SwissAIM – an Advanced Inventorying and Monitoring System for Swiss Forests

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



SwissAIM Workshops

A Workshop “…with all interested RUs to discuss the scientific questions … and to prepare an adequate selection of NFI plots” was explicitly requested by the WSL Directorate when giving its feedback on the proposed SwissAIM strategic initiative from the RU FOREMA.

1stvirtual SwissAIM Workshop, 12 November 2020

2nd SwissAIM workshop: May 2021

This workshop focused more on sample design options

3rd workshop: is proposed in 2022

The aim of this third workshop will be to identify a final list of priority variables to be measured at SwissAIM field plots as well as to develop links with interested stakeholders outside of WSL and incorporate their suggestions.

Bilateral meetings 2022

Between the 19th of January and the 3rd of February 2022, 12 bilateral meetings were held to further prioritize key questions, variables and methods.

This included meetings with the following WSL Research Units: Forest Dynamics, Forest Health and Biotic Interactions, Soil and Biogeochemistry, Land Use Science, Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, Community Ecology, Economics and Social Sciences as well as the NFI, LWF, Extremes Research Programme and the WSL Biodiversity Center.

Outputs from these meetings will be used to guide the third workshop which will include multiple Swiss stakeholders who are interested in and could benefit from the SwissAIM initiative.




Auf der Grundlage der Ergebnisse von Workshops und bilateralen Treffen sowie weiterer interner Aktivitäten finden im Sommer 2022 Feldversuche auf einer begrenzten Anzahl von Parzellen statt. Auf der Grundlage der Ergebnisse werden die letzten Überarbeitungen der SwissAIM-Initiative vorgenommen.

Weitere hochskalierte und detaillierte Tests finden 2023 im Rahmen des Projekts ProtoAIM statt.


At the first SwissAIM Workshop, a Committee was installed and made up by:

WSL and SLF provide the artwork for imaging of press articles relating to this media release for free. Transferring and saving the images in image databases and saving of images by third parties is not allowed.