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Forest monitoring – more than just data

Nicole Wellbrock, Tanja Sanders and Kai Schwärzel | 25.05.2022

WO Institute of Forest Ecosystems

How are the forests in Germany and Europe doing? We answer this question with a coordinated system of different monitoring programmes.

The Level II monitoring includes ‒ partly in high temporal resolution ‒ the collection of data on deposition, soil solution, climate, air quality, ground vegetation, tree increment, phenology, litterfall, and visible ozone injuries.                                                  

The German-wide forest monitoring is a system of repeated extensive grid-based assessments (forest soil survey and forest condition survey, Level I) and intensive forest monitoring (Level II). The surveys are executed in close cooperation with the German federal states.   The extensive monitoring (Level I) consists of the forest soil () and the forest condition survey . For the soil survey the systematic 8x8 km grid leads to roughly 2000 assessment points; thus providing a representative data set for Germany. This makes it possible to evaluate the forest condition and its changes. What are the levels of soil acidification and heavy-metal pollution? How efficient is forest liming? We can answer questions like these Germany-wide for any period over the last 20 years. The forest condition survey is carried out annually on a 16x16 km grid providing detailed information on the development of crown parameters.  

The intensive forest monitoring (Level II) aims, with its 13 surveys on 68 permanent plots, to investigate cause-effect relationships. Therefore parameters like deposition, growth, crown condition, nutritional condition, and soil solution are continuously measured. Complementary meteorology, biodiversity, and litterfall are assessed regularly. Our analyses show how tree growth and crown condition influence each other and how they both react to nitrogen input and drought.

Data collecting of intensive forest monitoring

ICP Forests is one of the largest coherent environment observation networks in the world (around 6000 Level I and 500 Level II assessment points in Europe).   After a quality assessment, the extensive monitoring data are incorporated into a structured database. They can be used for ecosystem analysis and process-driven modelling.   The Programme Co-ordinating Centre (PCC) of ICP Forests is responsible for the programme administration and organization, and the data management. The PCC also edits the extensive ICP Forests Manual and publishes scientific papers and brochures for policy consultancy and the general public .  


Forests in (climate) change: In worse condition despite a wet winter

Forests in Germany, especially the main tree species spruce, beech, pine and oak are getting worse. Monitoring data from the Forest Condition Survey show that there have also been bad times for forests in recent decades due to storm events, acid rain or infestations by harmful insects. Since 2018, however, climate change-induced persistent drought has led to unprecedented levels of damage, which the precipitation in 2023 has hardly changed.

Forests in (climate) change: In worse condition despite a wet winter

Trees twitter to bring forests online

The forest is online: Researchers from the European collaborative network "STReESS" enable trees to report in real time how climate change is affecting them.

Trees twitter to bring forests online

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