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Short portrait of WSL

The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research is concerned with the use, development and protection of natural and urban spaces. The focus of our research is on solving problems to do with the responsible use of landscapes and forests and a prudent approach to natural hazards, especially those common in mountainous countries. WSL occupies a leading position internationally in these research areas. We also provide groundwork for sustainable environmental policies in Switzerland.

WSL has, from the start, been active in all regions in Switzerland. In 1888 the first experimental plots were set up across the country to find out more about tree growth and yield. Today WSL maintains more than 6000 experimental and research plots, including large experimental stations for studying rock fall or debris flow, study areas for monitoring the effects of climate change on forests and sites damaged by storms or fires for investigating the impact of these natural hazards.

WSL is a research institute of the Swiss Confederation. It is part of the ETH Domain and employs approximately 600 people. In addition to the headquarters in Birmensdorf, near Zurich, and to the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos, branch stations in Lausanne and Bellinzona (opened in 1991) and Sion (1996) generate local synergies and reach out to professionals.

As part of an ETH Domain research institute, the Confederation requires the WSL to provide cutting-edge research and social benefits, particularly for Switzerland. One of the WSL's important national functions is to conduct the Swiss National Forest Inventory (NFI) and long-term forest ecosystem monitoring (LWF). It is particularly active in applied research, but basic research is also among its duties. SLF employees develop tools and guidelines for authorities, industry and the public in order to offer them support in natural hazard risk management and in the analysis of climatic and environmental changes. They also share their knowledge by teaching at domestic and foreign universities and by training other professionals.

WSL strives for excellence in terrestrial environmental research to provide solutions improving quality of life in a healthy environment.

Research for People and the Environment

  • WSL explores the dynamics of the terrestrial environment, and the use and protection of natural habitats and cultural landscapes.
  • WSL monitors forests, landscapes, biodiversity, natural hazards, and snow and ice.
  • WSL develops sustainable solutions for socially relevant issues - together with its partners from science and society
  
 

Address and phone number

Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL
Zürcherstrasse 111
CH-8903 Birmensdorf
Tel.: +41 44-739 21 11
Fax: +41 44-739 22 15

 

Facts and figures

Our multilingual yearly report describes the financial aspects of WSL according to IPSAS standards.

Working at the WSL

About 550 researchers, technicians and administrative staff contribute to the worldwide reputation of our environmental research institute.

Research programmes and initiatives

Research programmes and initiatives are inter- and transdisziplinary cooperations, setting priorities in the WSL's research activities.

Experimental sites and laboratories

From the microscope to entire valleys: Our laboratory is the whole of Switzerland. We maintain over 6000 monitoring and research sites.

Portrait

WSL has sites in Birmensdorf, Davos (SLF), Cadenazzo, Lausanne und Sion.

How we conduct our research

At WSL and SLF we work by monitoring, experimenting, modelling and providing information. Thus we contribute to solutions of societal challenges.

 

New

With measuring material across one of the many meltwater streams on Glacier de la Plaine Morte (BE). (Picture: M. Huss)

Despite lots of snow in winter and a mild summer, the Swiss glaciers have lost about 400 million tonnes of ice since September 2020.

Young Norway spruces from several populations in the tree nursery near Matzendorf in the Canton of Solothurn. (Photo Aline Frank / WSL)

How genome analyses can help us to understand the forest ecosystem and adapt it to climate change was the subject of a conference at WSL.

In a blog post, SLF botanist Christian Rixen describes how he circumnavigated the north of Greenland and what he discovered along the way.

This year's summer school focused on forest monitoring and was attended by 24 enthusiastic students from all over the world.

Raised bogs have no influx, but receive water only through rainfall. Typical for them are peat mosses and plants adapted to acid soils. (Photo: Lena Gubler, WSL)

How are Swiss peatlands doing and how can they be helped? Experts from research and practice discussed this at a conference at WSL.

Base camp in the early morning (~5a.m.). Our debris-covered study glacier, Kyzylsu, terminates in the center of the photograph, on the opposite side of the lake. Photo: S. Fugger

In the Pamir Mountains, many glaciers are stable or even growing. In the logbook, WSL glacier researchers talk about their expedition there.

 

Further information