Swiss forests are unusual in Europe

Swiss forests have some special characteristics compared with their European counterparts, including a large growing stock, the highest proportion of protective forest, but also high levels of air pollutant deposition. How forests here differ from those of neighbouring countries can be found in the new State of Europe's Forests 2020 report.
Über 40% der Schweizer Wälder sind Schutzwälder gegen Naturgefahren. (Foto: Werner Gerber)

Here are a few facts highlighted in the report:

  • A third of the country's surface area (32.1%) is forested.
  • Switzerland has Europe's third-highest production of wild honey and bee-wax in terms of marketed value.
  • At over 40%, Switzerland has the highest proportion of protective forest in Europe.
  • 85% of forest regenerates naturally; large plantations of forest trees are rare.
  • Growing stock is among the highest in Europe, at 354 m3/ha.
  • 90% of forests are freely accessible for public recreation.
  • Airborne nitrogen deposition from human activities such as fuel combustion, industry, traffic and agriculture are among the highest in Europe. Ozone levels in southern Switzerland are record-breaking.
  • In Switzerland, according to the report, 24 mammal species living in forests are threatened, as well as 22 bird species. The lynx and eagle owl are examples of critically endangered species. However, these figures are difficult to compare internationally because the recording methods differ.

The report is published around every five years by the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (Forest Europe) – Most of the information about Swiss forests comes from the Swiss National Forest Inventory (NFI), carried out by WSL together with the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), and the Long-term Forest Ecosystem Research (LWF) programme, run and financed by the WSL.


Dr. Marco Ferretti
Leiter Forschungseinheit
Eidg. Forschungsanstalt WSL
Zürcherstrasse 111
8903 Birmensdorf