10: Non-native species in the Swiss National Park: current state and future challenges

von Büren, Raphael Sandro; Wipf, Sonja

  1. Swiss National Park, Research & Monitoring, Zernez, Switzerland


Non-native species, so-called neobiota, are spreading world wide. Global changes such as climate warming and increasing human mobility cause neobiota to invade areas beyond their native occurence. The impact on ecosystems is severe and may result in the extinction of native species as well as reduced ecosystem functioning and services. Neobiota which affect ecosystem or human well-being are referred to as invasive alien species. Invasion biology became a major research topic in recent years and neobiota are part of any political agenda by now.

So far, mountain regions are less affected by non-native invaders than the lowlands. However, on-going climate warming moves species range limits upwards and neobiota will spread to higher elevations.

Here, we focus on neobiota in the Swiss National Park (SNP), a protected area in the Central Alps. In 1914, human management was stopped in order to restore the disturbed ecosystems to wilderness. Thus, our study area offers the unique opportunity to examine invasion processes in nearly untouched environments. By now, non-native species within the SNP are rare, but are expected to become more frequent and possibly problematic. We explore for the first time in a comprehensive study the current state of neobiota in the SNP, urgent for long-term monitoring. Additionally, we incorporate historic and recent neobiota observations around the park area to anticipate potential future invasions.


Swiss National Park SNP in Graubünden, Switzerland. Area: 170 km2. Elevation: 1400-3174 m asl.

Study organisms:

Non-native plant, animal and fungi species, referred to as neobiota. All species introduced within the last 500 years are considered as non-native.


Database query, field survey and expert knowledge are combined to identify all neobiota species occuring within the SNP as well as in closest proximity. Historic and recent data allow to follow invasion processes and to test the hypotheses whether neobiota track climate warming and invade higher elevations, and whether neobiota emerge more often in the area than migrating native species. Based on our analyses, species which might become invasive within the park area and eradication methods to prevent the invasion will be discussed.


The project started in June 2022, results will be presented at the conference.

Concluding remarks:

Our study not only provides insights in invasion processes, but also serves as baseline for an indispensable discourse: How to deal with invasive alien species in a national park? Should management strategies be arranged to “remain wilderness”? A question belowing both to conservation biology as well as politics and philosophy.