dry summers, forest fires, storms, and the bark beetles caused significant damage in German forests, but in particular on fir trees, which make up approx. one fourth of German forests.
Germany’s Federal Forest Act aims to maintain the diverse ecological, social and economic functions of forest ecosystems, which are threatened by changing climate conditions and pests as well as conflicting interests in their management and use. At the federal level, the 2020 Forest Strategy aims to coordinate the diverse interests related to resources, recreation, biodiversity, climate and energy, and solve potential areas of conflict. These potentially competing interests relate to the diverse range of actors: many forests are owned by the states, companies or private actors. This heterogeneity calls implies the need for a more diverse approach to deal with the impacts of climate change and other long-term challenges.
All sixteen states of Germany have included forestry and forest management in their climate change adaptation strategies or sustainable development plans. Our research is focused on the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where approximately 40% of the state is covered by forests. In 2013 Rhineland-Palatine published a Climate Change Report: Fundamentals and Recommendations for several sectors including forestry and forest management. The chapter focused on forests set the goal of achieving “the most adaptive forest ecosystems as possible that can react elastically to climate change while increasing the resilience and minimization of risks within forests.” In 2019, the state forest authority and research institute for forest ecology and forestry (Forschungsanstalt für Waldökologie und Forstwirtschaft) began researching the potential of non-native tree species for more climate resilient forestry. Among the current recommendations for adaptation, there is an emphasis on the importance of raising awareness and intensifying dialogues among the diverse stakeholders responsible for forested areas.