Conservation biology and nature reserves

Biodiversity is declining, in Switzerland and worldwide. We provide the scientific basis for the protection of endangered species and monitor the quality of habitats. For protected areas, we research the social and economic impacts.

Urban sprawl, the intensive use of soils and water bodies, the spread of invasive alien species and high levels of pesticide and nitrogen inputs from agriculture are having a negative impact on biodiversity worldwide and in Switzerland. As a result, the Red Lists of endangered animal and plant species are becoming longer, and the functional and adaptive capacity of ecosystems is declining.

We investigate the relationships between endangered species and their habitats and develop instruments for their protection. We focus on forests, urban areas and mountains. We develop models for the distribution of species, suitable habitats and provide the basis for nature conservation measures.

Research for practice

Many animal and plant species are endangered because their habitats are being reduced in size and quality. 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. WSL is examining whether these biotopes are developing in line with conservation aims (Monitoring the Effectiveness of Habitat Conservation in Switzerland WBS).

We foster long-term cooperations with federal and cantonal agencies, edit our research results for use in practice and inform the federal government, cantons and other stakeholders. Researchers from WSL draw up action plans for species protection, and provide the scientific basis for Red Lists and networking concepts.

Conservation measures are sometimes met with opposition from the public because they are expensive and because they restrict cultivation or recreational use. Using economic and social science methodologies, we investigate the social and economic impacts of conservation measures. Where conflicts arise, we examine the effectiveness of various possible solutions.

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