FRM People: The Princess and her Magic Forest

Princess Stephanie zu Löwenstein is the biggest forest owner in FrankfurtRheinMain and is actively involved in climate protection. She has recently made a new discovery.

Anyone who sets off on a walk through the forest with Princess Stephanie Löwenstein is in for a crash course on environmental and climate protection. Knowledgeable down to the last detail, she describes the benefits of the German forest: “It covers 32 percent of Germany’s total area and stores 126 million tons of CO2; in other words 14 percent of all greenhouse gases, making it the biggest protector of Germany’s climate!” she says. But: “It is also in danger. In recent years 180,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed due to drought, storms, forest fires and bark beetles. Those areas now need to be reforested.”

Princess Stephanie zu Löwenstein is glad that there is a greater appreciation for the German forest as a result of the climate discussion. After all, with 7,500 hectares in Spessart and Odenwald she is the largest forest owner in FrankfurtRheinMain and is also affected by environmental damage. For over 600 years and more than 15 generations her family, based in Kleinheubach near Miltenberg on the Bavarian Lower Main, maximum 30 minutes from Frankfurt, has practiced sustainable forestry. Now, large-scale forest restoration work is needed. Here, she relies on foreign timber – such as Douglas firs. They not only cope better with drought and storms but are also more resistant to bark beetles.

The Princess does not have much sympathy for the nostalgia surrounding the “German forest” and its range of trees – 72 percent of the German forest consists of spruce, pine, beech and oak. “How long has Germany existed?” she asks, “And how long has there been forest here?” Previously, there were also tropical and steppe-like timbers, she explains. She adds that today it’s a matter of adapting the forests to climate change. Nor is the qualified surgeon a fan of natural parks that are simply left to their own devices. “If you get bark beetles in there and they are not eliminated then it’s like a festering wound. Here, again, proper care by foresters is needed to achieve optimum carbon sequestration.”

And her work for the climate is not restricted to forestry. Princess Stephanie zu Löwenstein has long since installed wind turbines in forests that supply electricity to thousands of households. Now she is also supporting the project of an acquaintance from nearly Alzenau, Bavaria, who has discovered that lignin can be used for energy storage in large-scale power systems. The best thing is that lignin is a waste byproduct of forestry activities gained when during cellulose production and until now simply had to be thrown away. It is available virtually on demand and could replace metal compounds that are both very expensive and problematic for the environment. The company is called CM Blu and is close to a breakthrough. “That would mean a big boost for the energy transition!”

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