Red List habitat classification > RLG - Forests > RLG1.2b Temperate and boreal hardwood riparian woodland

Temperate and boreal hardwood riparian woodland

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLG1.2b
Threat status
Europe Endangered
EU Endangered
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


These are mixed broadleaved woodlands typical of less-frequently flooded, well-aerated mineral soils in floodplains and around flushes on valley sides cut into shales and clay rocks or clayey superficial deposits throughout the nemoral and boreal zones with some extension into the sub-mediterranean.  The flooding regime can be by inundation of river water and/or by rising ground water in river valleys. They are especially characteristic of the middle and lower reaches of major European rivers such as the Rhine, Danube, Emst, Elbe, Saale, Weser, Loire-Allier and Rhone-Saône but also occur throughout Europe as smaller stands in younger river valleys. Occasional deposition of flood-borne silt or the concentration of nutrients and bases in flushes keep the soils fertile and, with the free drainage, there is a typically brisk turnover with mull humus. The high productivity of the soils has meant that these woodlands have been highly valued as sources of timber and the structure and composition have been much modified by exploitation.

The canopy in high-forest stands can be very tall and multi-layered and is typically dominated by various mixtures of Fraxinus excelsior, F. angustifoliae, Alnus glutinosa with A. incana towards the upper reaches of rivers outside the Atlantic zone, Populus alba, P. tremula, P. nigra, P. canescens, Acer pseudoplatanus, Quercus robur, Prunus avium, Ulmus glabra, U. minor and U. laevis. There is typically an abundant and varied understorey, again often structurally complex, with a range of small trees, shrubs and lianes that are more typical of mesic deciduous woodlands (such as G1.Aa Carpinus and Quercus woodland) than the wet woodlands of floodplains, swamps and fens. Among these species, Crataegus monogyna, Malus sylvestris, Eunomyus europaeus, Prunus padus, Clematis vitalba, Humulus lupulus, Tamus communis and Vitis vinifera are distinctive. Stands on spring-fed slopes with incompetent substrates often suffer landslips on the surface of which the trees and shrubs keel over at crazy angles.

 The field layer also has much in common with that of mesic deciduous woodland though some of the typical vernal dominants there, such as Hyacinthoides non-scripta, are excluded by the wetness of the ground, so it is geophytes like Anemone nemorosa, A. ranunculoides, Ranunculus ficaria, Ornithogalum umbellatum or sometimes Fritillaria meleagris which provide the springtime colour here. Becoming prominent later in the year is a contingent of plants of moist to wet, fresh fertile soils including some tall fen herbs such as Angelica sylvestris, Lysimachia vulgaris, Lythrum salicaria, Lycopus europaeus, Rumex sanguineus, Allium scorodoprasum and Filipendula ulmaria together with a diversity of bulky plants, for example Carex remota, C. pendula, C. strigosa, C. laevigata, Juncus effusus, Equisetum telmateia, whose local abundance can lend different stands a strikingly distinctive appearance. Ground-carpeting plants such as Aegopodium podagraria, Ranunculus repens and Poa trivialis and particular assemblages of herbs along the fringes of trickling water can add further character and complexity. Bryophytes are often extensive and luxuriant, providing a continuing green ground cover as the herbaceous plants die back in autumn.

Indicators of quality:

Less modified stands are reckoned to preserve some of the richest of the original European forests of larger floodplains but the diverse structures related to sylvicultural exploitation need not necessarily reduce or impair the overall floristic quality of the habitat.

Indicators of good quality are:

  • Signs of natural regeneration with an uneven-aged structure
  • Structural complexity, including old trees and the retention of fallen, dying and dead timber with a diversity of available niches for associated flora, fauna and fungi
  • Sufficient proportion of historically old (ancient) woodland with high species diversity
  • Intact natural hydrology: maintenance of the periodical to occasional flooding or flushing characteristic of the habitat
  • Survival of larger stands of forest without fragmentation and isolation
  • Absence of non-native tree species and of invasive aliens in all layers such as Impatiens glandulifera

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The category Endangered (EN) can be assessed on EU28+ and is also chosen in EU28, because of a very substantial reduction in quantity over a historical period. This decline has continued more recently (last 50 years), with values close to the Near Threatened thresholds. The area is still decreasing, mostly in countries where the habitat has already been destroyed in most places (North-western Europe). The trend in quality is also bad leading to a Vulnerable (VU) category in the EU28, and slightly lower negative trends in EU28+. This assessment is in agreement with the conservation status of the corresponding Natura 2000 habitat (91F0), which has been assessed as "unfavourable-bad" in most regions.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Endangered A3
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Endangered A3

