Forest laboratory: Future research in the woods

Together with Toyota Germany and the regional provider, RheinEnergie, the City of Cologne is researching the forest of tomorrow. The climate, energy, change and wilderness forests show how woodlands function as raw materials, energy sources and climate change buffers – and sensitise the population to this change.

The City of Cologne is taking a botanical look at the future: The forest laboratory in Cologne investigates new woodland and forest patterns, which show what the "forest of the future" needs to look like and how it must be managed. In the clearance corridor between the outer green belt and along the A4 Autobahn, the "trial forest" provides hobby athletes and walkers with the opportunity to see the differences between a climate and energy forestation and between wilderness and change forestation along a circular route. Information boards accompany the sections and provide detailed information on each forest pattern.

Engine for progress:

  • investigating new forest patterns for the future
  • an experience path and guided tours explain the results
  • sensitising the population to the climate protection effect of the forest

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Photo: Bouwman

The experience path shows visitors the objectives and results of the forest laboratory.

Drought-resistant climate forest, fast-growing trees as raw materials

The "climate forest" is home to tree species that are particularly resistant to dryness. Against the background of global warming, they are supposed to provide information about whether they can enrich regional forests in the future.

In the "energy forest" on the other hand, they are testing how a forest has to be managed and integrated into the landscape, if it is to serve as a source of raw materials: Fast-growing trees are harvested here at short time intervals and are processed into wood chips. These can then be used in a carbon neutral manner for heat and electricity production. Thus, the forest becomes a regional energy provider, contributes to breaking-up agricultural land use and provides a habitat for wildlife.

The change forest demonstrates change, while the wilderness forest remains untouched

In addition to this, the forest laboratory is creating a "change forest" that will offer a changing pattern throughout all four seasons with the most varied tree species. The overall aesthetic and growth behaviour are in the main focus here. And so new forest patterns are continuously emerging.

The final area is reserved for the "wilderness forest". This forest is allowed to change naturally and demonstrates how unmanaged woodlands develop.

Photo: G. Klink

"Our forest laboratory is a partnership project by the City of Cologne with Toyota Germany and RheinEnergie that gives answers to pressing questions regarding forestation in the process of climate change. Which tree species are best suited to the forest of the future, if it gets warmer and warmer? What contribution can energy forests make to electricity and heat generation in urban areas? All of this is presented within a recreation zone, rather than in a sterile laboratory."

Markus Bouwman, Director of Forestry Administration for the City of Cologne.

Partners and sponsors

  • Stadt Köln
  • Toyota Deutschland
  • Rheinenergie

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