All about the forest

The forest is a diverse "ecosystem"

The creatures in the forest depend on each other. Here you can see mushrooms growing on a spruce cone. (Photo: Rita Luder)
Small mushrooms growing on fallen oak leaves

More than half of all plants and animals on land live in forests. All living creatures in the forest form a community and are dependent on each other. It is also called the "forest ecosystem". Maybe you can picture it better if you think about the food chain in the forest: the leaves and fruits of the trees serve as food for the animals. From the piles of animals and from dead plant parts, bacteria, fungi and tiny animals make soil again. From which new trees then grow, bearing leaves and fruit again – a well-functioning cycle.

Refrigerator, water filter and air freshener

A single old beech tree can evaporate 500 liters of water on a warm day. (Photo: public domain)
Beech forest
We humans and all animals breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. With plants it is the other way round – how practical! (Photo: Hartmann Linge cc-by-sa 3.0)
All about the forest
With the help of their leaves, trees perform photosynthesis. (Photo: public domain)
Sunlit maple leaf

But the forest can do much more.

Have you ever noticed that on hot days it’s much cooler in the forest? Of course, this is also due to the shadows cast by the treetops. But that’s not the only thing. Trees constantly evaporate water through their leaves during the day. From the leaves of a single large beech tree 500 liters of water come out every day! The water has risen from the root once through the entire tree trunk, through the branches and twigs to the leaf, before it comes out there again as water vapor. The escaping water vapor cools the air. The tree also purifies the water – it is called a "filter" it.

Photosynthesis – never heard of it?

Carbon dioxide – you know this gas for sure. It is created every time we exhale. For the trees in the forest, it’s the other way around: they breathe in the carbon dioxide. Plants turn carbon dioxide, water and sunlight into oxygen and sugar. This is called "photosynthesis. They release some of the oxygen into the environment – and we can breathe it in. Carbon dioxide is also produced when oil, coal and gas are burned. Too much of it is bad, because it accelerates climate change. Good that the forest exists – the more of it, the better.

A supplier of wood and a place of recreation

The forest is also a great place to play and discover. (Photo: Sixta Gortz)
Child on pine branch
With a little luck you can discover a tawny owl in the forest. (Photo: Peter Kuhn / NABU)
Tawny owl in the tree

For us humans, the forest has even more in store: we can use its wood to build houses or make toys. Using wood as a building material – that’s what we humans have been doing for thousands of years. As long as we make sure that there is always enough healthy forest growing back, this is a good thing.

And last but not least, the forest is simply a great place – to relax, enjoy and observe nature. It is good to feel the soft ground under your feet, to smell the spicy scent and to listen to the sounds of the forest. Many people say that the forest is the best place to recreate.

What is not good for the forest

In many forests, spruces are dying because they were weakened by the drought of the last two summers and are now infested with bark beetles. (Photo: public domain)
Forest with dead spruces
Monoculture of spruce. Such forests do not cope well with climate change. (Photo: public domain)
Spruce monoculture
A mixed forest of conifers and deciduous trees copes better with drought and heat. (Photo: Sixta Gortz)
Mixed forest

There is a lot of talk about the German forest at the moment. The past two summers have not been good for it. Spruce trees are dying in many forests. Heat and drought have weakened the trees, making them easy prey for the bark beetle.

Forest experts have long warned that our forest may not be able to cope with climate change. Heat and drought are especially hard on spruces and pines, of which there are many in our forests. In many places even as the only tree species. When you grow one type of plant on an area, it’s called monoculture. Monocultures are more susceptible to storms, drought, and disease. But the wood from a monoculture is easier and faster to harvest.

Now conservationists, scientists, politicians and forest owners are considering how best to help the forest – which tree species to plant and whether more or fewer trees need to be cut down. There are many discussions about this, because there are different opinions about what is best for the forest. All that is clear so far is that something has to change.

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