Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE5.5 Subalpine moist or wet tall-herb and fern fringe

Subalpine moist or wet tall-herb and fern fringe

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE5.5
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)


The tall forb communities of Habitat type E5.5 are found at relatively cool and humid places in low and high mountain ranges throughout Europe, with their optimum in the subalpine zone; moreover, they can be found in the arctic regions of Scandinavia. They can be seen as a vicariant of the communities of habitat type E5.4, occurring at lower altitudes. In the mountains of Central Europe, the communities usually occur above 1,000 m altitude, but in Southern Europe they often don’t grow below 1,600 m. The stands occur along streams, between large rocks, under scrub (mainly of Sorbus aucuparia), in mosaic with Alnus and Salix scrub, and on the edge of forests. In spite of the high atmospheric humidity, bryophytes do not play an important role in the vegetation. At all these places, snow may accumulate during winter and the vegetation is unmistakeably chionophilous. Along streams, the communities may form long strips of hundreds of meters, mostly just a few meters wide, at other places they occur in the form of patches.  The height of the – generally one-layered – stand reaches up to 1.5-2 m, with tall herbs and grasses as dominants, sometimes with a high cover of ferns. The cover of the vegetation is almost always 100%. The species composition of the plant communities is very diverse, with a high number of endemic species, reflecting the isolated position of these ecosystems, similar to other high-mountain vegetation types. The endemic species belong to genera like Aconitum, Alchemilla, Angelica, Cirsium, Geum and Ranunculus. From a historic-geographic point of view, the occurrence of a number of species that nowadays dominate lowland meadows is interesting, like Arrhenatherum elatius. Widespread species in these conspicuous mountain communities are Adenostyles alliariae, Veratrum album, Lilium martagon and Cicerbita alpina, among others. The plant diversity is reflected in the distinction of various alliances, but they all belong to the class Mulgedio-Aconitetea. Most of the communities are natural, but also the semi-ruderal and eutrophic tall-forb communities near resting places of cattle (assigned to the alliance Rumicion alpini) belong to this habitat type.

Indicators of good quality:

  • High species richness
  • Richness of regional endemics and rare species
  • Lacking of invasive and/or ruderal species
  • Dominance of tall-herbs, tall grasses or ferns

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

This habitat type is not threatened in both 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

  • Agriculture
    • Intensive grazing
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Mountaineering & rock climbing

Habitat restoration potential

These natural communities are well protected. Only at a local level and at low scale, direct destrucion of the habitat by the construction of tourist facilities may take place, whereas - more generally - overgrazing may lead to some losses in quality. In that case, lowering the intensity of grazing may lead the habitat restoration within a reasonable time-span.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Increasing Decreasing
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Decreasing Decreasing
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

The natural conditions under which these eye-catching and species-rich communities occur are hardly effected by human interaction. Locally, the effects of mountaineering and construction of buildings and ski pistes for tourism may rise some concern, but overall the habitat type is well-preserved.

List of conservation and management needs

  • No measures
    • No measures needed for the conservation of the habitat/species


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 250 Stable Stable
Bulgaria Present 47 Decreasing Decreasing
Croatia Present 35 Stable Stable
Czech Republic Present 8 Decreasing Decreasing
Finland mainland Present 1 Stable Stable
France mainland Present 750 Stable Increasing
Germany Present 10 Decreasing Decreasing
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 8 Unknown Unknown
Ireland Present 1 Stable Stable
Italy mainland Present 160 Decreasing Decreasing
Poland Present 6 Decreasing Decreasing
Romania Present 30 Decreasing Decreasing
Slovakia Present 4 Stable Stable
Slovenia Present 90 Stable Stable
Spain mainland Present 30 Stable Stable
United Kingdom Present 23 Stable Stable
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Albania Present 2 Decreasing Stable
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 20 Decreasing Decreasing
Kosovo Present Stable Stable
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present Decreasing Unknown
Switzerland Present 1250 Decreasing Decreasing
Kaliningrad Present - -
Montenegro Present - -
Norway Mainland Present - -
Serbia Present - -

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 6752000 4257 1453
EU28+ 4458 2725
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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