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Research programme Forests and Climate Change

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The goal of the research program “Forests and Climate Change” was to find out how Swiss forests will react to climate change. We thereby studied impacts on forest goods and services and develop adaptation strategies to preserve those. The program ran between 2009 and September 2018.


Climate change and its impacts on humans and the environment are among the central societal challenges of the 21th century. According to the current scenarios of the International Panel on Climate Change the climate over the next 100 years in Switzerland will become warmer, dryer and more extreme.

The program “Forests and Climate Change” was launched in 2009 as a joint effort of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and WSL. It has come to an end in September 2018. Within its scope solid fundamentals were developed to evaluate the effects of climate change on tree species composition and forest growth. The outcome of the program has been presented in a scientific synthesis (“Wald im Klimawandel” available in German and French see below), which has reached the following conclusion: How a forest is affected by climate change strongly depends on stand properties and site conditions, and the ability of forest sites to absorb climate change is limited. The positive message is that adapting forest management will contribute to maintaining forest goods and services, especially if the tree species composition is adjusted to the new climate,. This can be achieved if forest managers systematically and continuously evaluate management effects and adjust the management where needed.   

To be effective the programs’ outcomes are made available to stakeholders like employees of forest services, forest managers, forest owners and policy makers. This implementation effort is essential to help forest stakeholders to evaluate risks and chances due to climate change and take the right measures to meet those. Important implementation products were the scientific synthesis “Wald im Klimawandel” (see below), two outreach conferences (“Forum für Wissen”, November 2016, and “Forum Suisse Romande”, Mai 2017), the WSL leaflet series “Merkblatt für die Praxis” as well as a series of articles in the professional journals “Wald und Holz” and “La Forêt” (all available in German and French), as well as many fruitful discussions with forest stakeholders in the forest within the frame of the “Waldtests” project. At the moment we are developing tools which will help to evaluate how forest site conditions develop, in order to enable managers choose the right tree species.

The outcomes of this program are an important foundation for the federal strategy for forest and forest management, as components of the national climate change adaptation strategy. Moreover, the outcomes  support the political implementation of the federal “Forest policy 2020”.


Important results of the science program were published as book in November 2016 (book available in German and French only) 


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