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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 Summer School Old-Growth Forest Research will take place from 2 - 8 September in Nyzhnje Selyshche, Ukraine.

A wind turbine in the Romanian Carpathians. © University of Bucharest

Researchers of WSL and EPFL have developed a simulator that can calculate the performance of wind farms while factoring in biodiversity.

Spectacular outbreak of the larvae of the grey larch tortrix in Engadine and Valais: the trees look ill, but will recover within short time.

Farming of palm oil crop has a major impact on the environment. A study by EPFL and the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL shows possible solutions.




Djukic, I.; Kepfer-Rojas, S.; Schmidt, I.K.; Larsen, K.S.; Beier, C.; Berg, B.; Verheyen, K.; Caliman, A.; Paquette, A.; Gutiérrez-Girón, A.; Humber, A.; Valdecantos, A.; Petraglia, A.; Alexander, H.; Augustaitis, A.; Saillard, A.; Fernández, A.C.R.; Sousa, A.I.; Lillebø, A.I.; ... Tóth, Z., 2018: Early stage litter decomposition across biomes. Science of the Total Environment, 628-629: 1369-1394. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.01.012

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

Steinbauer, M.J.; Grytnes, J.; Jurasinski, G.; Kulonen, A.; Lenoir, J.; Pauli, H.; Rixen, C.; Winkler, M.; Bardy-Durchhalter, M.; Barni, E.; Bjorkman, A.D.; Breiner, F.T.; Burg, S.; Dawes, M.A.; Czortek, P.; Delimat, A.; Dullinger, S.; Erschbamer, B.; Felde, V.A.; ... Wipf, S., 2018: Accelerated increase in plant species richness on mountain summits is linked to warming. Nature, 556, 7700: 231-234. doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0005-6

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

Richner, N.; Walter, T.; Linder, H.P.; Holderegger, R., 2018: Arable weed seed bank of grassland on former arable fields in mountain regions. Folia Geobotanica, 53, 1: 49-61. doi: 10.1007/s12224-017-9288-x

Dornelas, M.; Antão, L.H.; Moyes, F.; Bates, A.E.; Magurran, A.E.; Adam, D.; Akhmetzhanova, A.A.; Appeltans, W.; Arcos, J.M.; Arnold, H.; Ayyappan, N.; Badihi, G.; Baird, A.H.; Barbosa, M.; Barreto, T.E.; Bässler, C.; Bellgrove, A.; Belmaker, J.; Benedetti-Cecchi, L.; ... Zettler, M.L., 2018: BioTIME: a database of biodiversity time series for the Anthropocene. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 27, 7: 760-786. doi: 10.1111/geb.12729

Wubs, E.R.J.; Woodin, S.J.; Stutter, M.I.; Wipf, S.; Sommerkorn, M.; Van der Wal, R., 2018: Two decades of altered snow cover does not affect soil microbial ability to catabolize carbon compounds in an oceanic alpine heath. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 124: 101-104. doi: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2018.05.034

Chardon, N.I.; Wipf, S.; Rixen, C.; Beilstein, A.; Doak, D.F., 2018: Local trampling disturbance effects on alpine plant populations and communities: negative implications for climate change vulnerability. Ecology and Evolution, doi: 10.1002/ece3.4276

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