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Habitat change and connectivity

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Habitats are constantly changing, whether through natural processes or human activity. We examine these changes and what causes them, and determine the effects of future climatic conditions on habitats.


Natural processes such flooding in riparian habitats alter and transform ecosystems. Organisms in the corresponding habitats are well adapted to these natural changes. However, they react sensitively to additional human influences such as increased fertiliser inputs, invasive species or climate change.

Some habitats, such as fens or dry meadows, only exist because of continued management and use by humans. If management is abandoned, these valuable habitats disappear.

We use systematically collected biodiversity data and data from remote sensing to investigate changes in habitats, for example. In experiments, we try to determine the effects of future land use and climate conditions on species and habitats. We use the results to create models which allow us to simulate scenarios of future development.


Exchange processes and interrelationships occur between habitats, particularly on the border between water and land, but also between the forest and open country and other habitats. Often barriers impede this exchange, for example roads which carve up habitats, or dams in rivers which disrupt the natural dynamic.

We examine how restoration and connectivity measures can improve the quality of habitats. Using transmitters or genetic methods, we determine the level of connectivity between populations, and thereby also monitor the effectiveness of implemented connectivity measures.


Related topics

Mountain ecosystems

We are researching mountain ecosystems to see how strongly they are reacting to climate change or new forms of land use.

Forests and Climate Change

Climate change will drastically alter the Swiss forest, with consequences for humans. WSL conducts research into the relevant processes.


Habitat Map of Switzerland

WSL has compiled a dataset on the spatially explicit distribution of habitats in Switzerland.