Research interests

My work involves the large-scale derivation and analysis of biotic and abiotic factors that influence current and future forest ecosystem services. I am particularly interested in how the small-scale variability of microclimatic conditions in forests (e.g. light, temperature, humidity) can be recorded and analysed at a high level of detail over large areas, and how these conditions change in response to forest management and climate change. I then use this knowledge and data to gain a better understanding of the causes of changes in biodiversity and other forest resources, such as natural regeneration and the adaptation of tree species composition to climate change. Our analyses combine data measured or collected in the field - for example, on microclimatic temperature conditions on the forest floor, species abundance or carbon content - with comprehensive information from remote sensing and climate modelling. An important goal of my work is to develop scientifically sound principles to support practice in promoting and maintaining the services of forest ecosystems for people and nature. In this respect I collaborate with practitioners and act as a scientific advisor to industry partners such as NatCap Research Ltd in London, UK.

Education & Employment

11/2019 – present

SNF Ambizione Fellow & Scientific Staff Member WSL, Forest Resources and Management, Birmensdorf

09/2017 – 11/2019

SNF Postdoc Mobility Fellow, University of Cambridge, Department of Plant Sciences, Cambridge, UK, advisor: Prof. David Coomes

05/2016 – 08/2017

Postdoc, WSL, Land Change Science, Birmensdorf

07/2013 - 03/2016

Ph.D., Ecology (Forest Biodiversity and Remote Sensing), ETH Zurich

2012 – 2013

Scientific assistant, WSL, Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, Birmensdorf

2006 – 2012

B.S. and M.S., Geography (GIScience, Biogeography, Forest and Landscape Management), University of Zurich

2002 – 2006

Claims Manager, SwissRe, Division Property and Casualty, Zurich

1999 – 2010

Several projects in mountain forest management and in the Swiss National Park (civil service)

Selected publications

Zellweger, F., Sulmoni, E., Malle, J. T., Baltensweiler, A., Jonas, T., Zimmermann, N. E. ... Webster, C. (2024). Microclimate mapping using novel radiative transfer modelling. Biogeosciences,  21 (2), 605-623.

Zellweger, F., Flack-Prain, S.; Footring, J.; Wilebore, B.; Willis, K.J. (2022). Carbon storage and sequestration rates of trees inside and outside forests in Great Britain. Environmental Research Letters, 17 (7), 074004.

Zellweger, F., De Frenne, P., Lenoir, J., Vangansbeke, P, Verheyen, K., Bernhardt-Römermann, M., ... Coomes, D. (2020). Forest microclimate dynamics drive plant responses to warming. Science, 368, 772–775.

Zellweger, F., De Frenne, P., Lenoir, J., Rocchini, D., & Coomes, D. (2019). Advances in microclimate ecology arising from remote sensing. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 34 (4), 327–341.

De Frenne, P., Zellweger, F., Rodríguez-Sánchez, F., Scheffers, B., Hylander, K., Luoto, M., … Lenoir, J. (2019). Global buffering of temperatures under forest canopies. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3, 744–749. 

Zellweger, F., Roth, T., Bugmann, H., & Bollmann, K. (2017). Beta diversity of plants, birds and butterflies is closely associated with climate and habitat structure. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 26 (8), 898–906.