The forested areas of Switzerland are on the move, not just due to a warming climate but also because fewer alpine pastures are used today compared to the 1800s. This shift is more than just a trend—it could mean improved protection from avalanches. The Stillberg experimental forest in Davos illustrates this intriguing concept.
In Dischma, Davos, it’s easy to spot trees like spruce, larch, and Swiss stone pine climbing higher into once-grazed alpine meadows. These changes offer potential avalanche defense. The Stillberg forest project planted and nurtured 92,000 trees, including larch, mountain pine, and Swiss stone pine, above the previous tree line. The goal was to create a natural barrier against avalanches, using carefully chosen tree types and planting patterns.
Larch trees have thrived in challenging mountain conditions. Unlike their counterparts, the mountain pine and Swiss stone pine, larches shed their needles in autumn, giving them an advantage. The experimental forest’s success suggests that trees positioned more than twice the expected maximum snow depth can significantly reduce avalanche incidents.
This progress aligns with the rising tree lines across Switzerland, influenced by climate change and evolving land use. The Stillberg experiment showcases the potential for natural solutions in averting avalanches, underscoring the vital role of ecosystems in mountain safety.