MOUNTLAND (2008-2013)

The Mountland project was in part supported by the Bois Chamblad Foundation. This study sought to understand how mountain pastures will adapt to climate change. The reseach team collected 600 soil monoliths at an altitude of about 1400 m (Col du Marchairuz) in three habitats with different sunlight conditions. These were then transplanted them to sites at lower altitudes, including Bois Chamblard, with its milder and drier climate. This process made it possible to artificially simulate global warming.

Prof. Alexandre Buttler

Prof. Alexandre Buttler

Laboratory of Ecological Systems, EPFL


A careful analysis of species diversity, plant biomass, soil respiration and microorganisms has made it possible to measure the adaptive capacity of mountain ecosystems to drought and increasing reported temperatures. A 30% decrease in species diversity was observed, as well as a 45% decrease in biomass.

During the summer season and with drought, plant growth and soil biological activity were generally reduced. The potential for climate stress resistance of mid-mountain pastures has been shown to be lower for non-forested habitats. A significant loss of dissolved carbon was observed in the drainage waters. During winter, the absence of an insulating snow layer at lower elevations, which can make soils colder, limits abundance and microbial activity, as well as soil respiration.

In addition to a thesis, scientific publications and master’s studies, the Mountland project has generated fruitful collaborations with France (University of Grenoble), the Federal Institute for Research on Forests, Snow and Landscape WSL and the ETH Zurich.


Major publications in peer reviewed international journals (cited in ISI Web of Knowledge, JCR Science Edition):

