Red List habitat classification > RLC - Freshwater habitats > RLC3.5d Unvegetated or sparsely vegetated shore with mobile sediments in montane and alpine regions

Unvegetated or sparsely vegetated shore with mobile sediments in montane and alpine regions

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLC3.5d
Threat status
Europe Vulnerable
EU Vulnerable
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


The habitat includes the bed and banks of rivers and streams from alpine to mountain (and partially sub-montane) belts and of the northern boreal area. The habitat is highly dynamic because it is characterized by periodical floods and frequent and considerable variation of speed and intensity of the water current, which however remains always rather high.  The sediment of the habitat includes mainly gravel deposits and banks of alluvial material, characteristically poor in organic materials and nutrients. The vegetation types occupying these gravel deposits include pioneer vegetation and subsequent early stages in the colonization sequence, with plants  specialised to survive in this habitat, having narrow leaves and elastic stems adapted to or tolerant of submersion and rapid changes of the water current: for example Myricaria germanica, and species of Epilobium Salix, Agrostis, Elimus, Poa.  An important feature is that the vegetation stays in its pioneer stage and is ephemeral but eventual succession leads to willow scrub.

Indicators of good quality:

  • Natural hydrological cycle of spates
  • Suitable geological substrate which is easily erodible
  • High water velocity
  • Pioneer vegetation with absence or sporadic abundance of nitrophilous species
  • No high abundance of exotic invasive species
  • No negative anthropogenic influence (gravel extraction, regulation of the water regime, construction of artificial banks)

Characteristic species
For full habitat description, please download the habitat factsheet.

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

This habitat type is relatively wide distributed in Europe but, during the last centuries, it has undergone a relatively high reduction in quantity (34-36% in the last 50 years) due to the rapidly increasing urbanization and development of agriculture and industrial activities after the Second World War. The habitat is therefore assessed as Vulnerable according to criterion A1.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Mining, extraction of materials and energy production
    • Mining and quarrying
    • Sand and gravel extraction
  • Pollution
    • Pollution to surface waters (limnic, terrestrial, marine & brackish)
    • Pollution to groundwater (point sources and diffuse sources)
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species
  • Natural System modifications
    • Human induced changes in hydraulic conditions
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions
    • Droughts and less precipitations
    • Flooding and rising precipitations
    • Changes in biotic conditions
    • Habitat shifting and alteration

Habitat restoration potential

The capacity of this habitat to recover differs according to the type of damage that the habitat has undergone. If, as is most frequent, the damage influences the hydrology and morphology of the stream or its basin, the recovery time can be very long or even unattainable and restoration always requires intervention. If the damage is from water pollution, the habitat can be restored in a relatively short time (10 years, or even less) but anyway through intervention and the complete removal of the causes of pollution.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Decreasing Decreasing
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Decreasing Decreasing
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

Regulations enacted to limit sediment extraction and water pollution are now common in most European countries. However the expansion of urban areas and anthropogenic activities makes it difficult to reach the right compromise between habitat conservation and the satisfaction of human needs (exploitation of water resources and protection of populated areas). Nevertheless specific measures aimed to limit the habitat erosion and invasion of exotic plants should be adopted in all European countries, especially those where urban and industrial areas are now rapidly developing after difficult political and economic historical periods (e.g. Balkan countries).

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Restoring/Improving water quality
    • Restoring/Improving the hydrological regime
    • Managing water abstraction
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Manage landscape features
  • Measures related to urban areas, industry, energy and transport
    • Other measures
    • Urban and industrial waste management


For each habitat a distribution map was produced from a wide variety of sources indicating known and potential occurrences of the habitat in 10x10 km grids within Europe. Occurrences in grid cells were given in two classes: actual distribution from relatively reliable sources (surveys, expert knowledge), and potential distribution based on models or less reliable indicators. Please download the fact sheet to see the map.

Geographic occurrence and trends

EU28 Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Austria Present 103 Decreasing Decreasing
Bulgaria Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Finland mainland Present 02-Oct Stable Stable
Aland Islands Present 02-Oct Stable Stable
France mainland Present 90 Decreasing Decreasing
Corsica Present 90 Decreasing Decreasing
Germany Present 1 Decreasing Decreasing
Italy mainland Present 263 Decreasing Decreasing
Romania Present 3 Decreasing Decreasing
Slovakia Present 0.75 Decreasing Decreasing
Slovenia Present 86 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 0.73 Decreasing Decreasing
Poland Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Sweden Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
United Kingdom Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Northern Island Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 3 Decreasing Decreasing
Switzerland Present 135 Decreasing Decreasing
Albania Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Iceland Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Kosovo Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Montenegro Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Norway Mainland Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Svalbard Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Jan Mayen Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Serbia Present Unknown Unknown Unknown

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 7647600 2796 549-557 AOO/EOO incl. potential
EU28+ 6125 687-695 AOO/EOO incl. potential
AOO = the area occupied by a habitat measured in number of 10x10 km grid cells.
EOO = the area (km2) of the envelope around all occurrences of a habitat (calculated by a minimum convex polygon).

Characteristic species

Not available

Vegetation types

Relation to vegetation types (syntaxa)

Not available

Other classifications

Not available
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100