About on third of Germany is covered with forest. Hence, forest soils contribute significantly to the area of Germany. With their particular soil functions (buffering, filtering, transformation of nutrient elements and hazardous compounds) they play a crucial role in the water and nutrient turnover of landscapes. Compared to German soils which are utilized by agriculture and particularly compared to soils that are used for settlement or transportation, anthropogenic impacts on forest soils are relatively small.
These soils are pivotal compartments of near-natural biotopes and ecosystems.
However, human settlement in Central Europe, which started several millennia ago, has resulted in significant changes of the forest soils, which in many cases are not visible at first glance. Fire clearing, forest pasture, litter raking, charcoal and potash production, and wood harvesting carried out over centuries (the latter was often associated with changes of tree species) have left their traces. More recently, long-range effects of the industrial revolution and modern agro-industry (air pollution with sulfur, nitrogen and acids) added effects to the legacy of the past. Current endangerments for the forest soils of Germany result from climate change and particular harvesting techniques of modern forestry (intensified harvest of other biomass compartments than bolewood as substitutes of fossil fuel; highly-mechanized wood harvest).