Greetings from Vogtland vol. 6 – Smallholder forestry: from demo plots to education trail.

4Our master students recently participated in a 4-day excursion in the Vogtland-region, and learned many different aspects of forestry and wood products through visits in local forest areas and companies. This blog post series, written by the participating students themselves, highlight some of these encounters!

During the 4-day excursion, we had opportunity to visit with some Saxony state rangers and learn from them about the situation with private land ownership.

This educational trail combined both public and private sector since extension activities is also a task of the Public Enterprise Sachsenforst. Here, through different management intensity plots the rangers can show to the owner the diverse forest management and the result of these interventions.

The forest rangers from Sachsenforst are in charge of giving advices to the forest owners. However, the owners has the final decision on what to do on their lands. Planned thinning, seasonal planting, and fences protection are the most common silvicultural management that are implemented in these plots. Occasionally they could clear cut the forest; but only up to two hectares since they need to reforest the same area so the area can continue be classified as “forest” according to the German law.

Coming from the tropics this point was very curious since two ha could be considered as “small conversion area”. Nevertheless, in temperate climates reforest two ha takes a lot of efforts taking into account the climate and soil conditions and money invested to ensure the final establishment of the plants.

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Education trail

Another interesting point was the “chemical fences”. In order to achieve a proper establishment, the plants need to photosynthesize, and to do this they need the leaves. However, like in every forest, there is a trophic chain. The deer eat the young leaves and to avoid this, a chemical substance is applied to the ground keeping the animals away. In addition, this method tends to be more profitable than investing in a physical fence for the plot area.

In addition, the financial part is also significant. The management costs are around 50 to 80 euros and the revenues can go up to 90 euros/m3 in a good year (last year the wood market was down and owner had to sell around 75 euros/m3). The owners prefer to plant sruce since it is cheaper, fast growing and have good revenues. Spruce also has a strong cultural significance to the German people because they see their forests as primarily spruce. But there are different risks like the “bark beetle” and the wind storms.

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Demo plot with forest intervention activities

If a forest owner wants to change to a more “natural succession” they can get financial aid where 75% of the cost will be subsidy for planting and fencing. Only for douglas fir, oak, beech to adapt to climate change and give stability to the forest. But there is a risk, if after 5 years the plantation is not yet established, the forest owners need to give back the money; so the risk is still high due to plague and climate (change) conditions.

The plots have in average two ha and there is no “visible” boundary which can lead to one owner cutting a tree in the wrong plot due to the plot shape and the small areas, which sounds comic because you would expect that there would not be land or natural resources conflicts.

Overall it was a very informative time and our thanks goes out to all the members of the Sachsenforst that took their time to teach us and give us this quick look into the way forests are managed in this part of Germany.

Funny anecdote: the press was with us during this excursion and we were news on the press (see picture).

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Tropical students in the local paper news

By: Andrea & Joshua

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