Back to the roots

By Christian BlockMike Zenari Switch to German for original article

Fewer trees are being felled in Luxembourg's forests than are growing back. But the demand for wood as a resource will increase. Ralf Koehler, the new manager of the Wood Cluster, faces the challenge of reviving a regional wood processing industry.

The forest fulfils many functions. For animals, plants and people. But it is under pressure. Only just under 40 percent of forest ecosystems are in good condition, according to the Environmental Observatory. More than half of the forest stock is severely damaged, parts of the forest area are overaged and a large part of the forest area is not in a natural condition. Climate change brings new challenges. Dry periods, for example, or a more frequent occurrence of insect pests such as the bark beetle due to a longer vegetation period. Is the felling of healthy trees still justifiable in view of these circumstances?

Ralf Koehler's answer is clear. "Absolutely", says the forestry engineer. On 1st of May, the German took over the leadership of the Wood Cluster, an exchange platform for all actors active in the sector that was launched in 2016. There are two main reasons for Koehler's point of view. "In the Luxembourg forest […] a relatively extensive use of wood is carried out". In other words, fewer trees are felled than the total amount of biomass that grows back. The storage capacity of tens of millions of tonnes of carbon in forest biomass is thus continuously increasing. On the other hand, the removal of trees through forestry activities can promote forest growth. "The more trees that come out, the more space the trees that remain in the stand get, and consequently the more carbon can be stored", says Koehler.

According to the last national forest inventory, the specific cut rate (the area-based sustainable annual harvestable timber volume) was on average 60 per cent, lower in private forests (at 53 per cent) than in public forests (67 per cent). That was a good decade ago. According to Koehler, the current trend, caused "by the climate protection efforts of the state forestry sector", is to use the forest resource even less today than was the case ten years ago. "We are moving in a very sustainable direction", he notes.

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