Red List habitat classification > RLF - Heathland and scrub > RLF2.3 Subalpine deciduous scrub

Subalpine deciduous scrub

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLF2.3
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)

Summary

This habitat type comprises (sub)alpine and (sub)arctic alder (Alnus viridis), willow (Salix spp.), dwarf birch (Betula nana) and other deciduous scrub. Also Potentilla fruticosa dominated scrub that appears in the Bulgarian mountains (F2.336) is included. The stand height of the habitat in most cases is between 1 and 5 meters. Low dwarf willow communities are excluded from this habitat and instead included in type F2.1. Also excluded in the (sub)alpine and (sub)arctic belts are willow scrub on alluvial soils (habitat F9.1) and willow scrub in waterlogged fens and mires (habitat F9.2). Alnus viridis scrub is found throughout the subalpine belts of all mountain ranges of central Europe. This shrub is a pioneer species in humid sites on deeper soils that are regularly disturbed, like on steep, north-exposed slopes where avalanches occur occasionally. On sites cleared by avalanches, Alnus viridis may be found in lower (montane) altitudes as well. It is found in the Alps and Carpathians. On Corsica a different subspecies Alnus viridis subsp. suaveolens grows in a similar habitat. Salix species (S. appendiculata, S. glabra, S. hastata, S. waldsteiniana) may dominate a lower shrub layer or – in lower altitudes – form its own scrub type in similar sites. The type contains several Salix species that are (regional) rare in the temperate mountain regions. Accompanying species are often from tall herb communities, for example, Adenostyles alliariae or Cicerbita alpina, or from subalpine heathlands. In the southern outcrops of the Alps and along the Dinarides, Rhamnus fallax dominates communities of this habitat. In the subarctic and boreal regions on similar slopes Salix lapponum, Salix glauca, Salix hastata, Salix phylicifolia may grow in a mixture of tall-herb species and Vaccinium myrtillus, Phyllodoce caerulea, and/or Juniperus communis. The same willows are found along creeks and rivers, as part of the habitat alluvial scrub (F9.1). The geological substrate of the habitat is diverse, covering for example both marl and limestone. The habitat appears in open sites with high soil moisture and moderate-rich in nutrients. The species of the type are well adapted to low temperature and snow accumulation. These deciduous scrubs are the pioneer communities on screes and in areas cleared by avalanches because the shrub species are able to regrow from roots and stumps. Therefore, they also have a significant role in the prevention of erosion and snow slides. Propitious sites for these communities can be found also along streams because of humidity, small soil partitions and disturbance caused by the water stream. The habitat can also appear as a succession stage in subalpine pastures or meadows, where grazing or haymaking is no longer maintained. These communities are mainly of secondary origin. But as they survive snow slips better than tree species, they can build permanent (paraclimatic) communities under the influence of avalanches or streams, in sites where tree species cannot survive.

Indicators of quality:

These habitats are mainly of secondary origin. They are threatened by logging or burning, erosion or snow slips, and channeling of streams, as well as by succession towards forest. The following characteristics can be considered as indicators of good quality:

  • species richness of shrub species,

  • presence of breeding birds and other fauna,

  • long-term maintenance because of natural disturbance regime.

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat was estimated as Least Concern (LC). The habitat is widely distributed in the Alpine and Boreal regions, and in almost all countries it has a stable or increasing area, mainly due to encroachment in grasslands after abandonment of management. Only minor parts of the habitat showed a decreased quality.
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -

Confidence in the assessment

medium
Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Abandonment of pastoral systems, lack of grazing
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Mountaineering & rock climbing
    • Skiing complex
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Erosion
    • Species composition change (succession)
  • Climate change
    • Temperature changes (e.g. rise of temperature & extremes)

Habitat restoration potential

The habitat appears under hard mountainous conditions. We can estimate that it can recover its typical character within 10 years after intervention and naturally within about 20 years in case of proper habitat connectivity.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Increasing Increasing
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Decreasing Decreasing
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

One of the main conservation goals is to maintain the traditional land use in the mountains (especially grazing). Though the scrubs have often been a subject of cutting, burning and eradication, the present appearance of this habitat was built under such pressures. After the abandonment of former pastures, first stages of secondary succession are built by subalpine deciduous scrubs that develop further into forests (reforestation). Other, natural sites of this habitat are found on the edges of screes, where the initial stages of succession (scrubs) are maintained by avalanches. We also have to take care of this habitat when it comes to construction of touristic infrastructures (roads, ski resorts, paths etc.).

