Life Cycle Assessment of protection of young trees within sustainable forestry – specific challenges and results of comparing different measures

Main Presenter: Silke Feifel 

Co-Authors: Michael Rumberg

Forests are a key element within strategies facing and fighting climate change. The protection of young trees is essential for the future of forests and a main task of forest management. The task of young tree protection is fulfilled by using different systems for browsing and fraying protection, on either an areal or a tree-individual level, such as different fences, treeshelters, treeguards or chemicals. Some of these additionally support the growing of young trees and are therefore advantageous: treeshelters. According Hein et al. 2019 recent surveys and projections estimate millions of new plantings annually using treeshelters and an ongoing increase due to the still unresolved forest–game management conflict.

Within forest management, tree protection requires different operating activities and expenses. A main aspect is the question, if a deconstruction and removal is needed or not. Operational levels are followed by different environmental impacts starting with decision about the raw material used and brought into the forests. So according Graf et al 2022 five groups of raw materials are identified, which are used for treeshelters ranging from polypropylene to compostable plastics and non-plastics like wood, paper or jute. For fences, different metals are in charge. Additionally innovative treeshelters are under development aiming towards biobased and biodegradable, best under forest conditions.

In this presentation, some different tree protection systems are compared within a life cycle assessment encompassing the whole life cycle: Raw materials, production, and establishment in forest and maintenance measures up to end-of-life. Results will consider intensively the question, if a removal is needed or not and vice versa if a full degradation under forest conditions is possible for biobased products.

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