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New book and app: explore research sites while hiking

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Joint press release by WSL, the Canton of Valais and Pfyn-Finges Nature Park


The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), the Canton of Valais and the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park are pleased to present Switzerland's first-ever hiking guide for exploring research locations on foot, against the stunning backdrop of the Valais mountains. The book and accompanying smartphone app were unveiled in Valais on 18 May 2021.


WSL has been researching environmental issues in the canton of Valais, including major avalanches, forest fires and withering pine trees, for over 30 years. At a number of sites, measuring devices and installations testify to this work, whether it be a mast for measuring avalanches, a force plate (scales) for debris flows, or radar equipment. But what goes on behind the scenes in these places? Those interested in finding out can now do so thanks to a new hiking guide published by Haupt Verlag, available in German under the title Wandern, wo andere forschen and in French as Sur les sentiers valaisans de la recherche. To complement the book, a handy smartphone app is also being released – ideal for use while out and about.

WSL forest ecologist Thomas Wohlgemuth came up with the idea for a hiking book on research locations because of the canton's appeal for researchers and nature-lovers alike. “Its warm, dry climate means that Valais has become an early-warning region for environmental change in recent decades,” he says. That is why WSL researchers are investigating the many effects of these changes here.


On the trail of environmental change

The eight hikes wend their way through fascinating landscapes to a variety of research stations. There is an irrigation experiment in the Pfynwald, where pine trees are suffering from increasing drought, and detective work on climate history based on clues hidden in the timber of ancient houses in the Lötschental. Other research topics include the melting of glaciers by 2100 and what this will mean for water management, how nature is reclaiming the site of a forest fire in Leuk, and the development of valley settlements.

Equally innovative is the free smartphone app accompanying the book (see It allows you to leave the book at home, displays routes and current location, and alerts you to the next waypoint with information if desired. It also features descriptions of animals, plants and rocks that you may encounter along the way, as well as an array of videos and links.

Four of the hikes traverse the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park, whose prominence in the guide reflects its important status within the region. This unique guide will appeal to anyone who appreciates Valais and its landscape, is interested in new things and enjoys walking in the great outdoors.