Swiss Plateau

The Swiss Plateau (French plateau suisse, rarely also pays Moyen, Italian Altipiano svizzero, Rhaeto- Romansch bassa ) is about 30 percent area fraction next to the Jura and the Alps, one of the three major landscapes in Switzerland.

It includes the flat part, but largely hilly area between Jurazug and the Alps, and is on average at an altitude of 400 to 600 m above sea level. M. Enjoying the pelvic location, it is by far the most densely populated region of the country and thus their economy and transportation infrastructure most important metropolitan area.


The Swiss Plateau is geographically and geologically clearly separated by the elongated ridges of the Jura in northwest and north. In the south towards the Alps towards the boundary is not uniformly defined. As a criterion for the separation is usually of some places relatively abrupt rise to heights of over 1,500 m above sea level. Taken M. ( Limestone Alps and Plateau, partly also to the mountains of the subalpine Molasse. Occasionally, the regions of the higher central plateau, in particular, the Freiburg hills, the Napfgebiet, the Tössbergerland and parts of Appenzell be counted among the Swiss Alps in the strict sense. If however, only the major scenery considering the Alpine foreland is clearly still on the Central Plateau. the southwestern boundary of the Swiss Plateau forms the Lake Geneva, Lake Constance and the northeastern boundary of the Upper Rhine.

Geologic provides the means land is a long-drawn sedimentary basin that extends well beyond the Swiss borders. In the southwest on the French territory, the basin narrows in Genevois and ends at Chambery, where Jura and Alps merge. Beyond the Lake Constance, the Central Plateau in the south German and Austrian Alpine Foothills continues.

On Swiss territory, the Central Plateau has a length dimension of about 300 km at an increasing width from west to east. In the Geneva area, the width is 20-30 km, in the Bern area about 50 km in eastern Switzerland around 70 km.

Many cantons have share of the Plateau. Full Mittelland cantons Zurich, Thurgau and Geneva; predominantly in the Midlands are the areas of Canton Lucerne, Aargau, Solothurn, Bern, Fribourg and Vaud; smaller shares also can be found in the cantons of Neuchâtel, train, Schwyz, St. Gallen and Schaffhausen.

Rüttenen near Solothurn Aare

Inkwiler and Burgäschisee

Aareinseli in Grenchen

Highway at Grenchen

View from Pilatus on the Central Plateau in Lucerne


Layer sequence

Due to numerous deep drilling for oil and natural gas, the rock sequences in the Swiss Plateau are relatively well researched. The base forms the crystalline basement, which is revealed in the central ranges of the Alps as well as in the Black Forest and the Vosges Mountains, but is formed in the region of Jura and the country as a deep geosyncline. Approximately 2,500 to 3,000 feet below the earth's surface, close to the Alps also significantly lower, one encounters the Central Plateau in holes each on this bedrock. About the bedrock overlaid the unfolded layer sequence of Mesozoic sediments from the eras of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous; it is nowhere open in the Central Plateau. Its thickness increases from west to east gradually from 2,500 to 800 meters from. These layers were like those of the Jura mountains in a relatively shallow marine basin, Tethys, deposited. On the Mesozoic layers, the Molassesedimente came to rest. These consist of ablation products of the Alps, mostly Nagelfluh (conglomerates ), sands, marls and clays which were consolidated under the pressure of overlying sediments into rock. The top layer eventually form the gravel and loose rock, which were transported by the ice age glaciers.


Geology of the utmost importance in the Swiss Plateau, the mighty Molasse sediments that were deposited as a result of mountain erosion at the young edge of the Alps. The thickness of the molasse increases (at the same distance from the Alps) from west to east. The former flows from the Alps - generally not congruent with today's river network - built at the mountain foot on major alluvial fans. The main examples of this are the cup and the macaroni - alluvial fans, other subjects there were in the territory of the Rigi, in Schwarzenburgerland and in the area between the eastern lake and the middle reaches of the Sarine.

