Published on Wednesday by the environment ministry, the study of 1,176 trees in mid-August 2019 found that 50% of the sample trees were dead of severely damaged.
Of the remaining sample, 37% were mildly damaged and only 13.4% showed no signs of damage. Beech trees suffered most with 65% dead or severely damaged, up from up from 35% in 2018. 51% of oak tops and leaves fell into this category in 2019. The report author blames severe water stress for causing early shedding of leaves, a self-preservation mechanism used by trees.
The report said:
“Prolonged use of this mechanism weakens trees and makes them vulnerable to pest attacks. The rapid increase in spruce dieback following bark beetle attacks is an example of this phenomenon of weakening tree vitality caused by extreme weather conditions, so it is important to work to combat climate change responsible for these climatic extremes, limit air pollution, restore degraded stands and improve the resilience of forest ecosystems, i.e. their natural capacity to better manage stress situations.”
The reality of the climate crisis began to hit home in Luxembourg after it suffered a series of extremely hot summers. Luxembourg experienced three heatwaves over the summer of 2019, with the mercury hitting 40°C on 25 July.
The government proposes to counter the situation through a raft of measures, namely the implementation of sustainable forest management such as soil protection, water and air filtration, biodiversity and recreational environment conservation, CO2 capture and it is also working on a new legal framework for forests. The measures are contained in the Klima-Bonus programme, which aims to boost forest environment diversity and reduce the negative impacts of logging through awareness raising.
Financial assistance will also be adapted to incentivize landowners to restore forest eco-systems which may be damaged by climate change. In future, the government plans for a “significant” tree planting effort to compensate for the loss of spruce trees to the bark beetle infestation. To encourage biodiversity, the government will in 2020 launch a tool accessible for forest owners which helps them select the tree varieties to be planted based on soil types.