  1. Vollenweider, P., Hildbrand, G., De Masi, D., Gavazov, K., Zufferey, V., Buttler, A., von Arx, G. Above- and belowground responses to experimental climate forcing in two forb species from montane wooded pastures in Switzerland (submitted to Functional Ecology).
  2. Puissant, J., Jassey, V.E.J., Mills, R.T.E., Robroek, B.J.M., Gavazov, K., De Danieli, S., Spiegelberger, T., Griffiths, R., Buttler, A., Brun, J.-J., Cécillon, L. 2018. Seasonality alters drivers of soil enzyme activity in subalpine grassland soil undergoing climate change Soil Biol and Biochemistry
  3. Peringer, A., Buttler, A., Gillet, F., Pātru-Stupariu, I., Schulze, K.A., Stupariu, M.S., Rosenthal. G. 2017. Disturbance-grazer-vegetation interactions maintain habitat diversity in mountain pasture-woodlands. Ecological Modelling 359 (2017) 301–310.
  4. Peringer, A., Gillet, F., Rosenthal, G., Stoicescu, I., Patru-Stupariu, I., Stupariu, M.S. & Buttler, A. 2017. Landscape-scale simulation experiments test Romanian and Swiss management guidelines for mountain pasture-woodland habitat diversity. Ecological modelling 330 : 41-49.
  5. Puissant, J., Mills, RTE., Robroek, BJE., Gavazov, K., Perrette, Y., De Danieli, S., Spiegelberger, T., Buttler. A., Brun, J-J., Lauric Cécillon, L. 2017. Climate change effects on the stability and chemistry of soil organic carbon pools in a subalpine grassland. Biogeochemistry 132: 123-139. .
  6. Peringer, A., Schulze, K.A., Stupariu, I., Stupariu, M.S., Rosenthal, G., Buttler, A. & Gillet, F. 2016. Multi-scale feedbacks between tree regeneration traits and herbivore behavior explain the structure of pasture-woodland mosaics. Landscape Ecology 31(4), 913-927.
  7. Puissant, J., Cécillon, L., Mills, R.T.E., Robroek, B.J.M. Gavazov, K., De Danieli, S., Spiegelberger, T., Buttler, A., Brun, J.J. 2015. Seasonal influence of climate manipulation on microbial community structure and function in mountain soils. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 80:296–305.
  8. Gavazov, K., Mills, R., Spiegelberger, T., Lenglet, J., Buttler, A. 2014. Biotic and abiotic constraints on the decomposition of Fagus sylvatica leaf litter along an altitudinal gradient in contrasting land-use types. Ecosystems 17 : 1326-1337.
  9. Mills, R., K. Gavazov, T. Spiegelberger, D. Johnson and A. Buttler 2014. Diminished soil functions occur under simulated climate change in a sup-alpine pasture, but heterotrophic temperature sensitivity indicates microbial resilience. Science of the Total Environment, vol. 473–474(0), p. 465-472.
  10. Gavazov, K., Spiegelberger, T. and Buttler, A. 2014. Transplantation of subalpine wood-pasture turfs along a natural climatic gradient reveals lower resistance of unwooded pastures to climate change compared to wooded ones. Oecologia (174) : 1425-1435. DOI 10.1007/s00442-013-2839-9.
  11. Huber, R., H. Bugmann, A. Buttler and A. Rigling. 2013. Sustainable Land-use Practices in European Mountain Regions under Global Change: an Integrated Research Approach. Ecology and Society 18 (3): 37. [online] URL:
  12. Huber, R., A. Rigling, P. Bebi, F. Simon Brand, S. Briner, A. Buttler, C. Elkin, F. Gillet, A. Grêt-Regamey, C. Hirschi, H. Lischke, R. Werner Scholz, R. Seidl, T. Spiegelberger, A. Walz, W. Zimmermann and H. Bugmann. 2013. Sustainable Land Use in Mountain Regions Under Global Change: Synthesis Across Scales and Disciplines. Ecology and Society 18 (3): 36. [online] URL:
  13. Peringer A., Siehoff S., Chételat J., Spiegelberger T., Buttler A. & Gillet F. 2013. Past and future landscape dynamics in pasture-woodlands of the Swiss Jura Mountains under climate change. Ecology and Society, 18, 3: 11. [online] URL:
  14. Huber R., Briner S., Peringer A., Lauber S., Seidl R., Widmer A., Gillet F., Buttler A., Bao Le Q. & Hirschi C. 2013. Modeling social-ecological feedback effects in the implementation of payments for environmental services in pasture-woodlands. Ecology and Society, 18, 2: 41. DOI:10.5751/ES-05487-180241. [online] URL:
  15. Gavazov, K. S., A. Peringer, A. Buttler, F. Gillet and T. Spiegelberger. 2013. Dynamics of Forage Production in Pasture-woodlands of the Swiss Jura Mountains under Projected Climate Change Scenarios. Ecology and Society 18 (1): 38. [online] URL:
  16. Chételat, J., M. Kalbermatten, K. S.M. Lannas, T. Spiegelberger, J.-B. Wettstein, F. Gillet, A. Peringer and A. Buttler. 2013. A Contextual Analysis of Land-Use and Vegetation Changes in Two Wooded Pastures in the Swiss Jura Mountains. Ecology and Society 18 (1): 39. [online] URL:
  17. Buttler A., Gavazov K., Peringer A., Siehoff S., Mariotte P., Wettstein J.-B., Chételat J., Huber R., Gillet F. & Spiegelberger T., 2012. Conservation des pâturages boisés du Jura: défis climatiques et agro-politiques. Recherche Agronomique Suisse 3 (7-8): 346-353. In German : Buttler A., Gavazov K., Peringer A., Siehoff S., Mariotte P., Wettstein J.-B., Chételat J., Huber R., Gillet F. & Spiegelberger T., 2012. Erhaltung der Wytweiden im Jura: Klimatische und agrarpolitische Herausforderungen. Agrarforschung 3 (7-8): 346-353.
  18. Huber R., Bebi P., Briner S., Bugmann H., Buttler A., Grêt-Regamey A., Hirschi C., Scholz R.W., Zimmermann W. & Rigling A., 2012. MOUNTLAND: Changements climatiques et utilisation durable du sol en montagne. Recherche Agronomique Suisse 3 (7-8): 340-345, 2012. In German : Huber R., Bebi P., Briner S., Bugmann H., Buttler A., Grêt-Regamey A., Hirschi C., Scholz R.W., Zimmermann W. & Rigling A., 2012. MOUNTLAND: Klimawandel und nachhaltige Landnutzung im Berggebiet. Agrarforschung 3 (7-8): 340-345.

Publications in not cited peer reviewed journals :

  1. Buttler, A., Spiegelberger, T,. Chételat, J., Kalbermatten, M., Lannas, K., Peringer, A., Wettstein, J.-B., Gillet, F. 2012. Evolution récente et future des paysages sylvo-pastoraux du Parc Jurassien Vaudois. Schweiz. Z. Forstwes. 163(12): 469-480.
  2. Huber, R., Bebi, P., Briner, S., Bugmann, H., Buttler, A., Grêt-Regamey, A., Hirschi, C., Zimmermann, W., Rigling, A. 2012. Waldausdehnung in zwei Regionen des Schweizer Berggebiets: eine integrative Analyse. Schweiz. Z. Forstwes. 163(12): 502-511.
  3. Peringer A., Gillet F., Spiegelberger T. & Buttler A. 2011. Vegetation dynamics in pasture‐woodland landscapes under climate change. In: Minden V. (ed.), Ecological functions, patterns, processes, Verhandlung der Gesellschaft für Ökologie, Band 41, 5-9 September 2011, Oldenburg, Germany. p. 216.

