Forestry and nature conservation

    Increased forest management and biodiversity enhancement are not necessarily mutually exclusive. On the contrary, forest management can promote woodland biodiversity if certain conditions are met. The Swiss Ornithological Institute shows how this can be done.


    The forests in Switzerland have to fulfil various functions: producing timber, providing habitat for plants and animals, protecting settlements, providing traffic routes and ground water as well as recreation sites for people.

    Lately, a redirection of the Swiss Forestry Policy has been under consideration with the aim to increase commercial use of forests in the future.

    The often-diverging ideas and claims of forest use are all directed towards the forester. It is their difficult task to combine them and mark the "right" trees in the forests.

    On behalf of the Federal Office of the Environment FOEN, the Swiss Ornithological Institute evaluates the effects of increased forest management on nature conservation. The Swiss Ornithological Institute also provides leaflets for practitioners, which explain how measures for nature can be integrated in regular forest management.


    The forests and woodlands of Switzerland were grouped into six types. For each woodland group, possible conservation goals were set and suitable measures to achieve these goals were discussed. The leaflet drafts were given to foresters who had not been involved in the project. They tested the suitability and feasibility of the suggested measures and if necessary, adapted them according to their practical experiences.


    About half of the 41´000 animal, plant and mushroom species occurring in Switzerland live in woodlands. For our breeding birds, woodland is the richest habitat in terms of species composition and numbers. Fifty-eight of the 195 native and regular breeding bird species (30 %) depend on forests to survive. Eight out of the 10 most common Swiss breeding bird species live in forests.


    Compared to farmland, biodiversity in forests is still relatively high. Owing to a site-adapted woodland use in the last decades, only a few forest bird species are threatened today - a lot fewer than on farmland and in wetland! Nevertheless, some formerly common forest species have declined, especially on the Swiss plateau. Most of these species prefer warm and light conditions and thus require relatively open forest habitats. Forest biodiversity can be enhanced by increased timber use, provided that certain conditions are met. However, markedly intensified management with the sole aim of increasing timber production would have strongly adverse effects. Leaflets and identification guides help foresters to take the needs of sensitive species into consideration, even in cases where timber is heavily exploited.

    Timber production and nature conservation: basic report (in German)

    Project management

    Simon Birrer, Pierre Mollet


    Federal Office for the Environment FOEN

    Financial support

    Sophie und Karl Binding Stiftung
    Jubiläumsstiftung Jutzler