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Forest Dynamics

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Head: Dr. Andreas Rigling

The Research Unit explores the functional significance of forest diversity with respect to the ecology of managed and unmanaged forests. In order to assess the future development of forests in Switzerland and other temperate and mountainous regions, the Unit pursues a threefold research agenda:

  1. it performs basic research on forest diversity and its influence i) on forest dynamics, i.e. successional processes including tree growth, mortality and regeneration, and ii) on ecosystem goods and services;
  2. it studies the disturbance agents such as storms, avalanches, fires and insects with respect to their occurrences and their impact on forest dynamics, as well as the importance of forest diversity to resist disturbance;
  3. it investigates the impact of management operations on forest structure and development to improve sustainable forest management.

Based on the research outcomes, the Unit develops recommendations for best practice to sustain or improve forest products and services such as production of timber and other forest goods (e.g. mushrooms), catchment value, water quality, protection against natural hazards and pests, conservation and recreation. The infrastructure of the Research Unit includes extensive networks of forest study plots and laboratories for insects and fungi analysis.

The Unit has partners both within WSL and the wider scientific community. Stakeholders are mainly the forest services, forest owners and federal agencies.



National Forest Inventory (NFI)

The NFI has been continually recording the condition and changes in the Swiss forest since 1983. The surveys take place every nine years.

Forests and Climate Change

Climate change will drastically alter the Swiss forest, with consequences for humans. WSL conducts research into the relevant processes.

Tree-ring research

Trees react to their environment. At WSL, tree-ring scientists date and analyze these natural archives.

Long-Term Forest Ecosystem Research (LWF)

We examine the long-term effects of stresses on the forest and identify the risks that are relevant to people.