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Research project of WSL and ZHdK on show at the World Climate Summit in Paris

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French President François Hollande has invited the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL and the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) to present a joint research project at the very heart of the World Climate Summit in Paris. The audio installation trees: Pinus sylvestris converts the physiological noises of trees into audible sounds.


This media-art installation was created as part of the project trees: Rendering Ecophysiological Processes Audible, run jointly by ZHdK and WSL. Hollande experienced the installation first-hand at ZHdK's Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology on 16 April 2015 during his state visit to Switzerland. He subsequently invited its creators to exhibit it at the World Climate Summit.

Wired for the sake of art and science

The aim of the trees project is to make tree noises perceptible in artistic form. Tree metabolism creates a variety of sounds that are not normally audible to humans. This project, which ran from 2012 until 2015, was carried out by ZHdK sound artist Marcus Maeder and ecophysiologist Roman Zweifel from the WSL Forest Dynamics Research unit. They charted the noises and metabolic processes of a Scots pine in the Swiss Alps with special sensory equipment. Maeder then used computer technology to convert the data recorded during the research, such as stem diameter variation and sap flow in the branches, into sounds.

Most of the noises occurring in a plant are caused by drought stress. Thirsty plants make inaudible noises that tell us both about their own condition and their environment. The observation system used in the project allows researchers to find out how plants respond to increasingly long periods of heat and drought.

ZHdK's audio installation will be on show in Hall 3 of the Parc des Expositions Paris-Le Bourget from 30 November until 11 December 2015. 

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