Forests in transition: Strategic recommendations for sustainable forestry in Switzerland

Strategic recommendations for sustainable forestry in Switzerland

From timber production and carbon storage to protection from natural disasters and the promotion of biodiversity: forests provide a multitude of services. In the context of global challenges, the demand for forest services is increasing. This rise in demand necessitates the adaptation of sustainable forestry methods and the making of appropriate decisions.

The challenge in managing and utilising forest resources lies in ensuring a healthy balance of forest services. This involves reconciling sometimes conflicting goals. If this balance cannot be achieved, a reduction in forest ecosystem services, which benefit the forests and indirectly the entire ecosystem, must occur.

To create tools for incorporating forest ecosystem services into political and economic decisions, the National Research Programme NFP 73 has initiated relevant scientific projects. The results of the studies on forestry and forest resource conservation demonstrate how, with improved alignment of political goals and appropriate measures, the services of the forest can be sustainably secured.

Forest ecosystem and Swiss forestry

Swiss forests are under legal protection focused on conservation and multifunctionality. This legal framework forms the foundation of forestry policy. It supports the promotion and preservation of biodiversity and thus protects the forest from external development pressures. However, with regard to sustainability in forestry, growing conflicts of interest exist: the economic use of wood is diametrically opposed to the ability of forest areas to store carbon.

Forestry is shaped by the impressive forest area of Switzerland. This covers about a third of the country’s land area. Thus, forests significantly influence both the appearance and the quality of life of the population.

Sustainable management and use of Swiss forest resources require an understanding of ecological relationships and a sophisticated resource management that preserves and conserves our natural resources.

Sustainable forestry in Switzerland therefore means seeing the forest not only as a source of timber. Forests contribute to global climate protection. Therefore, it is essential to integrate sustainability considerations into all decision-making levels of businesses and society.

A holistic view that includes the various aspects of climate policy, forestry strategies, and forestry practice is crucial for the successful promotion of a sustainable economy. Only through awareness and the development of new competencies can forest ecosystem services be managed and promoted efficiently and sustainably in the future.

Strategic guidelines for sustainable forestry in Switzerland

The recommendations from the studies of the NFP 73 focus on creating improved conditions for sustainable forestry. They include raising awareness of forest services with opportunities for income diversification—bearing in mind the limited capacity of the forest—, defining ambitious political goals with cross-sector prioritisation, and the coordination and development of more adequate political instruments.

Market-based instruments also play a central role in promoting sustainable forest use: certification systems offer promising incentives for forest owners to increase carbon content by preserving standing trees or storing it in wood products. Regulatory support is essential for the effectiveness of such climate protection measures. Improved insurance protection against natural hazards, specifically tailored to the needs of the local population, also contributes to the effectiveness of managing protective forests. At the same time, improved protection measures have a direct impact on the safety and well-being of the community.

Information and communication play a crucial role in addressing the challenges in forestry. By analysing forest scenarios and using decision support systems, decision-makers and forest managers are enabled to effectively recognise and respond to the increasing demand for forest ecosystem services. Regular assessments of the progress of this knowledge transfer create security and trust.

All materials and studies mentioned in this abstract can be found in the Media Center of the NRP 73, in particular:


The authors of the studies point out in relation to the recommendations for sustainable Swiss forestry that the recommended measures need to be aligned at various levels—national, regional, and corporate.

It is also of great importance for the successful application and implementation of the solutions that binding goals and schedules are developed. Not least so that the economy and interested investors can orient themselves to legal frameworks.

Barriers and Solutions

  • Long-term planning horizons and uncertainties.
  • Complex interactions between various forest ecosystem services.
  • Low acceptance of innovative management methods.
  • Small-scale property conditions of Swiss forests complicate the implementation of innovative solutions such as carbon certification, decision support systems, or insurance protection.
  • The application of tools to promote sustainable use of forest ecosystem services requires long-term financial and personal commitment, particularly in the development phase.
  • Development of effective political guidelines, for example, for the establishment of markets for forest ecosystem services like CO₂ storage and biodiversity compensation.
  • Creation of decision aids for forestry.
  • Raising awareness among regional forest owner communities.
  • Promotion of voluntary initiatives. Definition of clear political objectives that go beyond mere timber production and explicitly include other ecosystem services.
  • Clarification of the factors that mutually influence each other in sustainable forestry.
This text was produced in cooperation with the National Research Program (NRP 73). The editorial responsibility for all text content lies with the authors.