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Research programme Forests and Climate Change

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In the programme Forests and Climate Change, we research how Swiss forests will react to climate change. We find out what the outlook is for the forest services upon which people depend, and which adaptation strategies can be deployed to safeguard those services.


Climate change and the impacts associated with it, both on people and the environment, represent one of the major social challenges of the 21st century. According to the current scenarios of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Switzerland should be prepared for a warmer, drier and more extreme climate over the next 100 years.

In 2009, the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the WSL together launched the research programme "Forests and Climate Change". The programme aims to investigate the effects of climate change on forests and forest services, and in doing so to answer the following questions: how is climate change affecting the regeneration, growth and composition of the forests? Is the risk of forest fires changing? How is climate change affecting timber production, forest biodiversity and protection against natural hazards?

Our objective is to provide fundamental, substantiated knowledge for the relevant parties, including forest services, forest managers and owners, and policymakers. This allows them to accurately assess the adaptability of forests and the risks associated with climate change, and to take effective adaptation measures. The research and implementation work of the programme was carried out in 45 individual projects.

The research programme's findings also provide an important basis for the government's "Sub-strategy for Forests and Forest Management" as part of the "National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy", and should support the political implementation of the objectives of the "Forest Policy 2020".

The research programme's key findings were published in book form in November 2016 as a scientific synthesis.

Programme content

  • The research programme is investigating issues and questions in the following areas:

Climate development and its consequences on forest sites

  • Development scenarios for climatic and environmental factors (regional climatic changes, water supply in various forest sites, nutrient cycles)

Effects of climate change on forests

  • Effects on regeneration, tree growth and mortality
  • Effects on the genetic adaptability of tree species
  • Identification of climate-sensitive sites and stands
  • Effects of climate change on bark beetles and forest fires

Effects of climate change on forest products, services, and resources

  • Effects of various climate scenarios on forest products and services (timber production, carbon sequestration, protection against natural hazards, forest biodiversity, groundwater protection)

Adaptation strategies

  • Reducing climate change related risks for forest goods and services
  • Tree species portfolios for various climate scenarios




Further Information