The Swiss National Park: over 100 years of pure wilderness

  • Country:
  • Start year:
  • Location:
    Engadine, Grison, Switzerland
  • Size (ha):
  • Area Type:
  • Type of protection:
    IUCN 1a

In 2014 the Swiss National Park celebrated its 100 year existence. Established in 1914, its founding pioneers aimed to develop an entirely natural area, scientifically observed. After 100 years, the Swiss National Park is well established by locals and visitors to gain an insight into European wilderness.

The Val Cluozza, fully protected from any human activitities except hiking since 1909


  • Habitat types: About a third of the National Park is covered by forest.<br /> Typical mountain forests in the region consist of spruce, larch, cembra pine and mountain pine. Within the National Park the situation is a little different: due to clear cutting in former times, large areas of forest were demolished, and today the landscape is dominated by pioneer mountain pine forests, often referred to as the «Pass dal Fuorn» forests. Above, in the alpine meadow zone we find plants that favour the lower altitudes as well as arcto-alpine species that prefer the upper alpine zone. According to soil types, localised climate conditions, exposure and altitude, highly different mixtures of species, described as plant associations, develop in proximity. The composition of these associations is a dynamic process, within which an optimal equilibrium can develop between soil, climate and flora.<br /> In the upper alpine zones the mighty forces of erosion are predominant. The sparse vegetation is unable to hold back the soil. Blocks of rock, broken up by the tremendous force of freezing water, crash down towards the valley floor, forming gigantic slopes of scree.
  • Fauna (mega) species present: Red deer (cervus elaphus), chamoix (rupicapra rupicapra), ibex (capra ibex)
  • Fauna species reintroduced: ibex, bearded vulture


  • Description: The Swiss National Park encompasses a particularly impressive piece of Alpine landscape, with a wealth of flora and fauna. Within its boundaries nature is left to develop freely; humans remain in the background and are merely witnesses of the evolution that contributes so greatly to the incomparable character of this habitat.
  • Aim: The aims of the Park are threefold: to allow the unhindered development of nature without human interference; to research the ensuing natural processes; to inform visitors. Research and information are of course intrinsically linked to the overall aim of protection.
  • Vision: «The Swiss National Park remains also in its second century of existence a reserve in which nature is protected from any human interference, and in particular the entire fauna and flora are left to develop naturally.»
  • Flagship species: Red deer
  • Other characteristics: Education, Research


  • Inspirational value: Establishing conservation areas and issues is a way to preserve nature for future generations, although only few of these initiatives have existed for long enough to witness more than a century. Key issues can be learned from these early projects that have been examples of success in sustainable protection, long-term political survival and effective management. The Swiss National Park is one of these early examples.
  • Experience you would like to share: scientific research
  • Experience you would like to gain: funding ideas/fundraising; (EU)regulations/legislation
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