The timber tree species spruce forms a flat root system in many locations. This and its winter vegetation result in a high susceptibility to windthrow and windbreakage. The stability of the Douglas fir, which has deeper roots, has not yet been fully researched. Whilst it can withstand more extreme drought than spruce, climate change means that the risk of long dry periods and severe storms is increasing. Through the rise in temperature and shorter periods of frost, the living conditions of many tree pests are improving, enabling them to produce a further generation each year. Solely adapted, healthy forest stands will be able to continue to survive under the intensified environmental conditions.
In recent years, silvicultural measures have therefore been undertaken in many places in order to increase the overall stability of forest stands: Increasing the proportion of deciduous trees, converting to mixed forest and, therefore, single-tree cultivation - also for conifers. This leads to the formation of large tree crowns and wider annual rings. The knot frequency increases whilst the wood density decreases. The result is reduced strength, as a consequence of which the harvested raw wood no longer fulfills the sorting criteria which currently apply for high-quality wood products such as construction timber with a high static load-bearing capacity.
So how can the supply of construction timber and other high-quality softwood products be safeguarded in times of climate change? An interdisciplinary research team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut WKI, the HAWK Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaft und Kunst Hildesheim/Holzminden/Göttingen (university for applied sciences and arts) and the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (University of Göttingen) is addressing this question in detail.
The scientists are thereby pursuing two approaches: Firstly, they are developing a silviculture concept for conifers which is adapted to climate change in order to ensure the highest possible raw-timber quality in the future. Secondly, they are trying to optimize the sorting processes in such a way that even low-grade raw wood can be used for sophisticated wood-based products.