Jan, you studied forestry, are our climate forester at Planted and have been involved with forests all your life. What makes the forest so special for you?
Jan Borchert: That's right, the forest is something very special for me. But not only for me, but for all plants, animals and people. Because it is a habitat, water reservoir, air filter and CO₂ reservoir - and simply beautiful! At least in most places. However, some forests are in a very bad way and so that our forest is still available for our children, we are converting the forest to be climate stable.
You briefly mentioned that the forest is not doing so well. How are our German forests doing?
Jan Borchert: Unfortunately, the climate crisis showed its very bad face in 2018, 2019 and 2020. It was far too warm and too dry. Moreover, the climate jumps from day to day. We humans can cope with this without any problems, but trees cannot. They stand in the blazing sun all day, whereas we sit in the shade of the treetops in doubt. In short: four out of five trees in Germany are in a bad way. Whole forests are dying. We have to react immediately at these points so that the next catastrophe does not occur.
Can our forests still be saved?
Jan Borchert: Naturally. Nature always finds a way and we help nature to heal itself quickly. It is important to understand that we at Planted are only giving impulses through our plantings. So, for example, we bring back tree species that used to be in the places and were cut down for spruces. Now the spruces are dying, but the "old" trees are no longer there. So nature cannot regenerate naturally at all. By having several species of trees, we provide the choice that is so important for nature, and in the end nature decides which trees can grow best and form an intact forest.
At Planted, it is important to us that the tree species planted form a climate-stable mixed forest. What does that mean?
Jan Borchert: Climatically stable mixed forests are formed by tree species that are known to get by with little water, tolerate great heat and withstand strong storms. This succeeds tree species that have deep roots, so-called taproots or heart roots. Or tree species that generally already grow well in the warmer regions of Germany and have also survived 2018-2020. These trees will withstand all the threats posed to the forest by the climate crisis.
Is reforestation absolutely necessary?
Jan Borchert: In some places in Germany, forests are left to their own devices. Also near one of our afforestation sites. There, a spruce forest already died in the early 2000s due to a storm. We can see that spruces are growing again in 85% of this "left to itself" area. What else? After all, there are only spruce seeds in the soil. Man has changed nature once and it is now no longer nature. We have to get back to nature by changing it again and, above all, to a climate-stable forest.
For a better understanding, I would like to give an example: in the case of an oil spill on the beach, no one would think of saying "let's leave it to nature, it will take care of itself". We humans have brought something to a place that is not good for nature there. And we have to remove it there and then let nature decide freely. I hope this example makes clear the necessity of converting a monoculture into a mixed forest.
Our forests are one of the most important natural carbon sinks we have in the world. The German forest alone relieves our atmosphere of 127 million tonnes of CO₂ every year. To what extent can afforestation and the Planted model counteract climate change?
Jan Borchert: Planting trees is just one of two pillars at Planted. It saves our forest in Germany and ensures that our children and grandchildren can also experience clean water, clean air and wild animals. Our second pillar is supporting international climate protection projects that also avoid CO₂ emissions. In this way, we provide the best solution for climate protection in Germany and worldwide. Companies and private customers can become climate neutral with us and plant trees in Germany - and I am proud of every commitment!