AFP: Climate change is taking a heavy toll on the ancient trees of Sanssouci, the sumptuous summer palace built in the 18th century as the Prussian answer to Versailles.
The sprawling grounds with their manicured gardens in Potsdam southwest of Berlin are surrounded by a park filled with soaring, centuries-old giants that are now feeling the bite of persistent droughts.
Forest manager Sven Hannemann, standing at the foot of an oak with a six-metre (20-foot) trunk circumference, gazed up at its canopy which once stretched over 500 square metres.
Now its sickly branches are only dotted with green. Hannemann gave the old giant another two years, “then it will be dead”. In its 600 years, the tree had withstood storms, frigid temperatures and two world wars, but the lack of rain in the last few years due to the climate crisis has sounded its death knell.
“In 2018 when it was very dry, it suffered a real shock like many woody plants here in the park,” Hannemann told AFP. “And since then it’s actually been shrinking.”
Sanssouci Park stretching across 300 hectares (around 740 acres) has been part of Potsdam’s UNESCO World Heritage collection of stately homes and gardens since 1990. Its palace draws more than 300,000 visitors each year.
The park, which counts some 26,000 trees, is now losing between 180 and 300 per year — at least three times the number that died annually before severe weather in 2017-18, a spokesman for the Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin foundation said.
Nayeemul Islam khan
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