Kelheim Forest, Germany

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DougBidlack
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Kelheim Forest, Germany

Post by DougBidlack » Sat Nov 13, 2010 5:31 pm

ENTS,

I have procrastinated long enough. I'm finally going to write about my trip to Kelheim forest back in May of this year. There were a couple reasons for me wanting to check this place out. The first is that Kouta informed me that it was supposed to have the tallest European (common) ash in Germany and that this stand seemed like it would be relatively easy to find. The second is that I had to convince my relatives that this would be a cool place to visit...and it is! It is along the Danube River flowing between nice cliffs and there is some award-winning dark beer to be had at the oldest brewery at a monastery (redundant?) in Bavaria and perhaps the world. The monastery is located just a few kilometers upstream from Kelheim in Weltenburg.

Background info on the forest is from a paper by Maximilian Waldherr and titled "Der Eschen-Eichen-Bestand in Wipfelsfurt bei Kelheim" ("The ash-oak stand in Wipfelsfurt near Kelheim"). In this paper he said that the oldest trees in the stand were 149 years old (now 167 years old) when he measured it in 1992. The oldest trees are ashes and oaks and the beeches were planted later. These are the three dominant trees of the stand and the only other species that I noticed when I visited was sycamore maple. He says the the tallest tree was an ash that measured 49.8m (163.3') in height and 85cm in diameter (8.75' or 2.67m in girth). I believe Germans measure at 1.3m (4.26') rather than at 4.5' (1.37m). I wasn't sure which species of oak was involved since the species was not indicated in the paper, but Jeroen has indicated to me that he is quite sure that it is Quercus robur (English/common oak). Jeroen says that of the two common oaks in Germany, English oak is the one that is typically found in floodplains with high pH soils (this region is all limestone). The other species is Q. petraea (sessile oak) and it normally grows in the hills and it is not so tolerant of frequent flooding or lime.

So in early May I set off for Kelheim with Ellen (my wife), my mom, my dad, Ellen's dad, my uncle bernd and my aunt Hilde. It was cloudy, rainy and cold. Unusually cold for Germany at this time of year, but we were hoping that at least the rain would eventually let up. We made a rest stop that conveniently happened to be near a big store selling all sorts of chocolates and candy. We then moved on to visit Regensburg which is a beautiful city located on the Danube River not too far downstream from Kelheim. In fact, Regensburg had just recently been named the most beautiful city in Bavaria just ahead of Bamberg. Bogus! Bogus I tell ya! Not that I'm biased or anything because my mom just happens to be from Bamberg. Ellen seemed to be the most distraught. She declared that "sure Regensburg is pretty, but no way is it more beautiful than Bamberg". Man, does Ellen know how to butter up the family or what? The rain had mostly stopped by this point and Hilde and Bernd showed us the most impressive sites of the old part of Regensburg, but our bellies soon told us it was time to make for the Weltenburg Monastery and get some good food and beer. The meal was just plain incredible, especially with the great beer! After the meal we decided to split up; I would go to the Kelheim forest with Ellen and everyone else would head out and see some local sites. Unfortunately the time they gave us was far too little.
Weltenburg Monastery from across the Danube River
Weltenburg Monastery from across the Danube River
We were finally on our way to see the tall trees but first we had to cross the river. There was a neat little ferry that we decided to try and after a bit we were able to find the man who operated it. My mom asked him if he knew about the tall trees and he did! He described how to get to the site and it exactly matched up with where I thought it was. Very encouraging. The short trip across the river was quite fun.
Crossing the Danube with Ellen
Crossing the Danube with Ellen
We had to follow a small road along the Danube for a short while until we found the Donauroute hiking trail. During the short roadside walk we were treated to some nice views of the Monastery. The first picture in this post was taken from this road. Once on the hiking trail we immediately began to climb up to the cliff which overlooks the Danube River from the North. Once we climbed to the top we had our very best view of the Monastery.
Ellen and Weltenburg Monastery
Ellen and Weltenburg Monastery
The forest here was dominated by beech and they were not particularly large. A typical scene follows.
Typical beech forest
Typical beech forest
After a couple kilometers the trail connected to a gravel road and we began to make our descent to the river. Just as we reached the river their was an orchard on the downstream side of the road and the forest was on the upstream side. To get to the forest I had to cross a remarkably deep ditch. Ellen decided not to go in because she wanted me to hurry as she didn't want us to be too late. The first nice tree I spotted was an oak. Shooting straight up I got an amazing 142.5' (43.4m). I couldn't believe it. I was there to measure the tallest ash and I didn't even really think about the oaks at all. I started running around like a little kid and yelling to Ellen that she just had to see this!
Ellen and the 142.5' English/common oak
Ellen and the 142.5' English/common oak
All the numbers I'm going to give are shooting straight up with a laser. The first tall ash I saw was 142.5', the second was 141' and the third was 142.5'. I thought are you kidding me? I came here to measure tall ashes and I'm not finding one taller than the tallest oak. So I moved farther into the forest (upstream or west). I saw what looked like a taller ash. It was 147' (44.8m) tall. Cool! It was also 9.54' (2.91m) in girth at 4.5' (1.37m). This could very well be the tallest one measured by Maximilian. If it is the same tree it is maybe 16' or so shorter than his measurement which was made 18 years earlier. In that 18 years it would have had to grow about 0.5" in girth per year. As Jeroen has mentioned to me this seems possible.
A number of nice European/common ashes
A number of nice European/common ashes
Measuring the tallest ash
Measuring the tallest ash
At this point Ellen said that we really needed to leave. I was very bummed. This site deserves much better.
Ellen leaving the forest
Ellen leaving the forest
After leaving the forest we walked very quickly towards the town of Kelheim. Here the trail stayed close to the river and was very flat. We covered the 2km or so in very little time but we were still quite late.

