Institute of

Forest Ecosystems

Sustainable forest ecosystem management and forest conservation

Forests should be close to nature - and productive. Their management should be beneficial - and environmentally sound. And forests should be prepared for climate change. In this conflict area our scientists are looking for solutions for forests and their management.

One of our primary responsibilities is the collection, validation, and storage of data on the ecological integrity of forest ecosystems. We engage in research activities ourselves but also coordinate standardized national and international inventories and monitoring activities, i.e., the National Forest Inventory (BWI), the National Forest Soil Survey (BZE), the International Co-operative Programme on Assessment and Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Forests (ICP Forests). From this data national and international reporting duties arise, e.g., the publication of reports on the condition of forests in Europe under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP), and the German Greenhouse Gas Inventories (THG). Our Forest Data Centre combines this inventory data with data from other sources – for instance climate information – and makes it openly available to scientists, policy makers, and the general public.

What makes us unique is that we not only specialize in such diverse fields as wildlife ecology, hydrology, soil science, forest yield science, eco-physiology, and vegetation ecology; but that we further interlink outcoming datasets in a standardized and transparent way. We see ourselves as a ‘cross-sectional institute’ in the cross-disciplinary field of forest ecology and value the cooperation with other Thünen Institutes and external national as well as international partners.

Our research focuses on the following questions:

  • What constitutes biodiversity in German forests and what is the impact of different forest management practices on forest biodiversity? How do short rotation agroforestry systems affect the biodiversity of landscapes?
  • How can we ensure that forest soils maintain their fertility and how can carbon sequestration be enhanced? Which forest management practices facilitate optimum carbon sequestration in forests?
  • Forests influence the amount and quality of groundwater, protect against soil erosion, and lead to even surface water runoff. Which management practices facilitate these processes? What is the effect of replacing conifer-dominated forests with hardwoods?
  • What constitutes suitable habitat for wildlife? Which habitat conditions avert forest damage by large game?

Based on our expert knowledge and research results, we provide political decision makers with key information on how to maintain healthy forests and the services they provide to us all.

Fields of Activity



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