Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

Forest management: Resilience to fires

More frequent droughts can lead to an increase in the number of forest fires in Germany. Together with other KIT institutes, ITAS wants to contribute to a better understanding of their dynamics and to making the forest more resistant.
Das Projekt „ErWiN“ sucht Baumarten, die das Risiko für Waldbrände verringern können.
The “ErWiN” project is looking for tree species that can reduce the risk of forest fires. (Picture: pixabay)

In 2018, 2,349 hectares of forest burned in Germany – the largest forest damage caused by fire in 26 years. Scientists from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology now want to investigate how vulnerable areas can be identified, the risk of fires reduced, and burnt forests reforested sustainably. The FNR (Agency for Renewable Resources) is funding the project “Erweiterung des ökologischen, waldbaulichen und technischen Wissens zu Waldbränden (ErWiN)” (Enhancing ecological, silvicultural, and technical knowledge on forest fires) with a total of around 1.5 million euros.

Field research and laboratory analysis

As part of the project consortium, Somidh Saha, forest scientist and project leader at ITAS, will investigate in burnt forest areas in Brandenburg how different tree species regenerate after a fire. “We want to find out whether and after how long the trees produce new shoots and how efficient they still are,” explains Saha.

In addition to field research, ITAS analyses in special greenhouses how seeds and seedlings of the most common German tree species react to simulated fires as well as to heat and drought stress. ITAS’s partner is the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research – Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU) of KIT in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Mixed forests instead of monocultures

Forestry can use this basic knowledge for future forest management in order to make the forest as a whole more resilient: “It is generally known that mixed forests can withstand fire better than monocultures,” says Saha. Determining which combination of tree species occurring in Germany is best suited to reduce the risk of large-scale fires therefore leads to a significant gain in knowledge.

The overall project is managed by the Institute of Geography and Geoecology (IFGG) of KIT. IFGG researchers will transfer simulations of forest fires from the USA or the Mediterranean region to local conditions. Subsequently, they will identify measures to efficiently reduce fire risks. (30.06.2020)

Further information: