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According to this, around 195,000 solid cubic meters of wood were counted by beetles, at the end of September 2019 it was 268,500 solid cubic meters. One solid cubic meter corresponds to one cubic meter.

In addition, the insects are currently not likely to form a third generation, but have already started to dig in for the winter rest phase. There is currently no threat of further spread. In the coming months, the state forests want to fell as many infested trees as possible and have them removed. "This means we have a good chance of starting next spring with a significantly lower starting population"said a spokesman in Regensburg. However, the situation is very different from region to region: In the middle and south of Bavaria, the bark beetle damage has lagged far behind the forecasts, in the Franconian Forest and parts of the Bavarian Forest there is still a high level "Bark beetle dynamics".

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Bark beetles mainly attack spruce trees, the insects multiply very quickly, especially when it is persistent and dry. If the number of beetles increases, infested trees die quickly.

The large quantities of beetle and storm wood in all of Central Europe had also caused wood prices to collapse in recent years. In this respect, too, recovery appears to be in sight. "The wood market is gaining momentum"said the spokesman.

Berlin (dpa) – Fires, drought, storms and pests: Germany is recording an enormous loss of forests. In order to preserve the forests, they urgently need to be closed "semi-natural mixed deciduous forests" According to the Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND).

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Together with its chairman Hubert Weiger, the environmental association presents ten demands on politics, forestry and hunting for dealing with stressed forests.

As a result of the persistent heat and drought, the situation has worsened, the trees are weakened and vulnerable, according to the BUND. "Whole forest stands made up of non-natural spruce and pine monocultures collapse."

At the beginning of July, Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) called for a reforestation program in view of massive forest damage, which is estimated to cost more than half a billion euros.argumentative essay According to the Ministry of Agriculture, several million trees will be needed to compensate for the loss of 110,000 hectares of forest. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) wants to provide money from the energy and climate fund.

Agriculture and forestry are still groaning under the effects of the recent droughts. Researcher Andreas Marx explains what long dry phases can do – and what they cost us.

Long periods of drought affect agriculture and forestry. Statistically speaking, every year in Germany there is drought damage in the hundreds of millions. In 2018 it was already three billion euros nationwide in August. Only: the drought periods of the past two summers were more severe than since the Second World War. Forests and agricultural areas can hardly recover from it. 

Andreas Marx from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig and his colleagues set up the so-called drought monitor. It indicates the moisture level of the soil and where the deeper soil layers are still dry. For the latter, the monitor shows: Red alert. 

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In an interview with t-online.de, Marx explains what agriculture and forestry, but also consumers and industry in Germany have to adjust to – and whether there is hope for the forest. 

t-online.de: Mr. Marx, you will be giving a lecture on the subject at a conference in Berlin next week "Drought 2018 and the economic consequences".

Andreas Marx: I have changed the title of the lecture on my own in the meantime. It is now called: "The 2018 and 2019 droughts and the economic damage" – The drought never stopped. The Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, where you work, operates the so-called drought monitor. We launched the monitor five years ago because this information on soil moisture and drought did not exist, but it did were especially in demand for agricultural management. The monitor looks back to 1951 because the database up to that point in time is so good that a reasonable assessment can be made for the whole of Germany. Drought occurs again and again in this country. Before 2015, the General Association of the German Insurance Industry estimated that in Germany alone, statistically, drought damage of 175 million euros occurs every year.

(Source: private) Dr. Andreas Marx, 43, heads the Central German Climate Office at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig. He researches the soil water balance and the development of groundwater and, together with his colleagues, operates the drought monitor, which provides information about the moisture in various soil segments.

Who is using your drought monitor?

The first were insurance companies to offer policies against drought. Seed manufacturers have compared their own test series with the dryness of the soil over larger areas. A farmer once said to me: "I can’t look into the ground. I get feedback from the corn when it rolls up the leaves – then it has drought stress, but I don’t see it beforehand." In forestry, the monitor is used to draw conclusions about the spread of the bark beetle, which is a key factor in drought.

What is special about the drought phases of the past two summers? Drought of the length and intensity of 2018 and 2019 has not existed since the Second World War. We have had a few years in which the whole of Germany was hit by drought. In 2003, 1.5 billion euros in damage occurred nationwide. But in 2018, the federal states already estimated three billion euros in damage in August and then determined a national emergency. The 2018 and 2019 droughts were very different.

