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Forests spread in size and diversity

Swiss forests are larger and more diverse than in the 1990s, with protective woodlands now more stable against landslides and avalanches, a report has revealed.

The Federal Environment Office and the Institute for Forests, Snow and Landscape Research said on Tuesday that woodlands now cover 1.28 million hectares of Switzerland, about 600 square kilometres more than 11 years ago. That new growth is about the same size as canton Glarus.

The forestry inventory report, released ahead of World Forestry Day on March 21, showed that new forests are growing most rapidly in the country’s alpine regions, where half of all forests help guard against avalanches and landslides.

Forests in mountainous areas now cover 31 per cent of the total surface area, up from 29.6 per cent from the last time an inventory was conducted in 1993-1995.

Nearly one third of the country’s protective forests have benefited in the past 11 years from measures designed to promote forest health and development. About 16 per cent of Swiss forests now cover watersheds tapped for drinking water.

At the same time, nearly three times as much deadwood can be found in Swiss forests compared with 1985, the report found. Storms, insect infestations and heat waves are largely to blame. Researchers added they would study the effects that climate change may have on wood stocks.

Forests with just one type of tree are also becoming less common. Fifteen years ago 27 per cent of woodlands were monocultures. Today it is 23 per cent.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR