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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 various habitats. For nature reserves, we research the social and economic impacts.


Changes in land use, loss of habitats, nitrogen input 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 for their protection. Our focus is on forests and urban environments. We combine field data with remote sensing data. This allows us to develop 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 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. In collaboration with the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), WSL is examining whether these biotopes are developing in line with conservation aims (Monitoring the Effectiveness of Habitat Conservation in Switzerland WBS).

We foster a long-term cooperation with federal and cantonal agencies, edit our research results for use in practice and advise the federal government, cantons and other stakeholders. 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.

Conservation measures are sometimes met with opposition from the public because they are expensive or because they restrict cultivation or recreational use. Using economic and social science methodologies, we research the social and economic impacts of conservation measures such as 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.