Near-natural mountain forests in the low mountain ranges and the Alps in Germany, Austria and Switzerland protect against erosion, flood, drought, falling rocks and avalanches. Together with the bogs they are important for the climate. The forests clean the air and store carbon. Natural mountain forest communities are biocenoses for very many species and are therefore very important for the biodiversity. They are valuable rest and recreation areas and economic goods for man. More than half of Germany consists of mountain areas, which are largely forested.
The situation of the forest in Germany
For decades, the forests have been weakened by high pollution from traffic, industry and agriculture. Besides the damages on leaves and needles of the trees, the pollutants acidify soils long-term and damage the fine root system of the trees. The forest ecosystems are also damaged by the massive nitrogen fertilization of the fields. Excessive hoofed game populations (roe deer, red deer and chamois in the mountains) are still eating too many seedlings. Because of hunting and forestry errors, many forests are labile monocultures, which are especially susceptible to windthrow and insects. The impacts of climate change have been putting extra stress on forest ecosystems for years. Lacks in the forestry practice such as the overuse of the stocks and the soil compaction damage the forest communities explicitly.
We have to do everything necessary to cut back the stress on forest ecological systems and to stabilize our forests. The forest can adapt itself to a change in environment only long-term. Natural forest communities are the best starting point for that to happen. Transforming a forest in favor of indigenous tree species as well as an ecological forest use and hunting practice increase the variety and stability of what have been non-natural forests. Furthermore, according to the German National Strategy on Biodiversity (2007), up to the year 2020 the economic use of 5% of the forest area respectively 10% of the forest area belonging to the public sector has to be stopped so that in these areas a forest development can be established that is not affected by man. Then, in a sensible system important conclusions for the economic forests can be drawn from the natural processes and shelters for threatened animal and plant species can be created.
What is the Bergwaldprojekt aiming at?
The Bergwaldprojekt’s aim is to protect, to conserve, to tend the forest, especially the mountain forest and the cultural landscapes, and to help people understand the connections in nature, the issues of the forest and the dependence of man on these sources of life. That is why the Bergwaldprojekt works with volunteers in organized project weeks in forests, bogs and open land biotopes at various places in Germany. The goals of the project weeks are to
> conserve the various functions of the ecosystems,
> make participants aware of the importance of our natural sources of life and that they are threatened,
> convince the general public of a sustainable use of the natural resources.
Under expert instruction, for example, young stands are planted and tended, soil erosion control systems are installed, steep tracks and paths are constructed, biotopes are cultivated and bogs and brooks are re-naturalized. The non-profit works are implemented in public forests and nature reserves in cooperation with local forestry and conservation authorities only. Every project week is planned, organized and supervised on site by an experienced and skilled forester employed by Bergwaldprojekt. This project leader is supported by trained group leaders that work in an honorary capacity.
Bergwaldprojekt offers project weeks for adults and school pupils, parent-child projects and integrated weeks as well as corporate-volunteer-days. Bergwaldprojekt is financed by sponsoring memberships and private donations, fees of the project partners, fees of companies as well as funding from governmental and non-governmental organizations.
With its concrete work the Bergwaldprojekt wants to contribute to
• he conservation of the indigenous forests’ biodiversity and the establishment of a socially compatible and ecological use of the forest,
• the achievement of a social change to a climate and nature compatible sustainable future lifestyle long-term and lasting..