Contact persons: Felix Kienast, Senior Scientist WSL, Adjunct Professor ETHZ


Physical address: Zürcherstr. 111 CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland

Postal address: see physical address

Tel: +41 44 7392366

Fax: +41 44 7392215

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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


WSL (Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research) is the newest member of Landscape Europe. The institute looks for ways to sustainably manage landscapes and forests for maximum benefit to people’s quality of life. Researchers at WSL develop scientifically based solutions to handle the natural hazards that typically occur in mountainous countries, providing maximum protection at affordable costs. WSL research is internationally recognised, and provides the fundamental knowledge for sustainable environmental policies in Switzerland. WSL researchers develop methods for solving socially relevant problems together with partners in industry, in the wider scientific community, and in society. The research institute has close collaboration with institutes and universities in Switzerland and many other countries. There is a strong participation in the research programmes of the European Union. For years WSL has been carrying out research projects with partners in Eastern Europe. WSL employs about 500 people in Birmensdorf, Davos, Lausanne and Bellinzona. It has the following research topics:

Landscape research

WSL monitors the present status of landscapes, and develops methods for observing, evaluating, and protecting Switzerland’s valuable landscapes. This is a very important task for a country with a strong tourism industry. The energy transformation calls for sustainable energy landscapes where wind, solar and other renewables do not outcompete other landscape services.

Pollutants and climate change

Depositions of airborne pollutants exceed the limits in many regions of Europe. WSL investigates how this affects plants, and how climate change affects vegetation and land use.


How is biodiversity affected by future land use and climate change? WSL develops mitigation strategies and investigates the important role of the Alps in the European biodiversity strategy.

Managing the forest

Today’s energy transformation shows that forest is a valuable resource  for timber and raw material. WSL develops management options for sustainable use of forests in mountain regions. The knowledge is transferred around the world.

Avalanches, snow and permafrost

WSL is well-known for avalanche and snow research at its facilities in Davos. Researchers  investigate how avalanches start, how they sweep downhill, and what energies are involved. Daily bulletins informing about avalanche dangers are provided to tourism industries for natural hazards protection.

Torrents, rockfalls

In addition to snow research, WSL monitors and investigates other natural hazards that might be increasing in frequency as the climate is warming.

In mountain landscapes we find steep gradients between intensively used land and abandonment. Sometimes the plots are only a few hundred meters apart. This requires special care and adapted management techniques. WSL is keen to develop and propagate them.