Climate protection measures for managed Forests
Whoever follows us on Facebook or Instagram, already knows that we had a visit from the ‘SDW’, “Schutzgemeinschaft Deutscher Wald” (the Federal Association for the Protection of German Forests) to discuss their project, “Expedition Carbon”. The in-house seminar was about “KLIWABE”, the climate protection performance of managed forests, and how we can pass on this knowledge through guided tours and seminars for example. I find this topic highly interesting.
We do know a thing or two from our school days about this subject, but we didn’t explore it that deeply, especially not the section about managed forests. To be honest, we only think of deforestation, but there is so much more to this operation! So let’s go back to the beginning…
What is Weather? What is Climate?
These were the first questions we were asked. You already know the difference – sort of – but can you explain the whole topic succinctly without going into great detail? Sometimes it is difficult to use concise sentences but my colleague, Ralf Messing, put it perfectly, “Weather is something that is happening right now – it is raining. Climate is long-term.”
When it is put that way, it is easy to understand, isn’t it? But here is a slightly more detailed explanation:
Weather describes the physical condition of the atmosphere at a particular time in a particular place. These are sunlight, wind and rainfall.
Climate is not something that can be changed in the short term and these are averages recorded over at least 30 years.
Temperature anomalies are a part of climate change that we increasingly feel. On average, it is becoming warmer year on year. An anomaly refers to the discrepancy between the averages measured in previous periods. For those who are interested, this is better explained in a graphic from the German weather service. Simply follow the link.
But what difference does half a degree make to global warming? A lot if you look at a few figures!
1 Rise in the maximum annual temperatures in parts of Europe
– A rise in temperature of 1.5 degrees: +3-4 °C
– A rise in temperature of 2 degrees: +5 °C
2 Proportion of land with an increasing risk of flooding from rivers
– A rise in temperature of 1.5 degrees: 11%
– A rise in temperature of 2 degrees: 21%
3 Annual average sea level rise up to the year 2100
– A rise in temperature of 1.5 degrees: 4mm
– A rise in temperature of 2 degrees: 5.5mm
4 Proportion of coral reefs threatened with extinction
– A rise in temperature of 1.5 degrees: 70-90%
– A rise in temperature of 2 degrees: 98-99%
5 Proportion of insect groups which will lose more than half of their habitat
– A rise in temperature of 1.5 degrees: 6%
– A rise in temperature of 2 degrees: 18%
Source: SDW seminar – Expedition Carbon, Climate Protection for Forests and Wood, 31.10.2022
Green House Effect
Natural Green House Effect
What is the natural greenhouse effect?
“The greenhouse effect is the increase in temperature of the lower atmosphere as well as the ground due to the radiation effect from greenhouse gases*. While the atmosphere is relatively transparent to the short-wave radiation emitted by the sun, there are also the so-called greenhouse gases* which absorb the long-wave radiation emitted by the earth’s surface, the atmosphere and clouds towards outer space. Part of this long-wave radiation in the thermal infrared range is absorbed by the greenhouse gases* due to their spectral characteristics and re-emitted – both towards space and the Earth’s surface. The portion emitted towards the Earth’s surface leads to additional warming of the lower atmosphere and the earth’s surface.”
(Quelle: Deutscher Wetterdienst, 26.01.2023 – https://www.dwd.de/DE/service/lexikon/Functions/glossar.html?lv2=102672&lv3=731308)
Anthropogenic greenhouse effect
The anthropogenic greenhouse effect is based on the same principal of the natural greenhouse effect.
Only this time it is the man-made part of the greenhouse effect and global warming. The greenhouse gases* we increase allow less radiation into space than the natural greenhouse effect.
As a result: more heat is trapped, and the earth warms up.
PS: Without the greenhouse effect, it would be around -18 °C on Earth!
*Greenhouse Gases: The greenhouse gases are a mixture of CO2 (carbondioxide), H2O (Water) und O2 (Oxygen).
Causes of Climate Change
I know … we hear almost daily what the causes of climate change are, but it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself of them. If everyone makes even a small part of their lives a little more climate-friendly, it will make a great difference in reducing our CO2 production.
Just as we question business practices to work more efficiently and save money, we can also, for example, question one or two car journeys.
Energy Production by Burning Fossil Fuels
Manufacture and Transportation of Goods
Agriculture and Food
Passenger and Freight Transport
Apartment and House Building
Have you already thought about how many CO2-filled balloons we each produce on a daily basis? Not yet, right?
On average, each German citizen fills 6,000 balloons with CO2!
The Forest and CO2
Now the question is: What does the forest have to do with climate change?
To answer this question, we need to go back to a biology lesson and look at photosynthesis. In nature, photosynthesis is the most important metabolic process, enabling plants not only to build their biomass, but to produce oxygen, the basis of every living thing.
Photosynthesis takes place in the green parts of a plant or tree. The leaf cells are made up of small structures called chloroplasts which contain chlorophyll. With the help of sunlight, it splits carbon dioxide (CO2) and reassembles it anew. Glucose (sugar) and oxygen are produced. The oxygen is released into the atmosphere while the carbon ( C ) is stored by both plants and trees.
Here is the simplified formula for photosynthesis:
6CO2+6H2O+light energy -> C6H12O6(glucose)+6O2
The Composition of Wood
What is wood made up of? We have learnt that during photosynthesis, carbon ( C ) is stored in every plant and above all in trees. A tree is made up of carbon, water, hydrogen, nitrogen and mineral elements.
