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Conservation biology and nature reserves

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Biodiversity is declining, even in Switzerland. We provide the scientific basis for protecting endangered species and monitoring the quality of habitats of national significance. For nature reserves, we research the social and economic impacts.


Changes in land use, loss of habitats and climate change all have a negative impact on biodiversity in Switzerland and around the world. As a result, the Red List of Threatened Species is getting longer, while the viability and adaptability of ecosystems are declining.

We examine the relationships between endangered species and their habitats and develop approaches to protect these species. Our focus is on forest organisms, such as forest insects, bats and forest birds that require particular conditions in which to thrive, such as capercaillies, hazel grouse and woodcocks. We also examine the biodiversity of urban gardens. We combine field data with extensive remote sensing data. This allows us to develop computer models for species distribution and the potential for suitable habitats, and provide the basis for conservation measures.

Research for real life

Many animal and plant species are endangered because their habitats are being reduced in size. In order to be able to protect these habitats more effectively, the Swiss government has designated biotopes of national significance: dry meadows and pastures, alluvial areas, bogs and fens, and amphibian breeding sites. In collaboration with the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the WSL is examining whether these biotopes are developing in line with conservation aims and whether they are being maintained in terms of surface area and quality. This Monitoring the Effectiveness of Habitat Conservation in Switzerland – designed for long-term monitoring – also serves as an early warning system for federal and cantonal authorities.

Thanks to many years of cooperation with federal and cantonal agencies, we know exactly where the problems lie in reality. We coordinate research projects with the requirements of conservation and edit our research results for use in practice. Researchers from the WSL are involved in activities such as drawing up action plans for species protection, and provide the scientific basis for Red Lists and networking concepts.

Resolving conflicts in conservation

Conservation measures are sometimes met with opposition from the public because they are expensive or because they restrict cultivation or recreational use. This applies in particular to nature reserves, which are a key method of conservation. Using economic and social science methodologies, we research the social and economic impacts of parks of national importance and of other protected areas. Where conflicts arise, we examine the effectiveness of various possible solutions.



Nature conservation and reserves

We investigate the societal and economic effects of nature reserves of national significance and other protected areas.


Rare woodland bird species

We suggest specific interventions against the decline of capercaillies, hazel grouse, three-toed woodpecker and woodcocks.


We have developed a method to identify bat species by means of their echolocation calls and analyse their habitat needs.