Spruce Bark Beetles and Deforestation

Germany

The European spruce bark beetle and the damage it leaves in its wake is a massive issue in the German forestry industry. The tiny bug has presented major problems, and due to the rising temperatures and frequent droughts, spruce trees are weakened and more susceptible to an infestation. Between 2018 and 2020, there was a six-fold increase in trees destroyed by pests, causing financial damage and disrupting the forest's biodiversity.

Our Crowddroner Jan Wagener mapped this forest next to his hometown in Germany. His map effectively shows the damage caused by the malicious bark beetle. The conifer forests have survived bark beetle attacks for thousands of years thanks to the trees' effective defense mechanism. When beetles burrow into their bark, trees release a sap rich with volatile toxic chemicals to flush the insects and prevent them from sending pheromone signals mustering other beetles. But in recent years, prolonged and intense droughts have weakened the trees' defenses. Trees can't produce enough sap without sufficient water, and hot temperatures cause further moisture loss and become easier to overwhelm.

The images below show the difference between a satellite image taken ten years ago and a recent drone image showing the loss of spruce trees in this area. This is truly devastating as this is a small example of a significant problem affecting European forests.

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* Estimations based on typical resolutions

The figures are stark. Around 32 million cubic meters of wood damaged by insects had to be removed from Germany’s forests in 2019. That total is three times higher than the 11 million cubic meters that were destroyed in 2018, and an almost six-fold increase on the 6 million cubic meters felled due to pests in 2017.

Forestry Journal and German Federal Statistical Office

The tangible financial repercussions are that the foresters and landowners must decide which trees to sell. And with a decreasing number of viable trees, smaller-diameter trees and tree stands on steep slopes or with high logging costs will be left to die because the cost will be higher than the income from selling the timber.

Check out our storymap on the spruce bark beetle and how we can fight it with drone and high resolution data.

Jan Wagener

Drone operator

Jan is a Crowddroning operator based in Germany. He submitted these images as part of the Drones 4 Sustainable Forestry and Urban Green Challenge by GLOBHE to highlight local community challenges in forests in his home country. He is an experienced drone operator and a valuable member of GLOBHE's Crowddroning community.