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The Transformation 2020/21

Summer 2020 to summer 2021


The current amount of damaged wood from the widespread spruce dieback in Germany, triggered by a combination of three years of drought, storm damage and bark beetle infestation, amounts to 171 million cubic meters of wood.

This corresponds to 180 million spruce trees, 25 meters high, with a diameter of 40 centimeters.

In Germany, an area the size of the Saarland has been destroyed so far. And the calamity spreads on.

Even after a rain-filled summer of 2021, with extremely heavy rain events, and the flood disasters in Northrhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, the water deficit has not been made up. Around 40 percent of groundwater levels are still too low. 

The Transformation shows forests in these two regions. 

In Germany, spruce covered 25% of the total forest area, and was thus the most abundant tree.

Spruce is the most important raw material for construction timber, furniture wood and also paper production. The damaged wood can now only be used for animal bedding, chipboard or pellets.

The future of the forest industry is unclear.

There are about 110 species of bark beetles in Germany, 300 all over Europe. They attack weakened and diseased trees, causing them to die. The dead wood serves as living space and food for other creatures. 

The most common species are the book printer (Ips typographus) and the copper engraver (Pityogenes chalcographus).

When a bark beetle approaches a tree, it drills a hole in the bark, lays its eggs under it. A strong tree defends itself by producing resin. The brood chambers and larvae are sealed with it. A healthy tree can repel about 200 bark beetles.

Without water, resin cannot be formed.

One female beetle can produce between 100,000 and 250,000 offspring, over the course of a 3 generation growing season. The larvae and young beetles interrupt the sap flow in the tree trunk, destroy the nutrient and water lines, and the tree dies.

Places of transformation

Northrhine Westphalia

According to estimates by forester and district manager Raik Gröning, there were about two billion bark beetles on the areas shown in the photo works "Late Summer Kürten 2020."

The beetle traps (video Ips typographus) were emptied several times a week.

The videos "Late Summer and Autumn Kürten 2020" were recorded in clearcut areas near Oberseelbach, where about 240,000 trees were felled.

In the Kürten forest district, the spruce stand will be completely destroyed by the end of 2021. 

The interview with Raik Gröning was recorded in June 2021.  His support made this work possible.


We found the same support on the areas of the forest district Neuhäusel, which is shown in the photo works "Frühsommer Köppel 2021". 

Here, in the last years 5.5 million trees have died. The interview with forester and chief of district Friedbert Ritter was filmed there, at the Alarm Pole in June 2021

The Montabaurer Höhe was the most severely affected. Here, the German Armed Forces had to help clean up in the summer of 2020. 

In winter, the forest roads were impassable for filming. On the way up to the Montaurer Höhe, the video "Winter Köppel" was created, as well as series of photographs. 

In Hillscheid, clearcuts appeared on steep slopes difficult to access and to work on. Still with special permission we got there, filming on icy forest paths. (video "Winter 2020 Hillscheid"). 

In some places, valuable (undamaged) spruce wood is "kept fresh" under foil (video "Foiled wood 1 and 2), or preserved by irrigation at a disused clay pit lake. The water is pumped in a closed circuit from the clay pit to the wood piles, and runs back into the pit. The wood stays fresh for 5 years. 

 (Video "Wet storage 1 and 2).

Nature has already begun to take back places. The series “Frühsommer Köppel 2021” shows the dimension of the Transformation.  

Once the spruces are gone, the bark beetle moves on. The copper engraver also feeds on pines, larches and Douglas firs. Lately, the beetles are moving on to beech and oak. 



Additional Sound 

Ips Typographus: 

Sound oft the Sun (Goddard Space Center)

Loud Blast of Radio Waves from Sunspot 1158_M6-Flare (NASA)


Winter Köppel 2020:

BepiColombo Earth swing-by April 2020

Special Thanks to Carmelo Magnafico, IAPS/INAF, Rome

Sphere of Io (NASA)

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