We were fortunate enough to have an outdoor field trip in these strange and trying times. Well, obviously, things were not normal this time around. We had to be concerned not only about previsit preparation and the trip itself, but also about the COVID19 hygienic concept and regulations. Thus, considering all the necessary measures, we began our educational and memorable trip to municipal forest enterprise of Zittau.
We all met each other at the meeting point, Dresden HBF, on day 1 of the tour. It was apparent that all of us were excited for the journey that awaits us. We got even more excited to be on the steam train bypassing stunning landscapes beside us. More so, it was autumn, the best time of the year; the whole forest was golden and dreamy, it felt crisp and surreal! We walked through the dreamy forest, followed by orientation from Dr. Auch about the forest functions and its eco-tourism aspects, up to our residence where we would be staying for the next few days. Upon arrival in our hostel, we relaxed a bit and then we prepared questions per strategy group for the planned meeting with Master Forest Officer (MFO) of Zittau forest enterprise, Mrs. Bültemeier, which was scheduled to be the day after. We were divided into three groups: Biodiversity conservation, Timber production, and Eco-tourism depending on our interests.
It was already time for dinner! Probably, the best time of the day! We were divided into groups for meal preparation and thus everyone prepared their own cultural food. The food looked delicious and exotic, and tasted even better!
Next morning, we prepared breakfast and packed lunch for the field work. We walked about an hour in the autumnal forest having a bit of chit-chat and laughter along the way. We met our professors at the meeting point where we were meant to get some insights of Zittau forest. Professor Wagner explained to us about the tree species, climatic condition and history of the forest, and other components of the forest. He explained how precipitation decreased in the last 10 years to 50% that led to 700 mm precipitation per year at the moment. He also explained about the importance of dead wood and woody debris on nutrient availability which ultimately helps in biodiversity conservation. There were mainly 5-7 species in the forest; Spruce (Norway Spruce native to central Europe) was the most common species in the site. We could also observe species like Scots pine, Birch, European larch, Sycamore, Willow, and Ash respectively. Professor Wagner and Professor Kapp thoroughly explained silvicultural characteristics, commercial value, and ecological characteristics of all these tree species. It was a great learning experience! They were not only articulate and enthusiastic, the way they gave minute details of the forest functions was commendable. For an instant, they explained to us about microsites and the reason for mosses growing on stones. Mosses grow on stones because they are generally weak competitors and don’t have roots. They get precipitation and moisture from the atmosphere and due to their great ability to absorb moisture, they also help in germination of Spruce.
Dr. Auch then briefly showed us how concentric sampling is done. Our task next was to do inventory. Since we already had a preparatory exercise and lectures on handling instruments and doing an inventory while we were still in Tharandt, we smoothly carried out inventory based on our groups. The main purpose of the field work was to make sure each and every student understands the concept of inventory using concentric sampling method and prepare themselves to implement these first-hand knowledges on their professional career. The motivation, humility, and enthusiasm of Dr. Auch to make sure no one gets lost and understands the concept is really appreciable. It was thus a very much productive and fruitful day!
Time for dinner again! Having the delicious food followed by washing up, we made some time for relaxation. Also, it was a great pleasure to see our dancing queen and king Paula & Mateo grooving into Latino music.
We prepared our breakfast on the third day of the trip as usual. The plan next was to welcome Mrs Bültemeier in our hostel which was followed by her presentation on municipal forest enterprise of Zittau. We thank Mrs Bültemeier for providing us detailed information of municipal forest enterprise of Zittau. She started with an explanation on the history of how forest was nationalised. She then gave brief information of climatic events like drought which caused stress for conifers. She added, when conifers come under stress they serve as a good habitat for bark beetles. Not only were there environmental impacts in the forest such as impact on the upper storey crown of confers, in the last 50 years, the forest had to pass through many political changes as well. She then explained the objective of forest management in Zittau forest which was to achieve sustainability followed by economic returns. We also got information on several forest functions such as soil, water, air, microclimate, cultural, silvicultural, and recreational functions respectively. Dr. Auch thanked Mrs Bültemeier on our behalf as well for giving us time and providing insights about the forest.
After having lunch, we did some brainstorming on forest management strategies depending on our groups: Biodiversity conservation, Eco-tourism, and Timber production. Each group focused on their management objective and brought out excellent ideas on how forest can be managed in a way that encompasses higher timber production, preserves biodiversity, and facilitates eco-tourism and recreational aspects of the forest. We discussed and prepared posters for each strategy. It was a long day already! The dinner was appetizing that day too! Everyone looked jovial despite having a long and tiresome day. 😊
Fourth day of the trip was a bit interesting and intriguing. We were about to use Sim4P – An Excel Application for Calculation of Forest Management Planning, depending on our groups. Sim4P basically serves as a planning tool to carry out natural and financial forestry operation planning over several planning periods. It is developed in an Excel and the data to be used in it are the data obtained from forest inventory. Raw data cannot be used directly in Sim4P thus we were provided the data already. We all were given the same data but we had to play around with the data in a way that best suits our management objective. Group Timber production presented how clear cut is important to get greater economic returns, Biodiversity conservation group focused on preserving core tree species to preserve biodiversity, and Eco-tourism group were insisting on small clear cuts followed by selection felling to preserve broadleaf species that are visually attractive, particularly during autumn. We are grateful to our tutor Neuhoff for introducing and giving lectures on Sim4P in Tharandt and Zittau as well. Moreover, Dr. Auch’s motivation to help students learn the software even late in the evening is applaudable.
The dinner time was enjoyable as usual, it was even more special because it was the last day of our stay in Zittau.
On our fifth and last day, we prepared breakfast and packed lunch as usual. We then gave a presentation of the results that we analysed the day before. Everyone gave an excellent presentation of their work. Mrs Bültemeier was there to give her skilled and experienced feedback on our work which we found very much realistic and helpful. We then departed towards the main station and our trip ends here.
The effort of Dr. Auch, Professor Wagner, Professor Kapp, Neuhoff, and Kirill, to make our trip rewarding and enjoyable is praiseworthy. Moreover, during this special circumstance, our professors paid special attention to hygienic concepts such as wearing a face covering, maintaining a distance, cleaning of instruments after every use, and the likes. We are grateful to have such an amazing experience and memories that we will cherish life-long! 😊
I am Shrijana Poudel, currently pursuing my masters in Tropical Forestry at TU Dresden. I love jotting down my thoughts every now and then!