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Ecosystem Ecology

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Head: Dr. Arthur Gessler

Research focus

The Research Group addresses the impact of natural and anthropogenic environmental changes on the nutrient and carbon fluxes in forests, the hydrological cycle within forests and on forest ecosystem health. To this end the RG studies the biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nutrients and their long-term trends using long-term studies, large-scale surveys, as well as field and laboratory experiments. It also addresses the quantitative effects of forest growth on regional carbon, nutrient and water fluxes and develops methods to quantify resource pools and fluxes in forest ecosystems on different scales.

Main research questions

What is the impact of ...

  • climate change on forest ecosystems?
  • pollution on soil and plants?
  • management on nutrient availability?


The outcomes of this research allow the development of scenarios to assess and model the risk linked to regional and global anthropogenic changes, including nutrient and pollution deposition, climate change, carbon dioxide increase and changes in forest management, on forest (ecosystem) health, in both, the short and long run.

National and international position

The group has partners both within the WSL and the wider national and international scientific community. The stakeholders are federal and international agencies, the forest services and the forest owners.

The group forms the core of the Swiss contribution to ICP Forests, to which Switzerland has been committed by signing the Geneva Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. It also provides information on several criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management laid down by the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe.