Clearing forests to make way for a sustainable economy transition in Switzerland

Troxler, David; Zabel, Astrid (2021). Clearing forests to make way for a sustainable economy transition in Switzerland. Forest policy and economics, 129(102511), p. 102511. Elsevier Science 10.1016/j.forpol.2021.102511

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While many countries around the world are advancing their efforts to transition to more sustainable economies, it is important to be aware of goal conflicts that can be induced by these transition processes. In this paper we focus on land use, especially forest clearances to provide space for transitions in other sectors. The key questions for our empirical case study in Switzerland are: 1) to what extent forests are being cleared to advance sustainability transitions in other sectors and 2) whether pressure on forest area is higher in the Central Plateau than in other parts of the country. We build a conceptual framework based on existing literature that allows us to identify overlaps and differences between three sustainable economy transition concepts (i.e. green, bio- and circular economy) and apply the framework to our data on forest clearances. Our analysis is the first empirical assessment of the Swiss national forest clearances database. In this paper, we included the records of all forest clearances in Switzerland from 2001 to 2017.
The analysis revealed that overall, 14.5% of the clearances in the database are attributable to the sustainable economy classes defined by our framework. ‘Transportation’, ‘energy and lines’, and ‘waste disposal and recycling’ are the three clearance categories that harbor most sustainable economy related clearances. Inspecting the data over time, we identified a trend towards more green economy related clearance reasons in the Plateau and in the Alps. Related to our second question, the data analyses revealed that the pressure, measured as absolute clearance area (definitive and temporary) as well as clearance area relative to the regions' forest area, is higher in the Plateau than in other regions. It was not possible to identify a trend in terms of clearance area over time. Our results should enable future discussions of forest clearances to be more nuanced, especially to take into account regional contributions to the sustainable economy transition.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Zabel von Felten, Astrid Mirjam




Elsevier Science


[803] Cluster: Land Resources




Melchior Peter Nussbaumer

Date Deposited:

28 Jul 2021 14:13

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:52

Publisher DOI:





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