What do you mean by that? There are four different types of drought: At the beginning there is the meteorological drought, that is, it rains less than normal. Then comes the agrarian drought, which relates to soil moisture – the soil becomes drier than normal. This is followed by the hydrological drought: When water stops coming out of the ground, the water levels in the rivers drop, especially in summer. This leads to a socio-economic drought, which then causes economic damage. The meteorological drought started in February 2018. We had a large precipitation deficit that has lasted until September 2019. In parts of Germany, 600 liters less water per square meter have come from the sky than normal since January 2018.

So the soil has become increasingly drier and has stayed dry – yes, the soil has dried up from the top. There has been damage in all crops, from winter grain, which is harvested first, to maize, which is on at the end of the growing season. The only exception was the area south of the Danube. In 2019, however, the soil was dry, but in many areas there was average rainfall, with corresponding yields for agriculture. However, the trees need a lot of water. If the soil only gets wet on top, that is of no use to you: The young plants are therefore dried up in spring.

The bark beetle has attacked many trees …

Yes, the pests were particularly active, the much discussed bark beetle alone has more than a hundred species. This mostly affects spruce trees: Usually the pests get stuck in their tree sap. If the spruce trees have water stress, they cannot develop it. Because they cannot defend themselves at the moment, the bark beetle eats them bald everywhere. The third point: All over Germany you can currently see dried up trees, birches for example. Birch trees are shallow roots. So you can see the bare white trunks standing. With pines and other deciduous trees it is not immediately noticeable when they have dried up.

The trees don’t stand a chance. 

I agree. This is a big problem in agriculture and forestry. One can only pray that precipitation will fall. 2.7 percent of the agricultural area in Germany is equipped with irrigation technology. However, you can only irrigate where it makes sense from a market economy perspective. There is no such thing in forestry, so also not for young plants.

Dead spruce trees in the Taunus: The current rainfall is insufficient to compensate for the previous drought. (Source: imago images) Do we have to rethink this? At least agriculture could be irrigated to a greater extent. But for that to happen, arable land in the Mediterranean would have to become unattractive, which is not unlikely. Sustainable agriculture is not practiced there either, because groundwater is used there. Water that does not return to the soil through precipitation and seepage. This lowers the water table. The annual precipitation is less there, while it is getting hotter at the same time. So the question is how one would even want to practice agriculture in the Mediterranean region 50 years from now. In Germany, the heat waves will be a problem, but overall annual precipitation will not change significantly. Here you have to consider: How do you manage to make the winter precipitation available so that it can be used in summer? You mean: What storage options are there? Exactly. But you can also control how you get the water that falls in winter into the ground. How does that work? In agriculture you can work without a plow. Plowing means lifting up soil from a depth of 30 or 35 centimeters. A lot of water evaporates on the surface. Working without a plow, perhaps in combination with a mulch pad, prevents the water from running away and gives it more time to soak into the ground.

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What other technical possibilities do you see?

New dams, for example, but that is not very likely in Germany, especially not in the north German lowlands. The local water volume for the drinking water supply is large – but very little for agricultural irrigation. 85 percent of the water used for agriculture today comes from the groundwater. The amounts of water for large areas are huge.

Do you think it is possible that there will be conflicts over the distribution of drinking water here?

If agriculture decides to do this, one will have to see where to get the water from. That would be a huge consumption of water. In summer it will get hotter and water consumption will increase. To speak of a distribution struggle, however, I consider daring. It depends on whether agriculture continues in the Mediterranean and how producer prices develop. One can only speculate about this today.

Which crops will benefit from the drought?

15, 20 years ago the "picture"-Zeitung times palm trees placed at the Munich Stachus. This is nonsense, of course. We will not have Mediterranean vegetation here. Seed manufacturers breed drought-resistant plants. But that doesn’t mean that these plants can do without water. That just means that these plants get better over dry seasons. It will continue to freeze here in winter, even with climate change. There will be less snow – but in 50 years it will still snow in Germany. That said, you need plants that are hardy.

What is the situation of the groundwater like?

This is of particular importance for the economy. Most of the water in the rivers is fed by the groundwater. However, the groundwater has sunk because no new water came through the soil from above. If the soils are getting drier and drier, that means there is no new groundwater formation. There was no ship on the Elbe for months in 2018 due to low water, and the area south of Magdeburg was also badly affected this year.