SUTROFOR field school goes Saxony: What comes after the spruce?

This year the SUTROFOR joint summer module was different from previous years. As per our initial schedule we were supposed to go to Nepal for our summer module but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic situation made this impossible and at the end of June, the administration proposed alternative solutions – 1) field work in Wales, 2) field work in Saxony, 3) field work in French Guyana and 4) desk assignment- to move forward with the course. We chose for the field work in Saxony and we are delighted to share our experiences to all.

Our program was scheduled from 15th to 26th of August. We were total 12 students from 10 different countries participating in the program. Based on our interest, we were divided into 3 research groups: “Analyze and elaborate the past, current and assumed future contribution of Spruce (Picea abies) to European Forestry and the existing and emerging policy responses from the perspective of i) a silviculture ii) forest enterprises and owners and iii) timber industry. On the 15th August, we were welcomed by Dr. Eckhard Auch at Gästehaus am Backofenfelsen, which was our home for next 10 days. In the evening, we were welcomed by Franziska and Gabriela – coordinators of our summer module course- with beautiful Dresden city tour and we got to know about the history of the city and the buildings from them. Our first study site was Kronospan timber processing plant which is the world’s leading manufacturer of wood-based panels. We learnt about the different products and process of manufacturing the wood-based products in the plant. On the same day, we visited a private forest enterprise – Wettin forest enterprise. The discussions were made on the strategies to maintain the wood supply and what can be done to cope up with the bark beetle problems in the Norway spruce.

Group photo in Kronospan timber processing plant.

On the third day, forest scientist Dr. Ulrich Pietzarka, custodian of forest botanical garden, Tharandt familiarized us with the tree species composition in the Botanical Garden, Tharandt. We learnt about the educational history of the Royal Saxon Academy of Forestry, currently the forest department of TU, Dresden. Next day our destination were the Ore Mountains where we discussed about the ecological shifts and challenges for forest management. The excursion was guided by the members of the NGO Grüne Liga Osterzgebirge (Green League of Eastern Ore Mountains) and senior employees of the Forest District Office Bärenfels. Jens Weber, head of Grüne Liga Osterzgebirge, gave us the general introduction about the place and ecological conditions and vegetation of semi-natural mixed beech forests, and traditional cultural landscapes. We did a small visit to Saxon state forest and the Forest District Manager, Dr. Sven Irrgang explained about the historical background and challenges in spruce-dominated forest stands (Hegelshöhe and Schilfbachtal), strategies and measures of the state forest department to cope up with the challenges of bark beetles and climate change.

Visit to Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge)

On the 19th August, we were guided by Christian Kubat, a national park guide, through the national park “Sächsische Schweiz” with a focus on close-to-nature management system. Later on, this day, Marcel conducted small group exercises on transect analysis where we analyzed the degree of hemeroby, as well as its impact on biodiversity, infrastructure, governance and land use.

Our last field excursion was the Saxon State Ministry for Energy, Climate Protection, Environment and Agriculture (Section Forestry) on the 24th August which was the most informative session where we discussed forest situation, timber market. Hr. Sebastian Förster, expert from the Ministry explained about the forest structure, ownerships, and authority structures in Saxony. We discussed about the bark beetle calamities and measures to cope of with this problem in private and state forests. Hr. Hendrik Scholz (Sachenforst, Holzmarkt) presented the timber market situation in Saxony.

Besides our field excursion, Franziska and Gabriela arranged different extra activities which were very adventurous and we enjoyed a lot. Thanks to both of you and we appreciate your effort to manage everything on very short notice. Paddling on the Elbe River, though the day was not suitable for paddling due to windy, cold weather, it was such a great experience. Caves tour at Pfaffenstein was the most funny and adventurous one which was little bit problematic for the big people and they had to return back as they could not pass through the exit. Rock climbing at Klettergarten Plauenscher Grund, beer tasting and farewell BBQ were other mesmerizing events. On the last day of our trip, 26th August, we bid farewell to Saxony and left for our respective home in Copenhagen.

By Shistata (from Nepal) and Mehvish (from Pakistan)

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