Forests: Cash from conservation, not timber

Until now, Germany’s two million forest owners have relied on sales of timber to generate an income. However, this may be about to change: the ecological and climate services provided by the forests should be recompensed – through forest certificates, for example. Policy-makers have a role to play here by devising new funding programmes, says Senior Researcher Dr Hannes Böttcher in the Oeko-Institut’s latest podcast. The reality is that even now, Germany fells far too many trees and consumes more timber than can be produced domestically. And without forests to function as carbon sinks reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, there is no prospect of meeting the climate targets.

Use timber solely for long-lasting products

Trees store carbon dioxide in their timber. One cubic metre of wood absorbs and stores between one and two tonnes of CO2 during growth. If the wood is then burned or processed into disposable items such as coffee cups and toilet paper, the carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere, as Dr Böttcher explains in the podcast “Can the forests still be saved?” Ideally, therefore, wood should be used solely to produce long-lasting goods such as furniture or insulating materials so that the carbon dioxide remains locked away.

“Ist der Wald noch zu retten" - "Can the forests still be saved?” Oeko-Institut podcast (in German)

The podcast audio is in German; an English translation of the exchange is here.

Future forests must be adaptable

As his “formula for the future”, Dr Böttcher proposes creating forests that are capable of adapting to climate change. However, this means that the forests themselves will have to change. It is a task which all forest owners will have to confront. Tree species composition is one of the issues to be addressed: “As we don’t know what lies ahead, we cannot say for certain at this stage which tree species will be suitable,” Dr Böttcher explains. A key task is to improve forest structure in order to prevent trees from suffering sun damage during periods of heat and to ensure that water circulation continues. Juvenile trees can then grow on healthily to maturity. In this way, “the forests build their own resilience to climate change”.

Knowledge rather than everyday advice

The Oeko-Institut’s podcast “Wenden bitte!” – “All change please!” is aimed at listeners from politics, science, the media, NGOs and the general public – anyone with an interest in political and environmental issues. Co-presenters of the podcast are Nadine Kreutzer, journalist and presenter, and Mandy Schossig, Head of Public Relations & Communications at the Oeko-Institut. For about an hour – enough time for the “long haul of environmental podcasts” – they talk with one of the Oeko-Institut’s experts about upcoming transformations towards sustainability.

All 15 podcast episodes up to now are at:

The podcast is available on all the usual podcast portals – such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify