The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) investigates changes to the terrestrial environment, and the use and protection of natural habitats and cultural landscapes. It monitors the condition and progress of landscape, forests, biodiversity, natural hazards and snow and ice, and develops sustainable solutions for socially relevant problems – in collaboration with its partners from academia and society.

Of the 500 or more employees in Birmensdorf, Davos, Lausanne, Bellinzona and Sitten, almost half are scientists and more than 60 are doctoral students. The work force also includes about 150 technical staff and 50 administrative staff, 15 trainees, and apprentices. About a quarter of the employees are working at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos.

Natural hazards can cause great damage. Research at WSL is of great benefit in helping to protect the populace from such events in nature. It operates test installations for the investigation of avalanches, rockfalls and debris flows, which are unique in the world. The goal is to better understand these events in order to enable a more effective protection and early warning of such perilous events in nature.

The research programme “Forest and Climate Change”, cosponsored by the Federal Office of the Environment (FOEN), is gaining fundamental knowledge in its findings. This helps the forestry services, farm managers, forest owners and political decision-makers to correctly assess the risks related to climate change, and the capacity of the forests to adjust and adapt, and respond by taking effective measures. The programme is set to be completed in 2017.