Europe

“Even the trees with deep roots are starting to react to the lack of water”

The German capital Berlin and the surrounding areas are experiencing another dry spring. Residents of Berlin are trying to help the trees by watering them, but experts say that unless there is some major and long-lasting rainfall soon, then many trees will be beyond saving.

The trees of Berlin are thirsty, and Sebastian Herges has made it his mission to help as many as he can.

For two years the tree watering activist has spent his free time cycling around the German capital to water trees – mostly saplings that are vulnerable when there is a drought.

He is one of the hundreds of Berliners doing their bit for the trees of the city.

“When a human is thirsty, we can just reach for a water bottle, and then we are relieved,” said Herges. “The trees can’t do that, they need to be helped. And that’s why I’m here, watering.”

Berlin and the surrounding areas have simply not had enough rainfall over the last four years. Since 2018, which was an extremely dry year, the groundwater levels have continued to decrease annually.

Metrologist Jörg Riemann calls it a huge “water deficit. “

“Normally each square metre in Berlin and the surrounding Brandenburg (area) gets about 600 litres of rainfall per square metre for the year, January to December. Since 2018 we have had a deficiency of about 400 litres per square metres.”

Timo Bittner is an arborist running the largest tree service company in Berlin and he said it is having a direct impact on the trees.

“Because of the drought years, even the trees with deep roots are starting to react to the lack of water. They are developing an extreme amount of deadwood in the trees.”

Bittner has attached sensors to over a thousand trees across the city. And, with an app, he can see which ones, and which areas, are most urgently in need of watering. But still, it is a race against time.

Many have already had to be cut down and turned into woodchips.

If the drought continues, more will die. There is just not enough time to water them all.

“We can’t keep up. How could we keep up?” explained Bittner. “There are about one million trees in Berlin. We can service about 18,000.”

After the Second World War, most of the trees in Berlin were destroyed or had been cut down.

Since then, the capital has planted hundreds of thousands of trees, and the city has become quite green.

But a lack of water is now threatening that.

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