Germany's forests "suffer severely" from the impacts of climate change as drought and high temperatures last summer caused further damage, according to the 2022 report on the state of forests published by the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) on Tuesday.
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"The forest is a patient that needs our help. Our precious ecosystem is suffering the consequences of the climate crisis," Food and Agriculture Minister Cem Oezdemir said.
The rainy months at the beginning of 2022 and in autumn could not compensate for the water deficit in the forest soils. The forests have not been able to recover after the dry years since 2018, leading to four out of five trees being ill.
The National Meteorological Service (DWD) said that 2022 was the twelfth consecutive warmest year in Germany, even matching the all-time record set in 2018. The average temperature was 10.5 degrees Celsius, 2.3 degrees above the average of the international reference period from 1961 to 1990.
With 2,024 hours of sunshine, 2022 was the year with the most sunshine hours since 1951, according to the DWD. This "once again confirms the trend of global warming with foreseeable consequences for humans and nature," the DWD warned.
In the coming weeks, forests should not face any new drought stress, which should be considered favorable. However, the development of weather in Germany over the rest of the year "cannot be predicted with sufficient certainty."
The BMEL report found that a large share of the crowns of all types of trees was damaged, with 44 percent in the warning level and 35 percent even with significant crown defoliation. The poor crown condition shows how much the trees have been weakened.
"The disturbing results of our forest status report clearly show: we must continue to act decisively so that our forests can withstand drought and higher temperatures in the future. This means, mixed forests instead of monocultures," Oezdemir stressed.
Around 25 percent of Germany's forests are at "risk from the effects of climate change and urgently need to be adapted and converted," BMEL said last month. To tackle the issue, the ministry last year set up a funding program of 900 million euros through 2026.
On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that "human activities have clearly caused global warming, primarily through the emission of greenhouse gases." With global warming currently at around 1.1 degrees Celsius, the 1.5-degree target could already be exceeded before 2030.
"The climate time-bomb is ticking. But today's IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse it. It is a survival guide for humanity," United Nations Secretary Antonio Guterres said.