A natural shield against natural disaster
Mountain forests offer valuable protection against avalanches, falling rocks, soil erosion and flooding to the valleys, lowlands and urban areas below. Steep slopes and a lack of roads and trails, however, make it difficult to manage such forests in a cost-effective way, especially as people migrate from mountain communities to cities. As one of the world’s most mountainous countries, Switzerland is particularly affected by these challenges.
Each year volunteers from Swiss Re's Zurich offices return to the Tamina Valley in eastern Switzerland to help maintain its mountain forest, developing an emotional connection with the forest and people in the region in the process. Their service builds diverse bridges: between the forestry service and the insurance industry, between outdoor and office workers and between alpine and urban communities.
To date Swiss Re volunteers have built and repaired footpaths, constructed over 300 wooden snow barriers, planted 2 375 wild tree seedlings and cleared weaker trees from forested land. These measures will protect the valleys below for at least 40 years to come.
In 2017 Swiss Re’s partnership with the Bergwaldprojekt included a nine-day ETH Sustainability Summer School in the Tamina Valley with the theme “Mountain Forests & Risk Management”. Attended by students from around the world, the school offered theoretical instruction, case study work and hands-on experience.