Link zu WSL Hauptseite Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL

Research XXL: nature as laboratory

Some research at WSL reaches quite stunning dimensions: On any given day, one researcher may trigger large avalanches of 200 metres width, whilst another drops 16-ton concrete blocks into rockfall netting. Yet another may irrigate an entire forest section for experimental purposes.


Naturally, this kind of researchs requires elaborate electronics, mechanics, construction works and computer technology. And it takes a lot of patience. Often, nature determines the start of the experiment and thus the onset of the scientists' measurements. Large-scale experiments are hugely helpful to improve forcasting of natural hazards and gain a realistic impression of the long-term change of ecosystems.

You will find more detailed information about supersize research in the 1/2016 issue of our magazine DIAGONAL:


Monitoring debris-flows

Überblick Hochwasserschäden

Debris Flow Observation Station at the Illgraben near Leuk (VS)


Research large-scale avalanches

Artificially triggered avalanche

450 plots to study wood growth and yield

Bestandesdynamik und Waldbau

growth & yield research


92'000 trees planted for treeline research

Stillberg Davos

Artificially irrigated forest

Figure 1 Pfynwald overview

irrigation experiment Pfynwald (VS)


Investigate bedload transport during floods

Geschiebesammler Erlenbach

Open-air laboratory for forest research


Debris flow laboratory

Murgang im Labor

Large testing sites