Upon arriving in the US I was able to communicate this info to Kouta and later to Jeroen. Jeroen told me that the tallest ash I found was exactly as tall as one that Tomasz Niechoda had measured in Bialowieza, Poland. The main difference being that I did not make a sine top sine bottom measurement and it is therefore less accurate. The Bialowieza site is also old growth and Jeroen mentioned that it is colder and drier than the Kelheim site as well. In light of the recent info by Neil on old trees I should also point out that the Kelheim ashes and oaks appear to be quite vigorous and still display good apical dominance...they're a long way from topping out at this site! The highest points were generally right over the center of the trees and they were easy to find. I'd be surprised if the tallest ash, if it is even the tallest ash, doesn't make 150' in less than a decade. Jeroen also mentioned that the one English/common oak that I measured may be the tallest so far measured in Germany. Ofcourse this all needs to be confirmed and happily Kouta recently mentioned that he wants to visit this site in fall or perhaps early next spring. I can't wait.

Doug

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edfrank
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Re: Kelheim Forest, Germany

Post by edfrank » Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:04 pm

Doug,

Shooting straight up and adding the height from eye level to the base of the tree is perfectly valid and accurate. The problem isn't that it is inaccurate, but that often the highest point can not be seen or found when looking straight up. Very nice report on the site.

Ed

The pdf of the article you cite is found here:
http://www.lwf.bayern.de/veroeffentlich ... elheim.pdf

German/English Translation via Google http://translate.google.com/#de|en|

.
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

Jeroen Philippona
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Re: Kelheim Forest, Germany

Post by Jeroen Philippona » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:03 am

Doug,

Thanks for this nice report you were finally able to publish! Funny an American is the first to do laser-hightmeasurements in this perhaps tallest stand of European ash and common oak in Germany. A pity you could not stay longer. I hope Kouta can visit Kelheim this winter or spring to measure a good number of trees of all species.

In the German report the mean heightdifference between oak (40.9 m, 134.2') and ash (42.6 m,139.8') is 1.7 m / 5.6 ft. Only the tallest ash (49.8 m, 163.3') was mentioned extra in the report. So to me it was sure also the height of the oaks was very interesting, while this reported mean height was taller than in Bialowieza or anywere known in Europe.

The 16.3 ft difference between the tallest ash in the report and Dougs maximum is comparable wih the difference between mine sine-measurements in the Sonian Forest and the tangent measurements there. As it was only a straight shot from below and Doug did not measure many trees, perhaps taller heights can be found.

About straight shooting from below: also Will Blozan writes this method can be trusted, perhaps he or Bob have done some experiments with it.

Doug expects that the trees in Wipfelsfurt still will gain in height. This of course is very interesting, as the measured 44.8 m (147') and 43.4 m (142.5' ) for ash and oak are the laser (co-) records for both species.
The measurements Tomasz Niechoda did for these and other species in Bialowieza, Poland, are also not definit: he only did lasermeasurements in full leaf in July and August and hopes to do better measurements in winter / spring. I hope to visit Bialowieza next spring also.
Still I think Wipfelsfurt has the better change on record heights compared to Bialowieza. It is quite a bit more to the south and also nearer to the atlantic, so it has warmer summers and less cold winters, a bit more rain but less snow.

GPS of Bialowieza: 52° 40' 0" N, 23° 50' 0" E, of Kelheim: 48° 55' 0" N, 11° 52' 0" E .
Climate of Bialystock, near Bialowieza:
mean year temperature: 6,7º C, January: - 4,8º C, July: 17,3º C, precipitation: 592 mm / year.
Climate of Regensburg, near Kelheim:
mean year temperature: 8,5º C, January: - 1,3º C, July: 18,2º C, precipitation: 637 mm / year.

Jeroen

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KoutaR
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Re: Kelheim Forest, Germany

Post by KoutaR » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:05 am

Doug,

Great report! I try to visit the forest sometimes. The "Ellen leaving" photo makes me laughing. She really looks like saying "I go now!".

edfrank wrote:Shooting straight up and adding the height from eye level to the base of the tree is perfectly valid and accurate.
But you cannot be sure if you are shooting exactly straight up. It the twig, you are pointing with your laser, is not directly above you, the method exaggerates the height, although the difference is probably small. Right?

