Environment: Arbor Day: How is our green friend doing?

Whether timber, firewood, paper, fruit, nuts or rubber.

Environment: Arbor Day: How is our green friend doing?

Whether timber, firewood, paper, fruit, nuts or rubber. Trees are diverse suppliers of humans. They absorb carbon dioxide, produce oxygen and provide shade. In forests, they prevent soil erosion and help with the formation of groundwater. According to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, there are up to 90 billion trees in Germany's forests alone. They are allies of humanity in the face of climate change and yet are increasingly threatened by it themselves.

In 1952, the German Forest Protection Association established Arbor Day on April 25th. The original goal was to draw attention to the severe loss of forest caused by the Second World War. That has long been caught up, around 30 percent of Germany's area is covered by forest. Still, one can fear, because in recent years summer drought, bark beetles and storms have destroyed large areas of forest.

Forest is always a generational project

Forest owners are changing course, replacing spruce and pine monocultures with species-rich mixed forest. But forest is always a generational project, because it takes many decades for a seedling to grow into a mighty beech, ash or oak. Whether forest owners and forests can keep up with the pace of climate change is a crucial question.

Trees can help adapt to higher temperatures, especially in cities. In the shade of trees, it is more pleasant and cooler on hot days than, for example, under parasols or awnings. Squares and streets sheltered by plane trees, for example in cities in the south of France, bear witness to a long experience advantage.

"Trees make our cities more livable," says Helmut Dedy, General Manager of the German Association of Cities. They are shade providers, air filters and air conditioning at the same time. "As green oases in public space, they are of inestimable value for the attitude towards life in the city. We know that trees can reduce stress and even make us happy."

Dedy: Urban trees are increasingly stressed themselves

But according to Dedy, the city trees themselves are increasingly stressed. "The heat and drought in particular bother them a lot. We have to pay more attention to our city trees." The cities do a lot for protection, maintenance and replanting. "Here new tree species come into view that are better able to cope with drought."

Dedy is pleased that more and more citizens want to help preserve the trees by sponsoring trees or watering. The federal government also supports the cities in the purchase of new trees, for example with the "Action program for natural climate protection". "This is an important step."

The German Forest Protection Association (SDW) makes it clear how far and threatening climate change has already progressed in Germany by not carrying out any planting campaigns on Arbor Day on April 25th. "The past few years since 2017 have been particularly affected by the drought, so many of the trees planted have not grown," says Federal Managing Director Christoph Rullmann. It was therefore switched to the day of the forest on March 21st. A month earlier, the little trees have a better chance of getting enough water to grow.

A small contribution on your own doorstep

SDW encourages people to make a small contribution on their own doorstep by planting bee-friendly trees and shrubs in their gardens on April 25th. "Even for smaller gardens, there are a variety of trees that increase the variety in the garden and support insect and bird life," suggests Rullmann. After that, the tree should of course be watered regularly.

The idea for Arbor Day in Germany came from the USA. According to the SDW, Julius Sterlin Morton wrote an "Arbor Day Resolution" there in 1872. Within two decades, the idea had spread across the country.