The eroded material was sorted by its grain size. Thus, coarse-grained material was predominantly sedimented close to the Alps, once the flow velocity of the water as a transport medium was too low to keep the coarser stones in the balance. In the central part of the basin are found mainly fine-grained sandstones and on its northern border in the Jura near clays and marls.

Genesis of molasses in the Central Plateau

In the first period of the Tertiary to around 60-40 million years ago the area now known Swiss Plateau was a karstified limestone plateau, the slightly tilted to the south and was drained in that direction. In the aftermath of this plateau was flooded by uplift and subsidence processes associated with the formation of the Alps twice from the sea. One therefore distinguishes the corresponding deposits as Meeresmolasse and Freshwater Molasse, which under the latter should not be understood primarily sediments in freshwater lakes, but mainly deposits by river systems and Wind transport of snow (ie more of a " Festlandmolasse ").

  • Lower Marine Molasse ( about 37-30 million years ago ): Gradually, the limestone plateau lowered from, and a shallow estuary before penetrated that reached in the east to the Carpathians. The sediments consisted of fine-grained sands, clays and marls; Napf there were none, because the actual lifting of the Alps begin until the end of this period.
  • Lower Freshwater Molasse ( about 30-22 million years ago ): The sea gave way to a hand back because raising operations, on the other hand, due to a global sea level lowering. Together with the Alpine folding used the mountain erosion and the first Napf emerged.
  • Upper Marine Molasse ( about 22-16 million years ago ): Once again penetrated a shallow estuary and the formation of Napf of bowl and macaroni began.
  • Upper Freshwater Molasse ( 16-2 million years ago ): The sea retired now back for good. The structure of the bowl and macaroni fan (as well as other smaller alluvial fans ) went on, so that they reached a thickness of about 1500 meters at the end of the period.

In the following period, especially the western part of the Central Plateau was again strongly boosted, so that the sediments of the Upper Marine and Freshwater Molasse were largely eroded again in this field.

Characteristic of the sediments of the Meeresmolassen are fossilized snails, clams and shark teeth. In contrast, one finds in the Süsswassermolassen fossils of typical mainland mammals but also the remains of the former sub-tropical vegetation ( eg palm leaves).

Glacial overprint

Its present shape landscape has received the Central Plateau during the embossing by Ice Age glaciers. While all known alpine glaciation stages ( Gunz, Mindel, crack and Würm ) met with tremendous Gletschereismassen far ahead of the midland. The warm periods in between each caused a retreat of the glaciers in the high Alps (some smaller extent than today ), and the Central Plateau sub-tropical vegetation is made ​​wide.

During the ice ages, the Rhone Glacier informed at the exit of the Alps in two arms, one of which was expanding all over the west-central heartland to the regions of Solothurn and Aarau. In the region of Bern it merged with the Aaregletscher. Also, the Reuss, the Linth and the Rhine glacier pushed forward partly to the Jura. The ice formed the country on the one hand by the low erosion, on the other hand by deposits of often several meters thick moraines (very finely ground rock flour ) and by deposition of gravel by the rivers ahead of the glacier.

Traces of the older Günz and Mindeleiszeit, however, are left only a few places, as they were eliminated or migrated by the glaciers of the subsequent ice ages. Your greatest extent reached the glacial ice age in the crack, while the was out of the Napfgebiet and Tössbergerland covered by ice throughout the midlands. From the Ice Age, which began about 115,000 years before the present, bear witness to the great majority of tracks. The terminal moraines of glaciers and the deposits of the various stages of withdrawal have been preserved.


If you look at the map you can see the flow direction of the ice age glaciers today. The vast expanse of the Rhone Glacier to the northeast indicate the the Jura and the Alps parallel course of the valleys ( Broye Glane ) and lakes ( Neuchâtel, Biel and Murten) in western Switzerland. Reuss and Linth glacier, the running from southeast to northwest valleys (eg Wigger, Suhren, sea and Reusstal ) and lakes ( Lake Zurich, Greifensee, Hallwilersee, Sempach ) created the central midlands. The Rhine glacier left behind in the north-east Switzerland majority in east-west trending tracks ( Thur, submarine of Lake Constance ). In some places there are characteristic drumlins of pressed ground moraine, which usually occur in large swarms, most typically in the Zurich Oberland, in the Hirzel region in the Lake Constance region and between the Reuss valley and the Baldeggersee.