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
  • Measures related to urban areas, industry, energy and transport
    • Specific management of traffic and energy transport systems

Distribution

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 unknown Stable Unknown
Bulgaria Present 0.42 Increasing Increasing
Croatia Present 3 Stable Stable
Czech Republic Present 0.6 Stable Stable
France mainland Present 300 Unknown Increasing
Germany Present unknown Stable Stable
Italy mainland Present 45 Stable Stable
Slovakia Present 0.6 Stable Stable
Slovenia Present 20 Stable Stable
Spain mainland Present 0.82 Stable Stable
United Kingdom Present 0.12 Stable Increasing
Finland mainland Present 170 Decreasing Stable
Poland Present 0.2 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)
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 5 Increasing Increasing
Switzerland Present 650 Stable Increasing

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 >50000 >50 541
EU28+ >50 1196
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

The full list of characteristic species and genus are available above from the Summary. The species available in the EUNIS database are shown here.
Conifers Juniperus communis
Ferns Dryopteris dilatata
Flowering Plants Acer pseudoplatanus
Flowering Plants Adenostyles alliariae
Flowering Plants Alnus viridis
Flowering Plants Betula nana
Flowering Plants Cicerbita alpina
Flowering Plants Doronicum austriacum
Flowering Plants Geranium sylvaticum
Flowering Plants Geum coccineum
Flowering Plants Geum rivale
Flowering Plants Geum urbanum
Flowering Plants Hypericum maculatum
Flowering Plants Lonicera alpigena
Flowering Plants Lonicera xylosteum
Flowering Plants Milium effusum
Flowering Plants Phyllodoce caerulea
Flowering Plants Polygonatum verticillatum
Flowering Plants Potentilla fruticosa
Flowering Plants Rhamnus fallax
Flowering Plants Ribes alpinum
Flowering Plants Salix alpina
Flowering Plants Salix appendiculata
Flowering Plants Salix bicolor
Flowering Plants Salix caesia
Flowering Plants Salix foetida
Flowering Plants Salix glabra
Flowering Plants Salix glauca
Flowering Plants Salix glaucosericea
Flowering Plants Salix hastata
Flowering Plants Salix helvetica
Flowering Plants Salix laggeri
Flowering Plants Salix lapponum
Flowering Plants Salix phylicifolia
Flowering Plants Salix silesiaca
Flowering Plants Salix waldsteiniana
Flowering Plants Saxifraga rotundifolia
Flowering Plants Sorbus aucuparia
Flowering Plants Sorbus chamaemespilus
Flowering Plants Stellaria nemorum
Flowering Plants Vaccinium myrtillus
Flowering Plants Veratrum album
Flowering Plants Viola biflora
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Juniperus communis Conifers
Dryopteris dilatata Ferns
Acer pseudoplatanus Flowering Plants
Adenostyles alliariae Flowering Plants
Alnus viridis Flowering Plants
Betula nana Flowering Plants
Cicerbita alpina Flowering Plants
Doronicum austriacum Flowering Plants
Geranium sylvaticum Flowering Plants
Geum coccineum Flowering Plants
Geum rivale Flowering Plants
Geum urbanum Flowering Plants
Hypericum maculatum Flowering Plants
Lonicera alpigena Flowering Plants
Lonicera xylosteum Flowering Plants
Milium effusum Flowering Plants
Phyllodoce caerulea Flowering Plants
Polygonatum verticillatum Flowering Plants
Potentilla fruticosa Flowering Plants
Rhamnus fallax Flowering Plants
Ribes alpinum Flowering Plants
Salix alpina Flowering Plants
Salix appendiculata Flowering Plants
Salix bicolor Flowering Plants
Salix caesia Flowering Plants
Salix foetida Flowering Plants
Salix glabra Flowering Plants
Salix glauca Flowering Plants
Salix glaucosericea Flowering Plants
Salix hastata Flowering Plants
Salix helvetica Flowering Plants
Salix laggeri Flowering Plants
Salix lapponum Flowering Plants
Salix phylicifolia Flowering Plants
Salix silesiaca Flowering Plants
Salix waldsteiniana Flowering Plants
Saxifraga rotundifolia Flowering Plants
Sorbus aucuparia Flowering Plants
Sorbus chamaemespilus Flowering Plants
Stellaria nemorum Flowering Plants
Vaccinium myrtillus Flowering Plants
Veratrum album Flowering Plants
Viola biflora Flowering Plants

Vegetation types

Relation to vegetation types (syntaxa)

Not available

Other classifications

This habitat may be equivalent to, or broather than, or narrower than the habitats or ecosystems in the following typologies.
Classification Code Habitat type name Relationship type
EUNIS Habitat Classification 200711 F2.3 Subalpine deciduous scrub same
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100