swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

Your Gateway to Switzerland

The Swiss Plateau

The Emmental in the Bernese Plateau (in new window)

The Emmental in the Bernese Plateau© imagepoint.biz

Urbanised landscape in St. Erhard, canton Lucerne (in new window)

Urbanised landscape in St. Erhard, canton Lucerne

© imagepoint.biz

The Plateau stretches from Lake Geneva in the south west to Lake Constance in the north east, with an average altitude of 580 m (1902 ft).

It covers about 30 percent of the country`s surface area, but is home to two thirds of the population. There are 450 people to every square kilometre (1,166 per square mile). Few regions in Europe are more densely populated.

Most of Switzerland's industry and farmland is concentrated in the Plateau.

Urbanised landscape

If you travel across the Plateau, from Lake Geneva to Lake Constance, you never pass through unpopulated territory. The landscape continually shows signs of man's presence. When you leave a town, the next one is never far away. Villages lie within sight of each other.

The countryside in the Plateau tends to be highly organised; the fields often look as if they have been drawn with a ruler. Fields are small: nowhere are there endless acres given over to a single crop. Instead, meadows alternate with fields sown to cereals or other crops and with small woods. The land is used intensively.

The dense population and economic concentration in the Plateau means that more and more cultivated land is being lost. In Switzerland as a whole, 1 m2 (11 sq.ft.) of land has been built over every second since the early 1980s by encroaching housing and infrastructure. The greatest expansion has been in the conurbations of the Plateau.

Even outside the built-up areas there have been many changes. Orchards have given way to crops that can be mechanically harvested. In the period 1984-95, for every four trees grubbed up, only one was planted. However, the total length of hedgerows has increased, and there has been a move towards restoring open streams, which in previous decades had been built over.

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