Other important legacies of the glaciers in the Central Plateau are next to the lake and river system, the boulders, which are to be found scattered all over the area. This partly huge erratic blocks (eg, at Steinhofgründe ) from local foreign rock, mostly granite and gneiss, which occurs only in the high Alps, were among others the key to the creation of the Ice Age theory in the 19th century, as a transport solely by hydropower physically impossible is.

Finally, also the gravel deposits in the valley bottoms of the Central Plateau, a witness of the ice ages. During the glacial period, and the foray and retreat of glaciers partly mighty gravel layers were deposited in the valleys that have been eroded away in the subsequent warm period in each case up to a few leftovers. Therefore, many valleys have a terrace system: The lower terrace is gravel of the Würm glaciation, the high terrace deposits of crack ice age. Sometimes even cover gravels of the older glaciations are found.


Although the Swiss Plateau is a pool, it is not classified as a flat landscape, but it has a depending on the region sometimes very known for its natural outline on. Important elements are the two great lakes, Geneva and Lake Constance, which limit the Swiss plateau in the southwest and northeast. The Western Plateau is characterized by plateaus ( Gros de Vaud, up to 600 m asl. ) And Molassehügelländer ( Jorat, up to 900 m above sea level, . Freiburg hill country, 600 - 1'200 m asl. ), In which partly deep valleys are buried. Consists only in Jura near the Valley of the Venoge and Orbeebene a nearly continuous depression, which by the cross bar of the Mormont, on the watershed between the basins of the Rhone and Rhine, 500 meters above sea level. M. runs, is divided into two parts. The Seeland is the largest flat area of the Central Plateau, but also in rise single Molasserücken. To the east is now close to various hill regions, which are gradually lower toward the north. Another major area is the through by the Emme level of the water office. The along the foot of the Jura usually flowing in a wide valley Aare assumes all from the higher central plateau and the Alps rivers coming on like a gutter.

The central lowlands is characterized by a number of southeast-northwest oriented broad ridge (among Erlosen, Lindenberg ) and intervening valleys further, some with lakes ( Lake Sempach, Hallwilerseee and Baldeggersee ). The eastern end of which forms the Albis chain, which creates together with the Heitersberg chain a transverse through the Mittelland between the Jura and Alps bolt which can only be passed in a few places of the powerful modes of transport usually with tunnels.

The Eastern Plateau is in the valleys of the Limmat River ( Lake Zurich ), smooth ( with Greifensee ), Töss and Thur divided. Between rise hill country, in the Thurgau again wide Molasserücken ( Lake Ridge, Ottenberg ).

Of these landforms are two hill areas are distinctly. These are the Napfbergland ( with heights up to 1,408 m above sea level. M. also the highest point of the Central Plateau ) and the Tössbergerland ( Chrüzegg to 1,314 m above sea level. M. ), both remnants of the Tertiary alluvial fan conglomerate-rock. These have been severely eroded over time, but not over-molded by the ice age glaciation because of their altitude. Therefore, deeply grooved, steep-walled valleys originated (ditches ) and a highly branched, dense river network.


The Swiss Mittelland, is located in the transition zone from humid maritime to continental - temperate climate with predominantly westerly winds. In the lower Central Plateau, the mean annual temperature is about 9-10 ° C. In January have the Lake Geneva region and the near-shore areas of Neuchâtel and Biel around 1 ° C on the highest mean temperatures. At the same height, there is a slight west-east gradient; the coldest month mean temperatures of -1 ° C can be achieved in the Bodensee area. The mean temperature of July is in the Geneva 20 ° C, but also along the entire Jurasüdfuss average of 18-19 ° C can be achieved, in the higher, alps surrounding areas about 16-18 ° C. Also with respect to the mean annual sunshine duration of the Lake Geneva area is favored with over 1900 hours in the rest of the Central Plateau there are 1600 ( especially in the east ) to 1900 hours.

