Overview - Forestry in Germany

Forestry in Germany

2. The historical importance of forests for the rural population

For the rural population forests had always been necessary to meet their basic needs. Timber for house construction, fuelwood, game, medical plants and, very important: food and litter for their pigs, goats, horses and cows. Until the 19th century these pasture needs and also the need for good construction timber led to a preference of oak instead of the naturally dominating beech. In the last two centuries then widely degraded forest land was reforested with spruce and pine for several reasons:
  • The seeds of this species are easier to store than acorns and beechnuts.
  • Afforestations with softwoods (therefore) are much cheaper than with hardwoods.
  • One bare grounds and exploited soils this softwood species grow much better.
  • Softwood timber better meets the needs of industrializing economy.

Due to the historical development today 46% of the forest area in Germany are still privately owned, mainly by farmers and their families. The average size of their parcels is only 5 hectares. Nearly no forest is owned by the industry.

A historical form of forest use: coppice with standards. The big trees (preferably oaks) produced acorns and a strong and durable timber for the widespread framewood houses. Those were heated with fuelwood from the coppice.

Next page: Hunting as a main factor influencing the forests in Germany

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