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Large-scale changes with long-term effects
Landscapes are steadily changing, but the processes tend to be slow and on a large scale. Changes and their effects are therefore rarely immediately visible. Landscape research at WSL initially involved mainly surveying and assessing endangered ecosystems. Inventories of biotopes needing protection (mires, flood plains, and dry meadows) were drawn up, and today these biotopes are officially protected by the federal government. We monitor these protected objects and other valuable landscape elements in different programmes to find out if and how their conditions are changing and whether protection measures are effective.
Ecological value of landscapes
WSL researchers investigate not only which types of biotope are valuable, but also other valued aspects of landscape such as the biodiversity and ecosystem services provided by ordinary landscapes. We analyze and model ecological processes to find out more about how landscape changes occur and to forecast future developments. We also study changes from a historical point of view, using information on landscape states from earlier times to reconstruct and explain past changes in land use. WSL research provides a basis for nature and landscape protection, for cost-effective measures and for fruitful political discussion.
Social dimension of landscapes
A landscape consists of more than just what you can see with your eyes. It has cultural significance, providing people with a sense of identity and places for recreation. WSL researchers survey local people’s needs, how they perceive the landscape they live in, how they use it for recreation and how they react to different conservation and steering measures. Landscapes and natural resources also have economic value, and thus an impact on the state of a society. We explore their social significance and the factors that influence this to provide policymakers with input for deciding how to guide behaviour. We draw up scenarios that take into account potential changes in landscape use, develop strategies to deal with different conditions and suggest measures to protect a landscape’s values and resources. We consider not just the situation in Switzerland, but also global developments.
Energy Change Impact
The political commitment to energy change increases the importance of the landscape as a resource for energy production - solar, wind, biomass and water. This has consequences for man and nature, and it can lead to conflicts with other landscape services such as tourism or biodiversity. WSL therefore explores the effects of energy change in particular to the environment. We call the new research field "Engergy Change Impact".