Chapter in books:

  1. Peringer, A., Schulze, K.A., Stupariu, I., Stupariu, M.-S., Buttler, A., Gillet, F. & G. Rosenthal. 2015. Klimawandel-angepasstes, post-konservatives Management halb-offener Weidelandschaften. In: Feit, U. & H. Korn (Hrsg.): Treffpunkt Biologische Vielfalt, Band XIV, BfN-Skripten, ISBN 978-3-89624-132-0.
  2. Buttler, A. & A. Peringer. 2014. Pattern and processes at various spatio-temporal scales and adaptation to climate change. In: Hartel, T. & T. Plieninger (eds.): European wood pastures in transition: a social-ecological approach. Routledge, Abingdon, UK (2014) ISBN-10: 0415869897 | ISBN-13: 978-0415869898.
  3. Buttler, A. 2014. Grasslands in silvopastoral mountain ecosystems, in: Grasslands biodiversity and conservation in a changing world. Mariotte, P. & Kardol. P. (Eds). Nova Publisher, New York, ISBN 978-1-61761-619-8, p. 187-217.

Proceedings of international conferences:

  1. Peringer A., Gillet F., Siehoff S., Spiegelberger T., Buttler (2012) Climate-driven landscape patterns in pasture-woodland landscapes of the Swiss Jura. Oral presentation at 42nd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, 10 – 14 September 2012, in Lüneburg, Germany.
  2. Peringer, Alexander, Gillet, Francois, Siehoff, Silvana, Spiegelberger, Thomas and Alexandre Buttler. Climate-driven landscape patterns in pasture-woodland landscapes of the Swiss Jura. Oral presentation and abstract at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, session: Spatial patterns and ecological processes.

Proceedings of national conferences:

  1. Gavazov K., Mills R.T.E, Durand H., Spiegelberger T., Buttler A. (2012) Soil respiration and microbial biomass constrained by warmer winter climate and reduced snow cover in transplanted subalpine pasture turfs. Poster presentation at Swiss Geoscience Meeting, 15-16 November 2012, Bern, Switzerland.
  2. Mills R.T.E., Durand H., Gavazov K., Spiegelberger T., Buttler A. (2012) Snow-cover effects on substrate-induced respiration and SOM density fractions in transplanted pasture soils. Oral presentation at Swiss Geoscience Meeting, 15-16 November 2012, Bern, Switzerland.

Publications for a broader audience:

  1. Buttler, A. et al. Evolution récente et future des paysages sylvo-pastoraux du Jura vaudois. Infoletter Forum Landschaft 1(13) : 7.
  2. Spiegelberger, T., Gavazov, K., Buttler, A. 2010. Réchauffement en montagne. Aus der Forschung. Geosciences actuel 4/2010.
  3. Gavazov, K., Spiegelberger, T., Buttler, A. 2010. Research higlight : Mountland – successful experiment set up in the Jura Mountains. Competence Center Environment and Sustainability-CCES, Newsletter 15, July 1.

    Major press releases:

    1. La montagne à l’épreuve du changement. Le Monde, Planète, 26-27 février 2012 (P. Le Hir).
    2. Swiss soil reveals climate change in mountain ecosystems – Low-tech experiment produces accurate data on threat to plant biodiversity and may also help with carbon capture. The Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 20 March 2012 (P. Le Hir).

    Other press releases:

    1. Pâturages soumis au régime sec. La Côte (Jocelyne Laurent), 2015.
    2. Wytweiden sind ein Gewinn für Menschen und Natur. Tierwelt 36, 3 sept. 2015 (Niklaus Salzmann).
    3. Les paysages jurassiens en mutation. La Côte 14 février 2013 (S. Guggenheim).
    4. Les pâturages boisés souffrent de la hausse des températures. Terre et Nature 30 juin 2011 (Alexander Zelenka).
    5. Les pâturages boisés à l’essai. Agriculture de Montagne, des solutions à l’étude sur le réchauffement climatique. Journal La Côte, 14 octobre 2011 (Bernard Messerli).
    6. Quand les arbres l’emportent sur les sapins. Medias et communication EPFL, Journal Flash, 02 :16-17, 15.02.2011 (S. Perrin).

    Film production:

    1. Movie “Georges et Marguerite” (Vacca helvetica et homo sapin) 2010, scénario by Buttler, A., Vandenberghe, Ch. and Corboz, B., realisation by Jéquier, C. et Weber, V.