German fields are being transformed as climate change ravages the countryside

As global temperatures rise, the German landscape is changing as well: in one extreme, roadside ecologists are removing the leaves from trees to prevent them from falling on pedestrians; in another, invasive species have…

German fields are being transformed as climate change ravages the countryside

As global temperatures rise, the German landscape is changing as well: in one extreme, roadside ecologists are removing the leaves from trees to prevent them from falling on pedestrians; in another, invasive species have invaded, redrawing the landscape in new ways.

While the focus here has been on the rapid warming of the planet, which has been blamed on greenhouse gases, the “green transformation” phenomenon is happening outside of the snowbound poles.

In Germany, some of the most dramatic changes are occurring on the edges of fields and woods — something that led Germany’s main meteorological authority to warn that “green transformation” could lead to “major changes.” Experts at the Environment Ministry estimate that across the country, some 481 different kinds of green changes have been documented since 1987, largely on farms or in natural ecosystems. By monitoring changes on a voluntary basis, these ecologists hope to understand what exactly is happening to the environment and to plan for the future.

The changes are a combination of threats. “They all come together. It is not an isolated phenomenon,” says Joachim Bild, a German ecologist. One problem, he says, is that increasingly hotter weather means crops won’t ripen as quickly. In 2015, for example, Germany planted 37 percent more wheat than the previous year. “This wheat,” Bild says, “doesn’t ripen right away.”

These changes are also occurring because of changes in the structure of the earth’s crust. “Once there was no soil,” says Satveer Singh, a soil ecologist who advises the central German city of Wuppertal. In places such as north Bavaria, he says, the upper layers of the earth have collapsed by hundreds of meters, opening up large expanses of land for farmers to work on.

Meanwhile, as air conditioning and global warming have eroded the surface of some Swiss Alpine rivers, fish have moved up the river from the colder locales, where they haven’t adapted to the changing atmosphere.

In the northeastern German village of Tralfrem, the deterioration of riverbeds has led the authorities to close off many of the villages fields. In the summer, when the fields dry up, gardeners have to dig holes in the mud or put out water with their hoses in order to maintain a source of water.

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