The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research is concerned with the use, development and protection of natural and urban spaces. The focus of our research is on solving problems to do with the responsible use of landscapes and forests and a prudent approach to natural hazards, especially those common in mountainous countries. WSL occupies a leading position internationally in these research areas. We also provide groundwork for sustainable environmental policies in Switzerland.
WSL has, from the start, been active in all regions in Switzerland. In 1888 the first experimental plots were set up across the country to find out more about tree growth and yield. Today WSL maintains more than 6000 experimental and research plots, including large experimental stations for studying rock fall or debris flow, study areas for monitoring the effects of climate change on forests and sites damaged by storms or fires for investigating the impact of these natural hazards.
WSL is a research institute of the Swiss Confederation. It is part of the ETH Domain and employs approximately 600 people. In addition to the headquarters in Birmensdorf, near Zurich, and to the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos, branch stations in Lausanne and Bellinzona (opened in 1991) and Sion (1996) generate local synergies and reach out to professionals.
As part of an ETH Domain research institute, the Confederation requires the WSL to provide cutting-edge research and social benefits, particularly for Switzerland. One of the WSL's important national functions is to conduct the Swiss National Forest Inventory (NFI) and long-term forest ecosystem monitoring (LWF). It is particularly active in applied research, but basic research is also among its duties. SLF employees develop tools and guidelines for authorities, industry and the public in order to offer them support in natural hazard risk management and in the analysis of climatic and environmental changes. They also share their knowledge by teaching at domestic and foreign universities and by training other professionals.