Every day is Arbor Day in USAG Ansbach

By Bianca SowdersApril 24, 2020

ANSBACH, Germany (April 24, 2020) – Arbor Day is a regular event in the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach calendar, often filled with excited children planting fruit trees near the Urlas Fire Training Center, assisted by the garrison arborist and employees of the Environmental Management Division, or celebrating the day with Ansbach officials and residents with the joint planting of special trees downtown.

This year, the scheduled planting of trees in cooperation with school children had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the work of the garrison arborists never stops. Year round, Roland Krug, a certified and experienced tree specialist working for the Buildings & Grounds Division of the Directorate of Public Works (DPW), makes sure the trees of USAG Ansbach are always cared for.

“We plant new trees in spring and in fall; we also check the existing trees on a regular basis to make sure they are healthy and safe; sometimes we have to cut off dead wood to extend the life span of a tree, and sometimes we have to cut one down, often for safety reasons,” Krug explains.

Painting the trees white
Roland Krug, USAG Ansbach arborist, paints the bark of a freshly-planted tree white to protect it from the sun during Arbor Day 2019. (Photo Credit: Bianca Sowders) VIEW ORIGINAL

Even dead tree trunks get a second chance at providing a habitat for small animals and insects for a few years, before they are removed. In cooperation with the garrison’s pest control experts, the tree specialists handle pest infestations before they become a problem for trees or humans. After fresh plantings and during droughts, the arborists, and in some cases even the fire department, drive around daily to water the trees.

Daniel Wörnlein of DPW’s Environmental Management Division, explains how trees are an important part of our environment, as they process gases via photosynthesis.

“Trees produce the air we breathe. With the help of sunlight and water, they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, an essential gas for living beings. They clean up the air and filter dust and other contaminants with their leaves,” he said. “This is why we call trees and forests the green lungs of the earth.”

Trees are an important food source and living habitat for many animals and insects. The wood harvested from forests gives humanity an almost endless supply of building materials, if managed properly.

Trees also provide excellent shade in the summer; a well-positioned tree can reduce up to 25 percent of energy used to heat or cool a house. One single tree can transpire up to 500 liters a day and provide the cooling capability of several air conditioning units.

Last, but not least, a forest full of trees has a welfare effect, giving people who walk or exercise in the woods a relaxing and reviving experience.

Protecting existing trees and planning their long-term future is an important topic locally. Rising temperatures and long dry periods without precipitation are threatening the existing tree population in Franconia. Local initiatives bring tree experts, ‘Forstmeisters’ and environmental scientists together to create the perfect future forests by adding new, non-indigenous as well as more heat and drought tolerant seedlings from hotter climates.

Arbor Day with Ansbach city
USAG Ansbach school children and staff planted special trees downtown Ansbach in cooperation with city officials April 2016. (Photo Credit: USAG Ansbach Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

Frequent bark beetle infestations and the invasion by caterpillars of the oak processionary moth put extra strain on the local tree population.

The current tree population in the garrison is made up of a wide variety, including maples, cedars, mulberry, oak and linden trees, firs and fruit trees.

The fruit trees, most of them on Urlas, are planted to create “meadow orchards,” a traditional Franconian fruit tree arrangement, to give the bees in the nearby beehive another food source option.

When planting new trees, Krug consults a list published by the Bavarian State Research Center for Viticulture and Horticulture in Veitshöchheim, looking for a long-term solution to the changing climatic situation. The selected tree species, which include magnolias, ironwood, hornbeam, silver linden and flowering ash, are more adapted to a dry and warmer climate and expected to survive easier without constant care and watering.

“We choose species that are resistant to wind, frost and drought, and sometimes to salt, when planted along roads,” Krug explains. “We have to plan many years ahead when me make a selection.”

About Arbor Day: Arbor Day is an environmental initiative observed in many countries around the world to highlight the important role of trees. The dates differ according to the local season; trees are usually planted in spring.