Now you must fight the Blueberry Forest as well. The newspaper reported that the small bush is not doing well free word From the south of Thuringia a few days ago: “Instead of lively and green ramifications, there are platforms in various locations that are reddish-brown in color or behind them are completely withered gray fields.” Several factors affect the berries, such as the Lazy Grete, an insect that lays its eggs on the underside of leaves. Or excessively aggressive collectors. Another reason: the persistent drought in the region.
In eastern and northern Germany in particular, there has been little rain in recent months. In March, a third of the usual precipitation fell across Germany. According to the German Weather Service (DWD), this March was one of the driest months since weather records began. Meteorologists wrote by way of explanation that the blame “were areas of widespread high pressure, which in some areas, especially in the Northeast, caused the rain gauge to literally dust.” Numerous forest fires can also be observed, especially in Brandenburg. There, since the beginning of the season, fires have broken out in forest areas more than a hundred times.
“In the north and east, some areas have not had any rain at all in the past few weeks. There, the top 30 cm of the ground in particular is very dry,” says Andreas Promser, an agrometeorologist at the Ministry of Social Development. The expert said that prolonged drought in the spring could cause problems for some farmers. Newly planted plants such as sugar beets, soybeans, and corn often have roots that are too short to draw water from the deeper layers of the soil. The head of the German Farmers’ Union, Joachim Rockweed, warned that if it did not rain enough soon, crop losses could be expected in areas north of Main. On the other hand, crops sown the previous fall, such as winter wheat, rapeseed or barley, might have been able to get enough water from the deeper layers.
“The lack of water in the soil has never filled here.”
So is another year of drought imminent, as in 2018, 2019 and 2020? “This wasn’t expected yet,” Promser says. However, an agricultural meteorologist notes that the weather situation has eased somewhat in recent weeks. According to the DWD, above-average precipitation amounts dropped slightly again in April. More recently, there has also been widespread rainfall in the north. More rain and thunderstorms are expected in the next few days, “in general it looks like there will be a slight relaxation,” says Promser. In the south and southeast, the soil stayed quite wet all spring anyway.
Andreas Marx of the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig explains that the current meteorological situation is not very crucial for the development of drought. “It’s a combination of precipitation, soil, and temperature that determines the damage that drought causes.” Marx points out that heavy precipitation, which often occurs in the warm season, often does not reach the deeper layers of the earth, because it previously poured over the ground, into water bodies or into the sewage system.
On the contrary, less than average precipitation does not necessarily mean a problem if the soil is suitable. In the rain shadows in the Harz Mountains, for example, there are very fine clay soils that can store water for a long time. On the other hand, in the soils of Bavaria, which have been loosened by ice ages, water seeps out more quickly if it has not rained for a long time. The stress to which plants are exposed also depends largely on whether there are heat waves with high temperatures. “Heat causes a lot of water to be lost through evaporation,” Marks says. When temperatures are high, plants pump water through the roots into the leaves to cool themselves—the soil dries out faster.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, a quarter of the fir forests died within three years
This has been observed for a long time in a band from Lower Saxony through Saxony-Anhalt to Brandenburg and Saxony, where the UFZ drought monitor currently shows an ‘extraordinary drought’ at a depth of 1.8 m. “This bar is special because the lack of water in the soil has never replenished here,” Marks says. The drought that started in 2018 is still the same event.
Possibly the worst consequences of the drought at the time were behind agriculture – and this is where the biggest yield losses were seen in 2018. It’s different in the forests, where the damage slowly built up and then became widely visible. For example, scientists at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) reported in February that from the beginning of 2018 to April 2021, an area of 500,000 hectares in Germany was affected by tree loss. The researchers measured the damage using satellite imagery. The loss corresponds to nearly five percent of the entire forest area “and is therefore much higher than previously assumed,” the German Space Office said in a statement.
According to the DLR analysis, coniferous forests in central Germany were particularly affected, from Eifel to Sauerland, the Harz Mountains and the Thuringian Forest to Saxon Switzerland. In North Rhine-Westphalia, a quarter of the spruce forests died within three years. Although there was a slight recovery in the forests in 2021, says Marx, the damage continued in the dry strip of central Germany. “These processes are slow and recovery takes years.”
There is at least reasonable hope that the 2018-2020 drought will be an exception. A research group at the UFZ recently established that this was the most severe drought in more than 250 years. Since the mid-18th century, no drought has spread throughout Europe on such a large scale and at such high temperatures. However, how severe future droughts will be depends largely on the future development of global warming.