Due to Tesla cutting trees for gigafactory project in Brandenburg, just as much forest must be replanted elsewhere in the country. This is how the Landeswaldgesetz provides. At the beginning of the year, the US electric car manufacturer Tesla had 150 hectares of pine forest felled in Grünheide for its planned factory. The Brandenburg Area Agency has signed a contract with Tesla and located 143 hectares across Brandenburg for the new afforestation. The largest areas are near Brandenburg.

On about 40 hectares – among others near Bad Saarow, Teltow-Fläming and in south of Brandenburg an der Havel – the first young trees are already growing. The remaining afforestation areas are to be planted in winter 2020. This is to prevent the young trees from shrinking again in the increasingly dry spring and summer months.

Competition for light and water

Most of the areas are former fields – but this poses dangers. “In agricultural areas, we always have the problem of soil compaction due to the vehicles that have previously driven over these areas,” says Ralf Kätzel from the Landeskompetenzzentrum Forst in Eberswalde. Another problem is the so-called grassing. “The grass grows faster than the trees. They then compete for nutrients, light and water.” One solution could be so-called pioneer trees, such as birch or poplar. They grow particularly quickly and provide shade for slower growing trees.

Birds of prey to protect the trees

There are other dangers lurking in former fields: Mice live there and like to nibble on tree roots, which can be dangerous for young trees. But there are also solutions for this: “Perches for birds of prey will be installed on the new afforestation areas to keep the mouse population down,” explains Martin Szaramowicz from the Brandenburg Area Agency. Fences are also supposed to protect the young trees against wild animals.

Forests for the next century

Forests planting is not exactly easy. After all, a complete ecosystem must be pounded out of the ground. “A lot has to work,” says Martin Szaramowicz. And sometimes things go wrong. For example, it was necessary to plant a second time on a piece of forest near Baruth in Teltow-Fläming because the first trees had all died. Probably because of too little rain, Szaramowicz suspects.

But despite the adversity, Ralf Kätzel from the Forest Competence Center is optimistic. “I see the great opportunity to convert poor-quality agricultural landscapes into habitats for birds, insects and small mammals,” says Kätzel. Such forests would have a perspective “well beyond this century”.

Such species-rich ecosystems arise primarily in so-called mixed forests, in which coniferous and deciduous trees grow. In addition to the pine trees typical of Brandenburg, which also populated the Tesla property, deciduous trees are also to be planted in the new forests. “There are oaks, beeches, a few types of linden, elm trees, birches,” says Szaramowicz. About half of the new forests are said to consist of deciduous trees.

Drought summers endanger young forests

In the coming years, the area agency wants to regularly monitor how the new trees develop. “Given the extremes in 2018 and 2019 , I don’t know how far we can get with our experience,” says Martin Szaramowicz. He estimates that after ten years at the latest, his agency can hand over the new forests to the landowners as “secured crops”.

Beyond the statutory target, Tesla has announced that it will further ecologically upgrade existing pine forests with deciduous trees.