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Climate challenges Drought and frost take a toll on Swiss forests

Fallen trees block a road

Storms such as Burglind, which wreaked havoc at the beginning of 2018, are one of many threats to Swiss forests

(Keystone)

A late spring frost and general aridity made life tough for Swiss forests last year. In addition, the shortage of acorns and nuts in woods meant wild boars were forced to forage for food in fields, causing damage to crops. 

“When it comes to food, the woods this year are basically empty,” a hunter from canton Basel Country told the Swiss News Agency. “This explains the enormous damage to fields and plants.” 

While damage claims in canton Basel Country came to CHF210,000 ($215,000) for the entire previous hunting season, the damage this year already stands at CHF180,000 with three months to go. 

+ 2017 was a mixed year for biodiversity, says WWF

+ Spring foliage appearing too early in the Alps?

The late frost in April also caused considerable damage across the country to various fruit plantations and early budding tree species. The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Researchexternal link said that while late blossoming beeches had more or less been spared, early foliage on oaks had partly frozen. 

It added that as more plants were budding earlier as a result of climate change, more were at risk of sporadic spring frosts. 

Lack of rain also caused problems for trees last year, especially in the west and northwest parts of Switzerland, with below the annual average rainfall for almost all of 2017. Autumn was especially dry, with many regions receiving less than a third of the normal rainfall. 

Sycamores and silver firs suffered in particular from the lack of water, according to the Basel forest authorities, which consider these species seriously threatened.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ts

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