The mean annual rainfall ranges between 800 mm in the Jura area, 1200 mm in the higher central plateau and 1400 mm at the edge of the Alps. The driest regions of the Central Plateau are located in the lee of the high Jura between Morges and Neuchâtel. Snow cover days are available nowadays in the hottest regions of the Geneva and Neuchâtel less than 20 per year in the rest of the Central Plateau, depending on altitude between 20 and 40 per year.

In the winter half-year forms at low exchange weather conditions in the Central Plateau will freeze over, and it usually comes to fog or low stratus formation. Then, sometimes even weeks, the entire Mittelland, is located over several days away under a thick blanket of fog, while the adjacent areas (Jura and Alps) benefit from the beautiful weather. Typical of low stratus layers is the Bise, a cold northeast wind. This achieved because of the channeling in the narrower to the west up funds country has its greatest strengths in the area of ​​Lake Geneva, where registered with classical Bisenlage often mean wind speeds of 60 km / h and gusts to over 100 km / h. The alpine areas near the central and eastern Mediterranean country sometimes come into the enjoyment of warm foehn winds.


Dominating the Swiss Plateau is the mixed forest with the main representatives of beech and fir. In many places, there are economic reasons planted larger spruce stands; Spruce trees occur naturally in the lower layers hardly before. At beneficiary, warmer and drier places in the Lake Geneva area, in the Seeland and in northern Switzerland to Schaffhausen from the Aaremündung to form oak, linden and maple trees, the most important of the forest.


Although the Plateau is only about 30 percent the size of Switzerland, here around 5 million people, or slightly more than two-thirds of Switzerland's population live. Therefore, the Central Plateau with 380 inhabitants per square kilometer, is densely populated. All Swiss cities with over 50,000 inhabitants (except Basel and Lugano) are located in the Central Lowlands, the most important are Zurich, Geneva, Bern and Lausanne. The focus of the settlement are therefore also in the urban areas of these cities. The agglomeration of Zurich alone counts almost 1.3 million inhabitants. More densely populated areas lie along the foot of the Jura and in the Lucerne, Winterthur and St. Gallen. In contrast, the regions of the higher central plateau in the range of Jorat, picturesque region and in Tössbergerland a sparse population, predominantly small farming villages and scattered farmsteads.

The majority of the population in the Central Plateau is German; in the western part French is spoken. The language border has existed for many centuries almost at the same place and is not tied to a geographical dividing line. It runs from Biel / Bienne via Erlach, Morat and Freiburg to Schwarz in the Fribourg Alps. The cities of Biel / Bienne, Murten ( Morat ) and Freiburg (Fribourg) are officially bilingual. Villages along the language border generally have a German and a French name (see also: List of German names of Swiss towns, list of French names of Swiss towns ).

Within a short outline of the settlement history of the following points should be noted: The first populated areas in the Neolithic represented ( stilt houses ), the lake and river shores of the Mediterranean country. Getting villages consisting of wooden cabins originated from the 3rd century BC, after the immigration of Celtic tribes. Urban settlements with stone houses developed in the Roman period, the BC 15 began with the annexation of the territory of the Helvetii in the Roman Empire under Emperor Augustus and lasted until the end of the 3rd century AD. The three main places in the Roman period were Aventicum ( Avenches ), Vindonissa and Colonia Iulia Equestris ( Nyon ). They were connected by a well developed network of military roads. After the retreat of the Romans, the Western Plateau was settled by the romanized Burgundians, the central and eastern Central Plateau by the Alemanni, thus established the language border.

During the Middle Ages there were numerous city -ups, mainly in the climatically favorable located deeper Plateau. So it was in 1500 already about 130 cities, which were connected by a dense transport network. With industrialization in the 19th century, the city gained rapidly in importance, and especially from 1860 began a rapid population growth of the cities, which lasted approximately 100 years. The next trend reversal began about 1970, when the city began fleeing. Thus, the peri-urban communities disproportionately grew strongly, while at the same time lost the core city inhabitants. In recent times, this growth belt moved further and further outward, and the urban sprawl continues.


