Institute of

Forest Ecosystems

Forest Ecology

Devices for the measurement of stemflow, litterfall and deposition
Devices for the measurement of stemflow, litterfall and deposition (© Thünen-Institut für Waldökosysteme)

Forests play an important role in the landscape water balance. They influence groundwater and drinking water supply in quality and quantity. Air pollutants affect the health and growth of forests and affect the diversity of plants and wildlife. The current predictions make an adaptation of forests to the climate of tomorrow necessary. New management systems such as short rotation coppice plantations for woodfuel affect biodiversity in the landscape. These are the main issues we focus our research and consulting work on for the federal government.

Forests influence the availability and quality of water resources such as ground- and drinking water thereby determining the water regime of whole landscapes. Decades-long research at field study sites and at the experimental stations Britz and Postluch have substantially advanced the now generally accepted knowledge that the amount of water recharge depends decisively on tree species, age, and forest management.

Forests need to adapt to future climate conditions for their survival. We study the acclimatization potential of young trees in our field laboratory ‘Drylab’ and with greenhouse experiments and also assess the growth and vitality of mature trees and forest stands in the field. From impact analyses of weather conditions on tree reaction, we gain insights into the stress tolerance of forests with the aim to evaluate management options that enhance the adaptive capacity of forests to the progressing climatic changes.

A further consequence of climate change is the increase of forest fire. Early fire detection is a challenge that we respond to with the development of innovative forest fire sensor technology. To use these sensors and other instruments permanently in the field, we develop technical solutions for autonomous energy supply systems in cooperation with other scientists and industrial partners.

Changing environmental conditions and different management systems affect the biodiversity in forests landscapes. With data from our own surveys and from forest monitoring we study the effects of different environmental variables and forest management alternatives on forest biodiversity and assess their implications for forest conservation.