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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 in Switzerland.


Natural processes, such as flooding in alluvial forests, alter and transform habitats. Animals, plants, fungi and lichen in the respective habitats are well adapted to these changes. However, they react more sensitively when human influences are added, such as changes in land use, invasive species and climate change.

Some habitats, such as the pasture woodlands in the Swiss Jura mountains, exist only as a result of continued use by humans. If cultivation of the land were to cease, the mosaic of pastures, hedgerows and forest which characterises the landscape would disappear. However, humans have a negative impact on other habitats, for example as a result of increased nutrient inputs.

We examine ecological changes and what causes them in different habitats across Switzerland. In order to do this, we use systematically compiled biodiversity data and data from remote sensing. In field experiments, we try to determine the effects of future climatic conditions on species and habitats. We use the results to create models which allow us to simulate scenarios of future developments.


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 and bedload balance.

We examine how restoration measures can improve the quality and connectivity of habitats. Using genetic methods, we can directly determine the level of interconnectedness between populations, and thereby monitor the effectiveness of connectivity measures which have been implemented.



Mountain ecosystems

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

Pasture woodlands and wetlands

Pasture woodlands and wetlands are sensitive to disturbances. We examine how environmental changes affect these habitats.

Forests and Climate Change

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