Thanks to its favorable climate and fertile soil, the deeper western Central Plateau is the most important agricultural region in Switzerland. The predominant soil type is a Luvisol, at higher altitudes the brown earth. Main crops of agriculture are wheat, barley, maize, sugar beet and potatoes; particularly in the lake and the vegetable has a great importance. At favored locations along the lakes, at the foot of the Jura and the Zürcher Weinland and Unterklettgau vines are planted. Meadow land with dairy and beef cattle husbandry predominates in the eastern Central Plateau and in the higher regions of the rest of the Central Plateau. In particular, in the canton of Thurgau the growing of fruit ( apples) is of great importance.

The forests of the country are used for forestry; made it spread all over the country numerous spruce forests. Because of the valuable timber yield the spruce trees are often planted in pure stands.

Also with respect to industry and services the Central Plateau is the core region of Switzerland. As a traditional industry, the textile and clothing industry, especially in the central and eastern Mediterranean country to call; but it has lost in recent decades in importance. Main branches of industry at the present time are mechanical and automotive, electrical, electronics, precision engineering and optical industry and metal construction. In the food and beverage industry in both the domestic agricultural products and imports are processed. Furthermore, even wood and paper processing of meaning.

Like the rest of Switzerland is also the means country poor in natural resources. However, it is thanks to the advance of the glaciers during the ice ages in sufficient quantities gravel and clay. The gravel extraction in the area of ​​glacial gravel terraces is common in the valleys of the Middle country and meets the demand of the building materials industry.

By means of numerous river power stations is used the water power to generate electricity. In addition, all five Swiss nuclear power plants are in the Central Plateau. These are the nuclear power plants Gösgen, Muhlenberg, body city and Beznau I and II


Due to the Swiss standards relatively simple topography and population density, the transport network in the Central Plateau is very well developed. The most important transversal, as it were, the backbone of the Central Plateau, forms the A1 motorway, which runs from Geneva via Lausanne, Bern, Zurich, Winterthur to St. Gallen and all big cities together. Their last section between Yverdon- les- Bains and Estavayer -le- Lac was opened only in 2001; it is to this create that economic recovery so far favored the Central Plateau region. The A2 motorway in Switzerland to the north-south axis runs through the Central Plateau between Olten and Luzern.

The railway network and has long been very tight. As with the A1 all the major cities are directly connected with the web, there are two main lines between Lausanne and Olten. The Midland line goes from Lausanne via Fribourg and Bern to Olten, the foot of the Jura line runs along the foot of the Jura and unlocks the cities Yverdon- les- Bains, Neuchâtel, Biel / Bienne and Solothurn. A quantum leap, there were on 12 December 2004, when the new Mattstetten - Rothrist was opened ( Rail 2000 ), which shortened the travel time on this route by 15 minutes. A train journey between Bern and Zurich has lasted a little less than an hour.

The two main Swiss airports are located in the Central Plateau: the Zurich airport in the plane of Glattal in Kloten and Geneva airport at the border on the north western edge of the city. Bern as the de facto capital of Switzerland, which has only the small airport Bern -Belp.


Compared to the Alps, the Swiss plateau, especially rural areas, less focused on tourism and tourism; it is mainly a transit region. Only the larger cities and their attractions, especially the towns of Berne and Lucerne, as well as Zurich, St. Gallen, Fribourg, Solothurn, Geneva and Lausanne, pull on the city tourism. As a natural attraction, the Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen, a special magnet for tourism dar. from tourism benefit also, the regions on Lake Geneva and the Three Lakes Region Lake Neuchâtel, Biel and Murten, in which in 2002 the national exhibition Expo 02 had occurred. For Baden, Bad Zurzach, Schinznach bath and Yverdon- les- Bains with its thermal baths of the spa tourism also plays a significant role. Both an der Aare, Emme, Reuss and the Rhine play the cycling and walking tourism increasingly important.