July 31, 2009

Forests reclaiming Switzerland

More of Switzerland is being reclaimed by forests as fewer people make their living in agriculture, Swiss foresters said.

An estimated 31 percent of Switzerland is blanketed with trees and there has been an increase of almost 10 percent in alpine areas since the mid-1990s, Swissinfo reported Friday.

The additional forest benefits wild animals, such as deer and boar, but means less habitat for many bird species and butterflies. The more dense alpine landscape also may make the countryside less attractive to tourists, forester Romano Berzaghi said.

During World War II, Switzerland found itself isolated, food was scarce and the country grew much of its own crops. Today, just a few people make their living from farming.

The forest is continuing to expand and under Swiss law, forests cannot be cleared, said the Swiss Foundation for Landscape Protection. The law was enacted in 1876 to prevent deforestation of mountain slopes when timber was much in demand for fuel.