Can trees stop climate change?
Drought, forest fires and increasingly frequent storms. Climate change is destroying our forests. All over the world, people are looking for ways to keep them from dying out. Yet nature itself knows best what forests need to thrive.
Reforestation works not only in the countryside, but also in the city. In urban areas, planting trees can help combat climate change, restore ecosystems and keep cities cooler — as forest scientist Stefan Scharfe well knows. He’s already planted 14 ‘tiny forests’ in Germany and Poland. The concept of planting dense, fast-growing woodland in urban wastelands was originally developed by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki.
In the shade of a multi-storey car park on the grounds of a hospital in the city of Herford, Scharfe has planted native plants, shrubs and trees close together. “Preparing the soil is key,” he says. “What we do is imitate a forest soil that’s decades old.” The mini forest lowers the air and soil temperature in the summer heat and provides shade as well as a habitat for birds and insects.
Miriam Prochnow and Wigold Schaffer have dedicated their entire lives to saving the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. “We are witnessing an unprecedented crisis for humanity and cannot afford not to fight,” says Prochnow. In the 1970s, the two started growing tropical trees on their terrace. Today they run a kind of non-profit tree nursery with 25 employees, and grow 200 different, mainly old species. To date, they’ve planted nine million trees, combatting clear-cutting in the Atlantic Forest.
Meanwhile, researchers at the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development in Germany want to gain a better understanding of the forest ecosystem with the help of Indigenous peoples. They’ve been working with Colombia’s Kogi people, known for their intuitive approach to nature. Their views on drought and pest damage provide inspiration for scientists like Carsten Mann: “For me, the main message of the Kogi is that it will be difficult to work against the laws of nature, and that we need to accept that.” The researchers now want to use the knowledge of the Kogi to better protect forests in Germany.