Forests and climate change

With climate change, some tree species will gain and others will lose. Our research assesses the consequences for forestry, population and forest ecosystems and develops solutions for dealing with the changes. 

Climate change is progressing much faster in the Alpine region than in other regions (see "Focus: Switzerland and climate change"). A number of tree species will no longer thrive optimally in their current locations, including the economically important spruce and possibly also the beech, our most common deciduous tree species. This has consequences for the yield and yield of wood, the protective effect of the forest against natural hazards, biodiversity and also the landscape. There is a considerable risk that the forest will be less able to provide important services for humans with climate change.

Forests of the future

In our research, we develop approaches to help foresters and forest owners adapt their forest management to future conditions as of now. We are testing which tree species will grow well where in the future with extensive tests on over 50 experimental plots throughout Switzerland, which will run until at least 2050. To assess the impacts of climate change, we are investigating the responses of trees and other forest organisms such as pests and tree diseases at scales from the landscape down to the plant cell. Our long-term monitoring data enable model calculations on how the forest will change with climate change.

Drought stress in the south

The dry and warm Valais is somewhat of an early warning region for climate change in Switzerland. In the Pfynwald near Leuk (VS), we have been irrigating entire forest areas for years to find out how the trees react to natural drought. In Ticino, we are investigating how forest fires affect forests and their function as protective forests. In our experimental afforestation at Stillberg near Davos, we are researching how the forest limit changes under the influence of various environmental factors.

Related topics

WSL Publication

Scientific publications


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