For many of us, when we are feeling stressed or anxious we escape to places like the forest to relax. But what if the forests themselves are under stress? Due to climate change, summers are getting hotter and drier. As a result, the water table is dropping and young trees and shallow-rooted species can no longer reach that most important elixir of life: water. Signs of this so-called ‘drought stress’ include bare patches, dry tree crowns, bark beetle infestation or even the complete death of the trees or entire forests.
Large-scale spruce monocultures, which prefer a wet, alpine climate, are particularly hard hit. In many corners of Switzerland you can discover forests where substantial areas have been razed to the ground by pests or storms. The effects of the prolonged drought were particularly evident in 2018 and 2020. Two large lakes, including Switzerland’s largest reservoir and another on the border with France, almost dried up completely.
Our forests as we know them will change. But there is still hope to preserve Earth’s ‘green lungs’. The many monocultures — plantations that serve primarily to supply us with wood — are being converted into diverse and species-rich mixed forests. New species from across the world, such as the Douglas fir and the black walnut, represent rays of hope for our woodland regions.
In this Collection, we present four day hikes that will take you to dry forests and lakes suffering from drought. In the picturesque Rhone Valley, you walk through the largest continuous pine forest in Switzerland. The oldest trees are already over 100 years old and these veterans are greatly impacted by both the effects of the drought and, on the flip side, the torrential rain of recent years. The ground here is simply no longer able to absorb the rain. It simply runs off without being able to penetrate further into the soil.
On the border with France, the dried-up Lac des Brenets resembled something from an apocalyptic disaster movie in 2018, with all the tour boats sitting listlessly on the lake bed. Guests could virtually walk from one shore to the other. Another lake affected by the lack of rainfall was Lake Sihl – Switzerland's largest reservoir – which resembled a desert landscape in the spring of 2020.
In the Jurapark Aargau, you can witness the way that drought represents an opportunity for some animal and plant species. Rare orchids have settled on dry meadows, which has led to numerous insect species inhabiting the pastures.
Natural forests give us so much: they filter pollutants from the air, bind large amounts of CO₂ in both the soil and the wood and provide us with oxygen day after day. It's time to give them something back. Each and every one of us can contribute to the preservation of our forests.
Climate change isn’t the only challenge we face. The extreme extraction of groundwater and the draining of wetlands for residential areas and farmland are making it increasingly difficult for trees to survive. Let's work together to conserve water and preserve our forests! The challenge is great, but it also offers opportunities, as the future could once again become more vibrant, species-rich and colorful.
The Pfynwald is the largest contiguous pine forest in Switzerland and is located in the picturesque Rhone Valley. In recent decades, drought and downpour have had a particularly strong impact here, which is why the valley is one of the driest inner-alpine valleys in the Alps today. This has an impact on the pines, some of which are over 100 years old. The mighty giant trees increasingly show symptoms of drought such as strong bark beetle infestation and eventually die.
Excursion steamers and jetties that lie completely dry in the sand are usually seen more in end-of-time films. In 2018, however, this scene became a reality for a Swiss lake: Due to months of drought, the Lac des Brenets between France and Switzerland almost completely dried up. The water level sank by several meters on a huge body of water that is otherwise explored by hilarious people on excursion boats.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
Dry meadows and heaths, bare rocks and sun-tanned slopes - drought is poison for some animal and plant species, but an opportunity for others. The species-rich dry meadows in the Aargau Jura Park offer a unique habitat for rare flora and fauna. Here you will meet a colorful variety of insects, hares and foxes and you can enjoy rare orchids.