Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL

WSL explores the dynamics of the terrestrial environment and the use and protection of natural habitats and cultural landscapes. WSL monitors forests, landscapes, biodiversity, natural hazards, and snow and ice and develops sustainable solutions for socially relevant issues - not least in connection with climate change.

The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research is concerned with the use, development and protection of natural and urban spaces. The focus of our research is on solving problems to do with the responsible use of landscapes and forests and a prudent approach to natural hazards.

Today WSL maintains more than 6000 experimental and research plots, including large experimental stations for studying rock fall or debris flow, study areas for monitoring the effects of climate change on forests and sites damaged by storms or fires for investigating the impact of these natural hazards.

WSL is a research institute of the Swiss Confederation. It is part of the ETH Domain and employs approximately 500 people. In addition to the headquarters in Birmensdorf, near Zurich, and to the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos, branch stations in Lausanne and Bellinzona (opened in 1991) and Sion (1996) generate local synergies and reach out to professionals.

Priority themes with contributions from WSL

Current forest condition

Visualise the current condition of Swiss forests with the FORTE app. Near real-time to annual tree stress indicators are available at various spatial scales. Filter data by tree species or by area through an intuitive user interface to assess heat and drought induced stress and the consequences for forest health.

Forest functions and climate change

Climate change affects the forest functions, forest health, the distribution of tree species and the forest as carbon sink. Recommendations for adapted forest management are being developed.

Future forest projections

Visualise long-term projections of Swiss forests with the FORTE Future app. Future distributions of habitat suitability and genetic mal-adaptation for various tree species are available. Users can assess the local and habitat specific risk as a basis for informed decision-making in forestry.

Key messages

Forests perform many functions and provide services ranging from wood production, climate regulation, protection from natural hazards to providing habitat and recreational space. Changes in climate conditions can harm trees and forests, and affect crucial forests functions and services.

Reduced forest recreation

Jogger Matteo now has to take care when running in the forest near dead standing spruce trees. More often his favourite routes in the Jura are closed due to forestry work.

Forests of the future

In her research, forest ecologist Noemi finds that some tree species and species combinations will not be able to grow in the hotter and drier climate of the future.

Jeopardised timber production

Flurina is a forest owner in Grisons. She is concerned about the declining productivity of her trees and the implications for her income.

Impaired protective forests

Jean is a forester in the Valais. He is concerned about the state of his forests on slopes that protect roads and settlements from rockfall and avalanches.



Simulated spread of the spruce bark beetle in Switzerland

Borkenkä presents current trends in bark beetle populations' distribution in Switzerland as well as the forecast spread of those populations up to the end of the year.

PorTree – A portrait of Central European tree species for Switzerland

PorTree models the habitat suitability of major species of forest trees in Switzerland under the influence of climate change. It's a joint project run by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and WSL. – Information for forest management

The website provides key habitat information and presents the latest news on forest technology and silviculture, covering all the major forest themes.

TreeNet - The biological drought and tree growth indicator network

TreeNet is an international monitoring network that provides real-time information on how trees respond to drought.

WSL's Forests and Climate Change research programme

We provide knowledge and decision-making tools to help forest specialists better cope with forests adapting to climate change.

National Forest Inventory

Since 1983, the NFI continuously monitors the status of Swiss forests and the changes they have undergone. NFI surveys are carried out every nine years.


By leveraging synergies in Swiss forestry research, we are promoting collaborative efforts to gain a deeper understanding of the forest ecosystem.

Last modification 05.11.2018

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WSL: Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research

WSL: Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research