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10,000 trees for the Darmstadt Forest.

We have donated 10,000 climate-resistant seedlings for the reforestation of cleared areas in the Darmstadt Forest. We did it because it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to counteract the environmental destruction being caused by climate change. We talked to Forestry Officer Hendrik Barthelmes about the joint planting campaign, current challenges in forestry management and his work as a forest educator with our trainees.

Hendrik Barthelmes during the forest tour with our trainees.

Hello, Hendrik. In January 2022, HessenForst planted the seedlings we donated on a 1.3 hectare area of forest near Darmstadt. Can you explain the background to the reforestation work?
Forests all over Germany are struggling with the effects of the past two dry years. Trees have died in many places due to drought damage caused by a lack of water in the soil and strong sunlight. We at HessenForst have made it a top priority to turn our forests into mixed forests that can withstand the future effects of climate change.


How many trees are currently lacking in the forests of the Darmstadt Forestry Department?
No one can put an exact figure on the number. This is partly due to the dry conditions which have, in many cases, initiated dieback processes in our trees in the first place. This situation is evident in some forest regions – for example in Darmstadt's West Forest – so we are facing very serious challenges.


Which new species of trees are now being planted?
The choice of the species of tree to be planted always depends on the particular location. Against the backdrop of climate change, oaks, hornbeams, limes, Douglas firs and wild service trees are the current hopes for reforestation here in the region. Hornbeams, for example, are highly tolerant regarding the availability of water and can also cope with extreme climatic conditions. Douglas firs also cope well with drought. And wild service trees are true marvels for nature conservation and biodiversity. This species loves warmth, its flowers are a great source of food for insects, and many birds like to eat its fruit. So you can see, there are many reasons for planting the different species of trees.


In addition to the damage caused by climate change, storms are also taking their toll on forests. In 2018, storm "Fabienne" caused major damage in the Darmstadt Forest.
Initially, I was sad and shocked by what the forces of nature had done here. But then I quickly realised that the storm had created space for something new. I think you always have to see the opportunities that come with such events. Since the storm, the new light reaching the forest floor has given many small trees the opportunity to mature into the impressive trees that their predecessors were. Nevertheless, we are facing a mammoth task.


A "mammoth task"? In what way?
We are only now feeling the first effects of climate change, which we humans are all partly to blame for. These early signs are already having devastating consequences for our native ecosystems. We need to work together in times like these, to join forces to preserve an environment that can be lived in by future generations. Sadly, not everyone has understood that yet.

It is therefore all the more important that some are willing to set good examples and also get involved themselves. It can be done in several ways: participating in planting campaigns, conscious consumer behaviour, using durable wood products and through cooperation between the private sector and the state, as is now the case with Riese & Müller and HessenForst.

Planting trees means thinking in the long term.

There are no quick fixes in reforestation. Results only become visible in generations to come, but they will have a positive impact for a long time to come. We want to pass this awareness on to our trainees as well. In autumn 2021, we therefore went on a hike together with them and Hendrik Barthelmes through the storm-damaged forest. Our trainees were then able to see for themselves the complex interactions between humans, nature and the climate.


In addition to your work as a forester, you also work as a forest educator and give forest tours.
Yes, forest education had been part of my forestry studies and my forestry internship with the State of Hesse. In addition to acquiring technical expertise, we foresters also learn how to communicate forestry-related issues to people who otherwise have little contact with them. We offer guided tours for all age groups, but our special target group is young people.


Could you tell us more about it?
Children and young people are our future. If they grow up already aware of the issues connecting forests, climate and the environment, we can succeed in stopping climate change and preserving the environment. Spending time in the forest and in nature has also been proven to be beneficial for the development of young people. So if we succeed in getting young people excited about the forest through forest education activities, it is good for the environment, but also good for the young people themselves.


What does a forester's typical working day look like? People generally imagine that foresters are out in the forest all day...
(Laughing) The image of the old man, with moustache, dachshund on a leash and shotgun over his shoulder is long outdated. Foresters can be any gender and are regarded as managers of the forest. We plan, coordinate and monitor the management of the forest. This includes harvesting timber, nature conservation measures, monitoring compliance with forest laws and conducting and supervising hunting. Then there is forest education, i.e. guided tours for kindergartens, school classes and adults, public relations work and much more. All this also involves a certain amount of documentation, of course. So you could say that we foresters spend about 60% of our working time in the forest and about 40% at our desks.


Many thanks for the interview, Hendrik.

  • About the person

    Hendrik Barthelmes (28) was born and raised in Offenbach am Main. After studying Forestry at the University of Applied Forest Sciences Rottenburg am Neckar, he completed his one-year internship with the State of Hesse. His training centre was the Forestry Department of Darmstadt, in the Kranichstein district. Hendrik is now responsible for forest education and sponsorship. In October 2021, he was appointed Forestry Officer.

Planting area and forest tour