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Research conducted by WSL in Valais
For many years the Canton of Valais has been a key partner in the research activities and services of the WSL relating to avalanches, debris flows, rockfalls, forestry issues and climate change. As a mountainous region, Valais is directly affected by climate change and natural hazards, and is therefore eager to collaborate with researchers. The canton supports the branch station in Sion and the WSL's research projects not only in principle, but also financially and logistically. As a landscape that serves as an open-air laboratory, Valais is an ideal venue for research in the natural sciences and on environmental issues. The WSL operates more research facilities here than in any other canton.
History of collaboration between the WSL and the Canton of Valais
At the beginning of the 1990s the then Natural Hazards Commissioner of Valais, Charly Wuilloud, and the then Director of the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Walter Ammann, decided to formalise the scientific collaboration between the two bodies by means of drawing up an official agreement .
The accord arising from their decision was signed in 1995, a year additionally marked by the opening of the Valais branch of the SLF in Sitten. The creation of a globally unrivalled avalanche testing site in Vallée de la Sionne (Arbaz district) launched a period of fruitful cooperation between the WSL and the canton.
Developing avalanche research activities was not the sole purpose of this agreement. A key object was to extend the scope of research work to encompass all natural hazards. In the intervening period numerous large facilities, as well as testing and monitoring sites, have been established, including for the investigation of forestry issues, drought and climate change, e.g. in the Illgraben catchment zone for debris flow research, in St. Léonard for rockfall processes, in the Matter and other valleys for permafrost and slope movements, in several rivers that flow through the canton for bedload, in Leuk for forest fire research, in Leuk/Susten for forest rejuvenation experiments (rain canopy installation) and a long-term irrigation trial (Pfynwald), and in various dry valleys in the canton for investigating forestry issues and drought.
The new agreement of September 2016 between the Canton of Valais and the WSL covers the areas of natural hazards management, forest conservation and management, climate change, rural development and biodiversity. The overriding goal is to enhance applied research in these fields within the canton.
Overview of WSL research sites in Valais
Selection of WSL research projects and test sites in Valais: