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Biodiversity

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Biodiversity – the diversity of habitats, species, genes and interactions – is the diversity of life. We develop the scientific basis required for monitoring and promoting biodiversity in Switzerland and worldwide, 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 and around the world, 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. 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. We make the results of our research available for practical application and advise the federal government, cantons and other stakeholders.

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, GIS data and data from remote sensing.

 

Focus areas

WSL Biodiversity Center

With the Biodiversity Center WSL builds a nationally and internationally recognized research strength in biodiversity science.

 

Blue Green Biodiversity

An Eawag-WSL collaboration focusing on Biodiversity at the interface of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

 

New

With the Blue-Green Biodiversity research initiative, WSL and Eawag are participating in the search for solutions to preserve biodiversity.

WSL's first hiking guide allows users to discover Valais on foot while learning about research into forests, climate history and avalanches.

Der Schwefelkäfer (Cteniopus sulphureus) ernährt sich von Pollen verschiedener Pflanzen. Foto: Felix Neff / WSL

Where plant diversity declines due to land use, there are fewer insects and biodiversity decreases, indicates a large study led by WSL.

Schmetterlinge wie dieser Streifen-Bläuling (_Polyommatus damon_) können sich durch Abwanderung in höhere Lagen an das veränderte Klima in den Alpen anpassen. (Foto: Yannick Chittaro)

A review study shows: Many species cannot keep up with increasing warming, although they move to higher altitudes.