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Cultivation
  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Forest and Plantation management & use
    • Forest replanting
    • Forestry clearance
    • Removal of dead and dying trees
    • Forest exploitation without replanting or natural regrowth
  • Pollution
    • Pollution to surface waters (limnic, terrestrial, marine & brackish)
    • Diffuse pollution to surface waters due to agricultural and forestry activities
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species
  • Natural System modifications
    • Human induced changes in hydraulic conditions
    • Canalisation & water deviation
    • Lack of flooding

Habitat restoration potential

Most interventions concern the hydrological functionning, but also in some cases a limitation of alien tree species if native ones cannot replace them (Robinia pseudoacacia if it is overabundant). When the typical trees have been replaced by alien poplar, the best thing to do is to let the spontaneous dynamic : poplars are neither shade tolerant nor not long-living trees, and native oaks, ashes, alders, elms, mapples etc... will grown easily under their cover until the poplar dies, and then replace them. The dead poplar will bring deadwood. A clearcut would favorize alien competitive species (Reynoutria, Impatiens glandulifera, Robinia...) and would make a restoration not only more expensive but also less efficient.

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

Unlike other less endangered forest types, most of the last remaining Temperate and boreal hardwood riparian woodland should be strictly protected, at least in areas where the habitat has almost disappeared.
The keys to the conservation of the last Temperate and boreal hardwood riparian woodland are :- a strict protection of the remaining sites, especially from expansion of land uses for urbanisation and agriculture, but also from Poplar plantation ;- the last examples of nearly free flowing rivers should be protected from damming and river regulation. A free flowing river, with floodings allowing aggradation and nutriment deposits, soil and vegetation rejenuvation (erosion and destruction of trees). This mesure is easier to apply on small rivers (see "Alnus woodland on riparian and mineral soil") but much more difficult here, because large rivers often flown in urbanized areas. Where it is possible, it should be a priority, as Temperate and boreal hardwood riparian woodland is certainly one of the most endangered forest type. Such sites are located along rivers that are still free flowing, with floodings (at least in part of the middle to lower course), as the Allier river.
On damaged rivers, restoration is possible (restoring natural river banks by removing armour rocks, removing dams... if possible. Conservation or improvement of water quality. Even if the hydrological functionning is partly affected, the conservation of the habitat is crucial : maintaining only the habitat where the hydrological and biological conditions are perfect and the floristical composition completely unaltered would be impossible, because they have been degradated in most cases.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to forests and wooded habitats
    • Restoring/Improving forest habitats
  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Restoring/Improving water quality
    • Restoring/Improving the hydrological regime
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Establishing wilderness areas/allowing succession
  • Measures related to hunting, taking and fishing and species management
    • Specific single species or species group management measures


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)
Belgium Present 0.65 Decreasing Decreasing
Croatia Present <1300 Decreasing Decreasing
Czech Republic Present 230 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present 305 Decreasing Decreasing
Portugal mainland Present <176 Unknown Decreasing
Bulgaria Present 60 Decreasing Decreasing
Estonia Present 7 Unknown Stable
Germany Present 152 Decreasing Decreasing
Hungary Present 350 Decreasing Decreasing
Romania Present <400 Decreasing Decreasing
Italy mainland Present 473.47 Decreasing Decreasing
Latvia Present 6 Decreasing Decreasing
Lithuania Present 4 Decreasing Decreasing
Netherlands Present 6.9 Unknown Increasing
Poland Present 276.6 Decreasing Decreasing
Austria Present 185 Decreasing Decreasing
Slovakia Present 68 Unknown Decreasing
Slovenia Present 57.55 Decreasing Decreasing
Sweden Uncertain - -
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 11.4 Unknown Unknown
United Kingdom Present 320 Decreasing Stable
Northern Island Uncertain 320 Decreasing 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)
Norway Mainland Present only fragments Decreasing Decreasing
Switzerland Present 800 Decreasing Decreasing
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 180 Decreasing Decreasing
Serbia Uncertain 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 4999300 4077 2900 2857 km² reported + separate data missing for Portugal Romania (no separate data for G1.2a/b) and Sweeden. the area is <400 km² in Romania, <176 in Portugal.Area overestimated in Croatia.
EU28+ 4077 3900 The area reported is 3837 km² but data is missing for Serbia and Norway (fragments).
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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1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100