Institution: Pan Bern AG – Switzerland


Keywords: Funeral Forests, Cultural Ecosystem Services, Forest Management

Spiritual forest spaces have a rising importance in society. One example of this trend is the funeral forest. In Switzerland only 10% of the deceased are still buried in a coffin, it is common to spread or bury the departed’s ashes (Donner 2018). Between 2009 and 2013 in Germany the number of tree burials doubled up to 45’000 per year (Bauer und Schraml 2018).

Funeral forests are sacred places, grounded on two Cultural Ecosystem Services (CES) of outstanding importance: (a) spiritual and religious meaning and (b) a space of long duration, linking ancestors with nature. As CES are linked to symbolic meaning, they cannot be explained by the functioning of Ecosystems alone (Kirchhoff 2018).

Funeral forests are attractive examples for practitioners as well as for researchers: the object of interest – a single tree – can be considered at the same time as a topic of the ecological world (as well as a symbol of people’s expectations. Forest management measures therefore bridge two worlds and sustain natural as well as social values.

In a case study within SINCERE (2018) funeral forests were analysed focusing on 3 aspects. (I) Around 130 trees, offered for burial places, were inventoried. What kind of trees were selected by the forest owner and why? On the other hand: Which trees attracted – so far – interest of clients and why? And how will the forest be managed in the future? The criteria for selecting the trees and the reasoning and preferences of clients for choosing specific trees are presented.

(II) The case is also an example of innovation: new offers had to be created, new procedures to be established and new skills to be developed. The most important innovation mechanisms are explored.
(III) On a more general level fostering and inhibiting policy factors for or against the creation of funeral forests were analysed. The results are shown and consequences for future forest management, policy and capacity building discussed.


Donner S (2018) Letzte Ruhe nach Mass.

Bauer und Schraml (2018) Der Wald als Bestattungsort. In: AFZ-Der Wald, 13: 34-37.

Kirchhoff T (2018) “Kulturelle Ökosystemdienstleistungen”. Eine begriffliche und methodische Kritik. Verlag Karl Alber. 187 S.

SINCERE (2018) Spurring INnovations for Forest ECosystem SERvices in Europe” (a European Un-ion’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 773702).

Presentation: link