Navigation mit Access Keys

WSL HomeBiodiversity


Main menu


Biodiversity – the diversity of habitats, species and genes – is the diversity of life. We develop the scientific basis required for monitoring and promoting biodiversity in Switzerland, and model how the biodiversity could change in the future.


Biodiversity – genetic diversity, species diversity, habitat diversity and the interrelationships within and between these three levels – is the basis of our existence. By ratifying the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity, Switzerland has undertaken to monitor, preserve and promote biodiversity. After all, it is only thanks to high biodiversity that ecosystems can render vital services, like clean water and stable soil. Biodiversity also contributes to our quality of life and to the recreational value of our environment. It is our responsibility for ethical and moral reasons to maintain species diversity as a part of biodiversity.

However, biodiversity is under threat, both in Switzerland and worldwide. Changes in land use, environmental pollution, invasive species and climate change all have a negative impact on biodiversity. To ensure that it is maintained and promoted in Switzerland in the long term, the Federal Council adopted the Swiss Biodiversity Strategy in 2012 and the Action Plan Swiss Biodiversity Strategy in 2017.

Research and monitoring

As a government research institute, we conduct both fundamental research and applied biodiversity research, for instance in the areas of biodiversity monitoring and analysis, mountain ecology, forest biodiversity, urban ecology and conservation biology. With the aim of monitoring and promoting biodiversity in Switzerland, we develop methods with which biodiversity and its changes can be recorded. For example, we run the national data centres for fungi and lichens, document the population development of different groups of organisms and compile the corresponding Red Lists. We also support the national data centre for vascular plants. In the project "Monitoring the Effectiveness of Habitat Conservation in Switzerland" on behalf of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), we are examining whether habitats of national importance are developing in line with their conservation aims and whether they are maintaining the same surface area and quality.

Measures to protect biodiversity are often costly. For that reason, it is important to monitor how successful they are. We develop methods for success monitoring and help to optimise implementation.

Looking back and to the future

Biodiversity is constantly changing. By drawing comparisons with historical data, we can show how, on the one hand, changes in biodiversity affected ecosystems. On the other hand, modelling habitat changes allows us to make statements about the future development of biodiversity. For our models, we use biodiversity data measured in the field and in experiments, geographical data and data from remote sensing.



Artenvielfalt. Bild: Peter Longatti, WSL

Species diversity

We research the diversity of plants and animals, especially in the forests and mountains, and examine the factors that affect species composition.

Naturschutzgenetik. Bild: Martina Peters, WSL

Genetic diversity

We examine ecological processes in plant and animal populations using molecular-genetic methods, and complement these with experiments.

Ökologische Wechselwirkungen. Bild: Beat Wermelinger, WSL

Ecological interactions

All creatures interrelate with one another and with their environment. We study the ecological interactions of a wide variety of organisms.

Ökosystemfunktionen. Bild: Markus Bolliger

Ecosystem functions

We examine how biodiversity and the interactions between organisms affect the functions and services of ecosystems.

Lebensraumveränderung. Bild: Markus Bolliger

Habitat change and connectivity

We examine why habitats in Switzerland are changing, and determine the effects of climate change on habitats.

Naturschutzbiologie. Bild: Ariel Bergamini, WSL

Conservation biology and nature reserves

We provide the scientific basis for the protection of biodiversity and examine public acceptance of conservation measures.

Invasive Arten. Bild: Reinhard Lässig, WSL

Invasive species

Large numbers of plants, animals and fungi migrate to Switzerland, with damaging consequences. We study these species and help to prevent them from...

Anpassung und Evolution. Bild: Sabine Brodbeck, WSL

Adaptation and evolution

We examine how animals, plants and fungi react to climate change and how biodiversity patterns are changing as a result.



The book "Moore der Schweiz" (German) presents the development of moors in Switzerland and their research. Includes many case studies.

The Int. Org. of Vine and Wine has honoured the work "Diversità dei vigneti della Svizzera italiana" by Marco Moretti (WSL). Congratulations!

The warmer climate in the Arctic tundra is changing the species composition, as shown by a study involving the SLF and WSL.

Despite the widespread availability of information on the Internet, the general public's knowledge about ozone has fallen off in recent years.




Soliveres, S.; Lehmann, A.; Boch, S.; Altermatt, F.; Carrara, F.; Crowther, T.W.; Delgado-Baquerizo, M.; Kempel, A.; Maynard, D.S.; Rillig, M.C.; Singh, B.K.; Trivedi, P.; Allan, E.; Rees, M. (Ed.), 2018: Intransitive competition is common across five major taxonomic groups and is driven by productivity, competitive rank and functional traits. Journal of Ecology, 106, 3: 852-864. doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12959

Rogivue, A.; Graf, R.; Parisod, C.; Holderegger, R.; Gugerli, F., 2018: The phylogeographic structure of Arabis alpina in the Alps shows consistent patterns across different types of molecular markers and geographic scales. Alpine Botany, 128, 1: 35-45. doi: 10.1007/s00035-017-0196-8

Heer, N.; Klimmek, F.; Zwahlen, C.; Fischer, M.; Hölzel, N.; Klaus, V.H.; Kleinebecker, T.; Prati, D.; Boch, S., 2018: Hemiparasite-density effects on grassland plant diversity, composition and biomass. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 32: 22-29. doi: 10.1016/j.ppees.2018.01.004

Halbritter, A.H.; Fior, S.; Keller, I.; Billeter, R.; Edwards, P.J.; Holderegger, R.; Karrenberg, S.; Pluess, A.R.; Widmer, A.; Alexander, J.M., 2018: Trait differentiation and adaptation of plants along elevation gradients. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 31, 6: 784-800. doi: 10.1111/jeb.13262

Fragnière, Y.; Forster, B.; Hölling, D.; Wermelinger, B.; Bacher, S., 2018: A local risk map using field observations of the Asian longhorned beetle to optimize monitoring activities. Journal of Applied Entomology, 142: 578-588. doi: 10.1111/jen.12491

Fink, S.; Scheidegger, C., 2018: Effects of barriers on functional connectivity of riparian plant habitats under climate change. Ecological Engineering, 115: 75-90. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2018.02.010

Csilléry, K.; Rodríguez-Verdugo, A.; Rellstab, C.; Guillaume, F., 2018: Detecting the genomic signal of polygenic adaptation and the role of epistasis in evolution. Molecular Ecology, 27, 3: 606-612. doi: 10.1111/mec.14499

Bjorkman, A.D.; Myers-Smith, I.H.; Elmendorf, S.C.; Normand, S.; Rüger, N.; Beck, P.S.A.; Blach-Overgaard, A.; Blok, D.; Cornelissen, J.H.C.; Forbes, B.C.; Georges, D.; Goetz, S.J.; Guay, K.C.; Henry, G.H.R.; HilleRisLambers, J.; Hollister, R.D.; Karger, D.N.; Kattge, J.; Manning, P.; ... Weiher, E., 2018: Plant functional trait change across a warming tundra biome. Nature, 562, 7725: 57-62. doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0563-7