Kouta

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Will Blozan
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Re: Kelheim Forest, Germany

Post by Will Blozan » Sun Nov 14, 2010 12:11 pm

Doug and all,

Awesome, awesome finds! Regarding shooting straight up- it is very accurate and very valid. I find the sine method often is a very small percentage different than "straight up" + eye height. The main source of "error" (there is no error really) has been mentioned above but if anything- will underestimate the height. If your laser is true than you cannot overestimate the height by shooting straight up. Something to keep in mind is that even a 10 degree offset from vertical (80 degree angle) imposes ~ 2% difference than straight up. On a 140' tree this would be less than 3 feet. Negligible and within the resolution of the equipment. I shoot many, many more trees straight up when scouting than I do using the sine method. It gives me a idea if taking more time is justified or I should just move on...

Will

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DougBidlack
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Re: Kelheim Forest, Germany

Post by DougBidlack » Sun Nov 14, 2010 5:15 pm

ENTS,

cool discussion about 'shooting straight up' vs sine method. It's good to see that all of you seem to think that 'shooting straight up' is quite accurate. http://www.ents-bbs.org/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=1645 (edited)...

I just wanted to mention a couple more things about this site. Jeroen compared the site to Bialowieza and showed why the Kelheim forest may be a more favorable location. Since the site is within the floodplain of the Danube River, I imagine that the soil is quite rich and it seems that European/common ash, in particular, likes to grow in floodplains. This site also has the advantage of being situated up against a cliff, basically it is bounded by the river to the South and the cliff to the North and West. I believe there is also a cliff on the other side of the river to the South. The bottom line is that the topography protects this little site very well from strong wind. We later visited some high points overlooking the Danube River and the winds must have been over 40mph and perhaps gusting to over 50mph, but when I was measuring the trees in this small forest there was little wind at the tree tops. It very much reminded me of the Jake Swamp white pine in MTSF last month...very windy all around with clouds flying by but not a lot of movement at the tree top.

I also have a question regarding the ground cover. There wasn't much at this site, especially in comparison to the ash forest up at Hainich. I wonder why?

Doug

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KoutaR
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Re: Kelheim Forest, Germany

Post by KoutaR » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:51 pm

Doug,

Such ground cover, as in your photos, is very common - almost a rule - in European beech forests with an intact canopy. Although the big trees of the stand are ashes and oaks, I see many young beeches in the photos, and because the foliage density of beech is much higher than that of ash or oak, the beech foliage mass could well exceed that of ash and oak. Beech chokes undergrowth with its highly shading crowns, highly effective roots and slowly decomposing acid leaves. Herbs have enough growing power only in the most fertile mesic/moist lime rich soils. (Of course, the another condition with richer undergrowth is forest with canopy gaps.) Forest in Hainich National Park belongs to Central Europe's richest beech forest community, the lime beech forest. However, Waldherr says in his paper, the Kelheim Forest grows on lime rich soil, too. Thus, an another soil property must be not-so-ideal for herbs in the Kelheim Forest. According to Waldherr's paper, the forest is actually not a floodplain forest. It says the soil consists mostly of lime rich material which has been washed out from the adjacent slope. I guess the particle size of the soil is not very favorable, therefore the water holding capacity of the soil is not very good, and therefore the upper zones of the soil remain too dry for herbs growing with beech. This is only my guess after reading Waldherr's article and your report.

Kouta

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DougBidlack
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Re: Kelheim Forest, Germany

Post by DougBidlack » Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:04 am

Kouta,

OK. I was just wondering if it might be something else. Here in the eastern US we need to consider such factors as high deer populations, earthworms or perhaps previous land use among others.

Doug

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DougBidlack
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Re: Kelheim Forest, Germany

Post by DougBidlack » Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:06 am

Kouta,

when I showed Ellen the picture that I posted of her leaving the forest and your response she had a really good laugh.

Doug

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Lee Frelich
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Re: Kelheim Forest, Germany

Post by Lee Frelich » Tue Nov 16, 2010 2:59 pm

Doug:

Great report. Regarding understories, in the U.S. thick litter and absence of earthworms can lead to a lush ground cover, whereas in Europe the plant species are adapted to the earthworms, which are native there, and so they grow well on sites without thick litter. Earthworms don't like beech litter, which has a high C:N ratio, so perhaps the thick litter under beech creates difficult conditions for European plants, in addition to the shade, which would create a much different relationship between plants and deer--slow growing plants in the shade and thick litter are more likely to be eaten faster than they grow. The whole understory ecosystem works mostly opposite to the way it works (or used to work before earthworm invasion) in the U.S. It will take our ecosystem centuries if not milennia to adapt to European earthworms. We have a lot more understory species in the U.S., and probably the earthworms will cause a lot of them to go extinct, while other species will expand their niche.

Lee

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