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Forests protect against natural hazards such as rockfall and avalanches, filter drinking water and prevent soil erosion. They provide wood, store carbon, are a recreational space for people and a haven for biodiversity. But the global upheavals in the climate system and in society are increasingly threatening these functions of the forests.


Measuring influences, finding solutions

Across the board, we are seeking solutions to the challenges facing Swiss forests today and tomorrow. We explore the influences of climate change, of pollutants and of disturbances such as storms, forest fires and harmful organisms on the forest ecosystem. With field and laboratory experiments we look in detail at how nutrient cycles, soil properties and tree physiology change in response to environmental conditions.

To this end, we can rely on state-of-the-art laboratories and various long-term data series, such as tree-ring data extending far into the past. Our monitoring projects have been keeping track of the development and health of Swiss forests and how they fulfil their tasks, for example their quality as a habitat, for more than a hundred years in some cases. We use modelling to examine potential future developments. Last but not least, we explore ways to sustainably use wood.


International cooperations

As one of the world's leading forest research institutes, we participate in numerous European and global research networks such as the Long-Term Ecosystem Research in Europe (LTER). Our strategic initiative SwissForestLab connects leading Swiss forest researchers from a wide variety of disciplines into a research network.

Last but not least, as a federal institute we also take on the task of passing on our knowledge to forestry practice and nature conservation in recommendations, leaflets, the web portal and further training.


Focus Areas

LWF research plot in Beatenberg (BE). Photo: WSL

Long-Term Forest Ecosystem Research (LWF)

We examine the long-term effects of stresses on the forest and identify the risks that are relevant to people.

National Forest Inventory (NFI)

The NFI has been continually recording the condition and changes in the Swiss forest since 1983. The surveys take place every nine years.

Research at SFL


The SwissForestLab is a research platform and infrastructural network in forest research.

Dieses Bild zeigt das Naturschutzgebiet Seeliwald, Fotograf war Gilbert Projer

Natural forest reserves

In natural forest reserves, the forest is left to develop largely without human intervention. We are studying the processes that are involved.

Pfynwald irrigation experiment

Since 2003, we have been comparing the growth of irrigated and non-irrigated pines to understand the causes of the decline of the Valais pine forest.

Forest protection Switzerland

The specialist unit for forest protection issues at the WSL.



Results by WSL in the research programme "Sustainable Economy" show what is needed to ensure that theforest can meet future demands.

Global warming will benefit insect pests of forests and crops in Switzerland, according to a study by a WSL doctoral candidate.

There is still a lot of unused energy in Swiss wood, but it should be used more efficiently, a new report shows.

Researchers from ETH Zurich and the WSL are showing how exceptional weather conditions over several seasons are helping to turn European forests brown…