The chainsaws can be heard from afar. Eva Ritter, 29, puts her dirty Škoda on the edge of the forest, puts on a helmet and pulls a safety vest over her elegant cardigan. "From now on, watch out," she says. "The forest workers are felling sick spruces attacked by bark beetles."
Spruce is the most common tree in Augsburger Stadtwald – the second largest municipal forest in Germany. As a deputy plant manager, Eva Ritter is responsible for 7,700 hectares of forest: an area the size of Lake Chiemsee. In recent years, conspicuously many spruces had to be cut down because of illness, she says. "Spruce trees need moderate temperatures and a lot of water, and very dry summers like the past are as dangerous for this species as a human stroke," says Ritter. The trees are now weakened. "There the pests have an easy game."
It is the end of September, but the thermometer shows summery 27 degrees. A brimstone whirrs among the trees. The forest workers are sweating in their protective suits. Ritter tears off a piece of bark from the felled spruce. Bark beetles have muzzled labyrinths out of passages – disrupting the water supply to the tree. Therefore, the needles in the crown are dry and reddish. "This spruce caught it in its prime, at just under 60," says Ritter. "These trees can actually be 200 years old, but only a few can manage that now."
Eva Ritter is convinced that the very hot summer of 2018 was indeed an extreme case, but also a preview of the direction in which the climate in Germany is going in the long term. "Experts believe that the climate in Augsburg in 2080 will be the same as in today's Croatia," she says. "That's why today we have to plant trees that are suitable for future conditions."
Thinking 100 years ahead of you every day
The thin teenage trees that grow between the old trees are therefore not all spruce shoots, but also, for example, maples or wild cherries that better cope with dryness. Some of the trees grew naturally, others planted the foresters. "Nature has always adapted to change, but we need to help with such dramatic changes as climate change," says Ritter.