When a tree is felled, the carbon is not released but remains in the wood. As long as the wood is not burnt, no carbon is released. You can demonstrate this very well with balloons. The balloons represent the trees and contain the carbon. If we release two balloons from a forest, the carbon does not escape until the balloon is damaged. Conclusion: Carbon remains in the wood until it rots or is burned.
The forest and the trees reduce the CO2 level. One cubic metre of wood stores 1 tonne of CO2!
The forest is the biggest storer of CO2 on land. The forest stores 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon in its trees, dead wood, humus layer and soil – that represents 9.6 billion tonnes of CO2.
In comparison: Germany produced about 678 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2021.
Other Benefits of the Forest
The forest not only stores our CO2 but also has a number of other uses. Weather-wise, the forest has a cooling effect due to the trees’ local air filtration system – who hasn’t escaped to the forest this summer? When discussing the subject of climate, the forest plays an important role in controlling the water cycle, stores water and helps with cloud formation. The forest cleans the air, protects the soil to prevent erosion and stores carbon, as discussed above.
But that’s not all! Our forest is home to about 10,000 animal and plant species, helping to maintain biodiversity. For humans this means that the forest is also an important supplier of raw materials for our economy. This secures jobs in rural areas and provides us with food such as wild game and fruit.
But as we learnt during the covid lockdown, the forest provides us with another important use! Who doesn’t know the feeling of going into the forest for a walk or a hike? Importantly for humankind, the forest helps improve physical health and mental well-being – pure balm for the soul.
Influence of climate on the forest
If the forest has an influence on climate, then the climate also has an influence on the forest.
How does climate effect the forest? The soil dries out causing erosion. Erosion is the destructive effect of flowing water, ice and wind on the earth’s surface. Long dry spells and wet winters can also be dangerous for the forest.
Extreme weather increases the risk of storm damage as well as forest fires (the latter is devastating for our CO2 emissions!). In the short term the trees can unfortunately not react to their environment and the changing climate is creating favourable conditions for pests which destroy the forest and the trees.
Fun Fact: Tree discs can be used to determine whether favourable growing conditions prevailed in a given year.
Why is the rather discredited management of the forests therefore so important for climate change and the reduction of CO2?
Often people only see the obvious – managed means for us: the trees are felled. To be honest, before I started working for Wilhelm Eder, I had not given much thought to what “managed” really meant. Yes, trees are felled, but managed also means that trees are planted as they would normally be in everyday farming. In the forests this planting is intended to last for centuries. A tree takes many years to grow to maturity. That is why we affectionally call our oak barrels that we produce, Napoleon Oak. These oak trees were planted during the reign of Napoleon! The oak is therefore over 200 years old.
It is not easy to plan, plant and maintain a stock of trees for centuries. Management is very important for biodiversity, because diversity also includes trees and plants. And this in turn is very important for the preservation and diversity of the animal kingdom. In Germany, the following also applies: for every tree felled, a new one is planted!
Managed forests are important climate protectors! Annually they absorb about 127 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere in Germany!
Wooden Products as Storers of CO2
Wood is a slow growing raw material which we love to use. However, cultivation areas and growth are limited. It is therefore all the more important to use the wood (our storer of carbon) as unprocessed and efficiently as possible, over a longer period of time.
There is a very good solution which is the so-called cascade process. In this case, the wood is used, re-used and recycled as many times as possible within a ‘chain of use’.
That also means that the carbon is stored in wood products such as furniture, houses, tools and much more. Many (building) materials can be replaced by wood saving more CO2. For example, paper stores CO2 for 3 years, solid wood products for 30 years and wooden houses 50 years to several centuries.
Wooden products storage – 2 million tonnes CO2/year
As alternative building material – 30 million tonnes CO2/year
Energy substitution – 36 million tonnes CO2/year
Forest storage – 58 million tonnes CO2/year
What do we contribute to CO2 saving/storage?
I have gone a long way to get to this point. However all this information is important in order to understand how we, as a wood using company, can contribute to the saving and storing of CO2.
Our partner barrel makers and we only use timber from certified and sustainably managed forests. For every felled tree, we plant another tree. Apart from that, the Eder family is committed to reforestation, and in 2019 alone, planted about 5,000 trees. We have also adopted a lynx, called Lycka, and dedicated a barrel series of our own brand, FassStolz® to it.
As a company we try to use the valuable timber as optimally as possible and we also use the cascade method as much as we can. Cascade use of a raw material – in our case wood – means the raw material is used several times in succession to manufacture products.
In our case: old barrels are renewed!
For example, we recondition old, large wine barrels. We get requests from vineyards themselves who will use these barrels again or we buy them up, recondition them and sell them on. That means, for example, that a 100 year old barrel will be used for another 100 years or more and the CO2 in the wood will continue to be stored!
If the barrels can no longer be re-filled, their life is not yet over. These barrels make a beautiful decoration for the house or garden. As a simple decorative barrel, flower tub or a rain barrel, they continue to give us years of pleasure.
But we don’t stop there! We make items of furniture such as tables, shelving units and display units out of our barrels in our carpentry shop. They adorn tasting rooms, dining rooms, wine bars, supermarkets and more. Real treasures for enthusiasts and individuals. Each piece of furniture can be personalised.
What happens to the barrels which cannot be re-used as a decorative item or a piece of furniture? To some extent, individual staves are popular with DIY carpenters who make them into lamps, candle holders and much more. Otherwise, we try to re-use as much wood as possible for barrel storage stands, table tops and more.
It is therefore a continuous cycle of recycling and we can all think about what part we can play, no matter how small, in protecting our environment and climate.