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SwissAIM – an Advanced Inventorying and Monitoring System for Swiss Forests

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The Advanced Inventorying and Monitoring System for Swiss Forests (SwissAIM initiative) takes forest monitoring to the next level by integrating current, time-tested procedures on a more frequent basis with new techniques such as remote sensing and eDNA. It aims to contribute to a better understanding of the status and changes, processes and dynamics in Swiss forests and enhance monitoring techniques.



The Advanced Inventorying and Monitoring of Swiss Forests (SwissAIM) initiative was first proposed as part of the 2021–2024 strategy of the Research Unit (RU) Forest Resources and Management (FOREMA). It was conceived in consultation with the Swiss National Forest Inventory (NFI) and several RUs at WSL. In its feedback, the WSL Directorate explicitly welcomed the development of the SwissAIM project and stated that it was “very relevant for the forthcoming WSL initiatives”.



The starting vision for SwissAIM, as developed within the RU FOREMA, reads as follows:

An integrated terrestrial and remote sensing observation system based on a permanent panel of enhanced NFI plots. It will provide high-quality periodical (infra-annual, annual, multi-annual) results with known statistical errors for the status, change and response of forests to biotic and abiotic drivers”.



The SwissAIM initiative could contribute to better understanding status and change as well as processes and dynamics of Swiss forests, and help to enhance forest monitoring and inventorying techniques (see Figure 1). This initiative based on a number of measured variables would help to answer many broad and narrow questions of relevance for scientists and practitioners.

Further key considerations identified in the two workshops included the need for SwissAIM to:

  1. Have shared definitions with existing monitoring systems,
  2. A sound statistical underpinning and known statistical errors/variance,
  3. Adopt multi-proxy and multi-level approaches (e.g. from cells to trees; from plants to many other organismal groups; from terrestrial field measurements to remote sensing),
  4. Have at least one or even multiple plot visits per year to assess short-term changes,
  5. Enable data integration from different methods, sources and existing monitoring and inventorying systems,
  6. Have national coverage, but relevant also to sub-national level,
  7. Not introduce cause bias (destructive or invasive sampling) to the existing NFI plots