Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE4.3a Boreal and arctic acidophilous alpine grassland

Boreal and arctic acidophilous alpine grassland

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE4.3a
Threat status
Europe Least Concern
EU Least Concern
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


Boreal and arctic acidophilous alpine grasslands represent grass-, sedge-, rush- or herb-dominated vegetation types in boreal and arcto-alpine mountains of Fennoscandia, Iceland and Scotland. The habitat includes a quite wide range of different vegetation communities from low-graminoid mountain heaths to mountain meadows. Common to these varieties is a low field layer, usually < 30 cm. These grasslands occur predominantly on siliceous bedrock and they are in most sites characterized by thick and late-lying snow cover.

There is no single characteristic species describing all of these grassland habitats, and the species composition varies according to the vegetation community. In high mountains grasses (Nardus stricta, Festuca ovina), sedges (Carex bigelowii) and/or rushes (Juncus trifidus) dominate the so-called graminoid mountain heaths (order Juncetalia trifidi). Other species present are a mixture of typical species for mountain heaths, snowbeds and mountain meadows. Mountain meadows (secondary grasslands) belonging to this habitat type are low-herb communities consisting mainly of Bistorta vivipara, Cerastium alpinum, Thalictrum alpinum, Saussurea alpina, Ranunculus acris, Silene acaulis, Astragalus alpinus, A. frigidus, Ericeron uniflorus and Potentilla crantzii (alliance Potentillo-Polygonion vivipari), forming a boreal equivalent to E2.3 Mountain hay meadows. The distinction between this habitat type and E4.4a Calcareous arctic-alpine grasslands does not relate only to the chemistry of bedrock, but is also reflected in the average height of vegetation, which in this habitat is usually relatively low.

Climate change can increase the growth of bushes and shrubs, which may reduce the area of grasslands.

Indicators of good quality:

The following characteristics are indicators of good quality:

·      Openness (no trees or shrubs)

·      Dominance of  low sedges, rushes, grasses or hebs

·       Thick snow cover

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

Despite missing data from Sweden and Iceland and incomplete data from Norway the available data seem to give a reliable overview on the real situation. Both habitat quantity and quality remained stable over the last 50 years. Hence, the overall analysis of territorial data leads according to stable trends in quantity and quality to the category Least Concern (LC) both for EU28 and EU28+.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Pollution
    • Air pollution, air-borne pollutants
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions
    • Changes in biotic conditions
  • No threats or pressures
    • No threats or pressures

Habitat restoration potential

Boreal and arctic acidophilous alpine grasslands represent mainly climax communities. Once destroyed or severely damaged (e. g. due to construction of skiing complexes), the recovery of the habitat type by natural succession processes will take a very long time in the cold climate where they occur.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

This habitat type contains mainly natural grasslands. Therefore, no special measures are required except avoiding disturbances and destruction of sites. This is achieved best by establishing protected areas and/or wilderness areas. For meadows of this habitat type extensive mowing or grazing is required.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to agriculture and open habitats
    • Maintaining grasslands and other open habitats
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Establishing wilderness areas/allowing succession


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)
Finland mainland Present 195 Stable Stable
Sweden Uncertain - -
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Norway Mainland Present 1299 Stable Stable
Iceland Present 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 915800 733 195 no data from Sweden
EU28+ 1325 1494 no data from Sweden, Iceland
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)
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