Mapping, sampling and analyses of soils on LTER sites

Since 1996, the long-term forest ecosystem monitoring program LTER has been observing the development of 16 selected forest ecosystems in Switzerland. Considering the pivotal role of soils, their investigation is of central importance for the program. The focus in this project is on the soil matrix.


The forest decline debate of the 80ies and 90ies demonstrated that the scientific basis to understand the functioning of forest ecosystems is insufficient. Neither the current status nor the future development of a forest could be adequately estimated. As a consequence, many countries, including Switzerland, started monitoring programs in order to show how natural and anthropogenic factors affect forests and what are the risks involved for the forest ecosystem and humans.


Based on the UN/ECE-ICP/IM manual, soil properties are assessed which can be interpreted in terms of cause-effect relationships in forest ecosystems.

The focus is on the documentation and interpretation of physical and chemical properties of the soil matrix on 16 LTER sites in Switzerland during the initial phase of the program (1995-1998). Follow-up campaigns at a later stage will aim at assessing temporal changes in these properties.

In addition, the initial soil mapping was a basis for the spatial delimitation of monitoring and experimental plots


The project provides data on soils and site factors for various characteristic forest ecosystems of Switzerland. An early identification of changes in soil properties is an important precondition for political measures aiming at a reduction of anthropogenic pollution or at a sustainable forest management.

Stakeholders include the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), environmental monitoring projects (NaBo, cantonal soil protection offices, UN/ECE ICP-Forests), local foresters, and the universities.


  • well-documented soil mapping of all Swiss LTER sites using a site-specific key

  • site representative sampling following UN/ECE-ICP/IM guidelines
  • physical and chemical soil analyses following UN/ECE-ICP/IM guidelines
  • morphological, physical and chemical description and interpretation of soil profiles