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Switzerland and climate change

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Climate change does not spare Switzerland - on the contrary. At WSL and SLF we are investigating the influence of a changing climate on ecosystems, especially on forests, on biodiversity, on natural hazards and on water resources, including snow and ice. We document the climatic alterations and explore solutions to minimise the risks of climate change.


Climate reconstruction and documentation

Growth pattern of a Siberian larch tree. (Photo: WSL)

Tree rings and growth

Researchers reconstruct the climate of the past using the annual rings of trees and many other methods of analysis.

Polar ice sheets

We study polar snow and how it "ages". These findings help to reconstruct past climate and improve forecasts.

Auf einem schneebedeckten Hang am Matterhorn sind zwei Betonrohre senkrecht in den Schnee und den darunterliegenden Permafrost gegraben. Ihre Metalldeckel sind mit grossen Steinen beschwert, die beiden Rohre sind mit einer losen Leine verbunden. Im Hintergrund der Bohrlöcher erstreckt sich ein Gletscherabbruch und dahinter eine schroffe Felswand.


The SLF permafrost monitoring network provides information on the condition of permafrost soils and is part of the PERMOS monitoring network.



The Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network GLAMOS documents and monitors long-term glacier changes in the Swiss Alps.



Impacts of climate change

Forests and climate change

We are investigating how the Swiss forest is responding to climate change and how forest services can be maintained.

Protection forest

Climate change can impair the protective function of mountain forests. That is why we are monitoring their development in the long term.

Artenreiche Fromentalwiese. Bild: Peter Longatti, WSL

Biodiversity and climate change

Animals, plants and fungi react to climate change. We are investigating how the distribution of biodiversity is altered as a result.

The snowbell (Soldanella pusilla). Image: Veronika Stöckli

Mountain Ecosystems

We study mountain ecosystems to see how strongly they respond to climate change or new forms of land use.

Image: Lambert Zufferey

Climate change and alpine mass movements

In the CCAMM research programme, we are investigating how climate change affects the movement of rocks and debris in the mountains.

Blockgletscher oberhalb der Alp Flix. Der Blockgletscher selbst sieht aus wie eine Geröllhalde. Allerdings wird das Gestein durch die Vergletscherung so befestigt,  dass die Neigungswinkel viel steiler sind als bei lockerem, frei liegendem Geröll. Der grau-beige Blockgletscher ist links und rechts von grünen Hängen eingerahmt.

Extreme events and natural hazards

The CERC research centre studies climate change, extreme events and natural hazards in alpine regions.

Das Bild zeigt ein alpines Skigebiet in herbstlichen Farben. Nur rund um die Schneelanzen ist der Boden bereits weiss und lässt den Verlauf der Pistenlinie erahnen.

Snow and climate change

More frequent rainfall instead of snowfall and earlier snowmelt reduce the duration of snow cover and maximum snow depths.

Mountain glaciers in climate change

Glacier melting has implications for hydropower, water availability and potential natural disasters.

Ein Forscher lehnt auf einem Felsblock hoch über einem Stausee und bedient ein Messgerät.

Water resources

We investigate hydrological and climatological issues, especially the relationship between snow, runoff, climate and natural hazards.


Adaptation to climate change

Trees for the future

We are using test plantings to investigate which tree species will grow well in the Swiss forest under the climatic conditions in 50 years' time.

Ein ausgetrocknetes Bachbett, umsäumt von Wald zeugt vom Hitzesommer.


Together with practitioners, the "Extremes" initiative develops tools and decision-making aids for dealing with future extreme events.

Irrigation in the Südtirol. Image: Marc Zebisch

Challenges for society

We are studying how the people, politics and the economy can deal with the consequences of climate change, such as more frequent storms, heat or...


Climate change mitigation

Forest and CO2

We are researching how and where intensive wood use and increased carbon uptake by forests is possible.

Carbon in forest soils

Soils can store large amounts of CO2. We are investigating how soils, forests and the carbon cycle influence each other.

Renaturierung im Meienstossmoos

Climate protection through raised bog conservation

max.moor - CO2 compensation through raised bog restoration in Switzerland.



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…

30 June 2020, Rüthi (Weissenstein), 1,385 m a.s.l.: On 11 May, the leaves of the beech trees died due to a late frost, so that the scenery rather resembles autumn - if it weren't for the flowering yellow gentian. Photo: Frederik Baumgarten

Species that are able to recover well from frost damage in spring may have an advantage with climate change, a WSL study shows.