Forests play a pivotal role in the environment, here AG assesses how Switzerland’s forests are maintained.
Forests not only act as places of tranquillity and recreation, but also play a major role in providing essential services and resources for people, plants and animals. Across the globe, forests contribute substantially to the conservation of landscape diversity, as well as contributing to the greenhouse gas balance. Over the past few decades forest cover has increased in the EU. In Switzerland, approximately one third (over 75%) is covered in forest, with around one third of that located in the Alps. According to the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) in Switzerland, forests have 422 million m3 of growing stock in the country, and of this 33% is represented by deciduous trees and 67% by coniferous trees.1 Between 2007 and 2011, Switzerland’s forest area increased by 2.5%, which is due to the reclamation of agricultural and alpine pasture areas in the Alpine region and the Southern Alps. According to the FOEN the standing volume of the forests continued to increase by roughly 1.4% between 2007 and 2011.
The total forest area in Switzerland is increasing, but changes occurring in the forest can vary significantly from region to region, with the biggest increase being seen in the Alps.
The FOEN plays a major role in monitoring the country’s forests and ensuring natural resources are used sustainably. In line with the sustainability strategy of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC), the central goals of the FOEN are:
- Long-term preservation and sustainable use of natural resources (land, water, forests, air, climate, biological and landscape diversity) and elimination of existing damage;
- Protection of the public against excessive pollution (noise, harmful organisms and substances, nonironizing radiation, wastes, contaminated land and major incidents);
- Protection of people and significant assets against hydrological and geological hazards (flooding earthquakes, avalanches, landslides, erosion and rockfalls).2
In accordance with these goals, the FOEN has the responsibility for the environmental monitoring to provide a sound basis for the management of resources. Due to air pollution, Switzerland’s forests are under huge pressure, and are becoming more sensitive to acute events such as drought, storms, diseases and pests. The most important protection measure is the Federal government’s ban on deforestation, as part of the government’s Forest Policy 2020. The Policy creates effective conditions for sustainable, efficient, and innovative forest management and ensures that forests can carry out their various functions.
The government aims to tap the sustainable, utilisable potential of wood, and the Wood Action Plan implements the government’s wood resource policy. The action plan initiates and supported projects between 2009 and 2016 that pertain to wood as a raw material and its exploitation. The Forest Policy 2020 is also used to conserve biodiversity by supporting forest reserves and conserving priority habitats such as forest edges and wooded pastures. Forest areas are very important for species diversity, and its management plays a key role in biodiversity and the stability of the forests.