Red List habitat classification > RLG - Forests > RLG1.9b Mediterranean mountain Betula and Populus tremula woodland on mineral soils

Mediterranean mountain Betula and Populus tremula woodland on mineral soils

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLG1.9b
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)


This habitat includes a variety of deciduous birch and aspen woodlands growing at the sub-alpine level in the high mountain ranges of southern Europe. In such situations, the short growing season, the prevalence of frost and high exposure limit both the possible dominants and the structure of the woodland. Silicate soils predominate, strongly acidic and often podzolised.

 In the Pyrenees and the more humid Cantabrian mountains of Spain, there are woodlands in the subalpine belt with canopies of other birches of variously contested taxonomy: B. pubescens subsp. pubescens (= B. carpatica), B. pubescens subsp. celtberica (B. celtiberica) and B. pendula subsp. fontqueri (B. fontqueri). Here birch is often a secondary invader, colonising spontaneously after avalanches, fire and clear cutting, but it can form more permanent woodlands on boulder scree where there is much winter snow accumulation.

Betula pendula forms extensive belts of woodland on rapidly eroding soils at the upper forest limit on the high mountains of Corsica

Between 1400 and 2000m on the north-eastern slopes of Etna in Sicily, an open canopy of B. aetnensis develops over volcanic cinders in a severe montane climate subject to frequent volcanic events such as ash rains. Pinus nigra, Quercus dalechampii and Q. congesta occur occasionally with a species-poor field layer of Pteridium aquilinum, Festuca circummediterranea, Achillea ligustica, Genista aetnensis, Astragalus siculus, Tanacetum siculum and Carlina nebrodensis.

This habitat also includes high mountain woodlands dominated by Populus tremula. On Etna, this tree dominates in small humid valley woodlands above 900m where there is a quite rich mesophytic flora including Brachypodium sylvaticum, Lathyrus pratensis, Daphne laureola and Agropyron panormitanum.

Relict aspen forests can also be found on deep colluvial soils in humid foothill and mountain gorges from 600-1500m in the central and southern Apennines. There distinctive associates are Acer obtusatum, Laburnum anagyroides, Sorbus aria, Euonymus latifolius, Prunus avium, Lonicera etrusca, Rosa arvensis, R. agrestris, Rubus hirtus, Daphne laureola and Chamaecytisus hirsutus with Sanicula europaea, Primula vulgaris, Euphorbia amygdaloides, Fragaria vesca and Melica uniflora.

Indicators of quality:

  • Woodland permanent not a successional stage
  • Dominance by either birch or aspen
  • Presence of the distinctive woody associates and field layer

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

Even although this is a very poorly studied habitat type (compared to other forest types), there is an overall consensus in the expert opinion that the trends in both quantity and quality are stable. For this reason, the assessment of this habitat considers it as Least Concern. The exception to this tendency is the subtype present in Sicily that may require special attention, not only for the presence of Betula aetnensis but also for the degrading tendency reported both in surface and in quality. If assessed separately, this subtype would probably qualify as threatened under criteria B.
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
    • Grazing
  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Forest and Plantation management & use
  • Natural System modifications
    • Fire and fire suppression
  • Geological events, natural catastrophes
    • Volcanic activity
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions

Habitat restoration potential

The habitat is well adapted to react to disturbances and, therefore, is likely that it will recover after disturbances. If severity is high over a long period of time, human intervention will certainly help the recovery. The effort required indicatd below is a pure estimation that may need further verification.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Increasing Increasing
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

Main intervention approaches may include the control of grazing and forestry practices replacing this habitat with forest plantations (mainly conifers). Special conservation plan may be needed for the Silician subtype, and its recommended to include fighting against microbial pathogens as part of it.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to forests and wooded habitats
    • Other forestry-related 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)
France mainland Uncertain 6 Unknown Increasing
Corsica Present 6 Unknown Increasing
Italy mainland Present 6 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 25 Stable Increasing
Sicily Present 6 Decreasing Decreasing
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 1399250 230 125
EU28+ 230 125
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
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