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Research programme Room for People and Nature

A new WSL research programme draws scenarios of future landscape development in regions of intensive land use, and derives strategies for sustainable landscape management. The programme is established and implemented in close collaboration with practitioners.

Gaswerk Schlieren Dietikon2
View of the urban sprawl in the Limmat Valley near Schlieren and Dietikon. Photo: Peter Longatti

The pressure on landscape increases, particularly in the countryside beyond the existing conurbations. These regions currently experience the strongest development of settlement on the one hand. On the other hand they still offer open landscape, which serves as recreation area for local citizens and as a refuge for endangered plant and animal species. Not only society's persistent focus on leisure time and mobility, but also climate change, are likely to exert an additional strain on the physical environment. Balancing the human demand for housing and recreational space with the spatial requirements of natural biospheres will become more difficult in future.


The programme is exploring how the development of settlements and infrastructure influences landscape qualities that are key to both people's quality of life and biodiversity, and what conflicts can arise.

The three primary goals are:

  • drawing and evaluating scenarios of future landscape development
  • assessing the value of landscape to biodiversity and quality of life
  • developing strategies to resolve spatial conflicts between the development of settlements on the one hand, and nature and landscape protection on the other.

Two case study regions have been defined for the programme; the first embracing the Seetal region of canton Lucerne and the Freiamt region of canton Aargau, and the second encompassing the Linth region, Toggenburg and the Glarus hinterland. Each of these two regions is large, spans more than one canton, is intensively used, and exposed to strong developmental pressure.


What are the likely practical benefits of the programme? In compliance with the regional approach, the programme's results will chiefly benefit the case study regions. Individual projects are based on national data and will deliver findings that are valid for Switzerland in general. The programme links indicators of environmental observation to land use planning. In addition, it identifies regions in which conflicts between the spatial demands of various forms of land use are to be expected. Moreover, the programme will deliver scenarios of future landscape development and their visualisation for planning purposes. Synthesis activities will compile the results of the sub-projects in order to support decision-making for the future development of settlements and landscape in the two case study areas.


The programme consists of four work packages (blue). These are to be addressed by four research projects (orange) and by way of programme synthesis.