Red List habitat classification > RLG - Forests > RLG1.Ab Ravine woodland

Ravine woodland

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLG1.Ab
Threat status
Europe Least Concern
EU Near Threatened
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)

Summary

One striking situation in Europe where beech and oaks can be out-competed by such fast-growing trees as Fraxinus excelsior, Acer pseudoplatanus, A. platanoides, Ulmus glabra and, Tilia platyphyllos and Tilia cordata is on the nutrient-rich soils that accumulate in the humid micro-climate of shady slopes and ravines. Here, with downwash and percolation of ground water, the brown earth soils can be deep and moist, but usually they are free-draining and show a brisk turnover of nutrients and mull humus. Typically, such situations are associated with hard, base-rich, though not always calcareous, rocks and they occur widely throughout steep-sided immature river valleys of the foothills, sub-montane and high mountain belt right across Europe. The terrain is typically complex and rocky, with a heterogenous soil cover and the structure of these woodlands has been vividly described as ‘impetuous’. The distinctive kind of terrain necessary to sustain this habitat means that through Europe, these woodlands have a basic floristic and structural similarity, though variations in regional climate support distinctive contingents of associates with more Continental, Boreal, Alpine, Mediterranean or Atlantic affinities. There is also some floristic variation according to whether the habitat is on very moist colluvium, is humid primarily because of shade or gets some warmth at ravine tops or by virtue of being in more southerly latitudes. More generally across the range, Quercus robur, Q. petraea and Fagus sylvatica can make a minority contribution to the canopy along with Carpinus betulus and Sorbus aucuparia. Through France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, there is a tendency for more montane stands to be dominated by Acer platanoides, A. pseudoplatanus or A. opalus while those at lower altitudes have abundant lime (Tilia spp.). More particularly, Tilia platyphyllos is the lime more confined to ravine forests while T. cordata is more widely characteristic of G1.Aa Mesic deciduous woodland. The difficult terrain which has protected against exploitation of these woodlands and the extraordinary longevity of both limes means that these ravines can harbour some of the most ancient and majestic trees of Europe.

In the shrub layer Sambucus nigra is characteristic along with Corylus avellana, while the field layer is dominated by luxuriant nitrophilous herbs such as Urtica diocia, Aegopodium podagraria and Impatiens noli-tangere, moisture-loving vernal plants like Allium ursinum and, on the typically base-rich soils, Mercurialis perennis, Geranium robertiamum, Brachypodium sylvaticum and Circaea lutetiana. More especially distinctive are Lunaria rediviva, Helleborus viridis, Aruncus dioicus, Actaea spicata, Aconitum vulparia, Corydalis cava, Equisetum hiemale, Polygonatum verticillatum, and Aconitum paniculatum. Sometimes Allium ursinum can dominate the herb layer. Then, reflecting the high humidity, there are often abundant ferns such as Phyllitis scolopendrium, Polystichum aculeatum. P. setiferum and Gymnocarpium robertianum and bulky mosses thrive on the bare ground exposed by the rapid breakdown of herbage and litter at the close of the growing season. Lichens can also be well developed with species such as Lobaria pulmonaria or Gyalecta ulmi.

In the Atlantic zone, where the climate is more generally cool and humid, woodlands of this kind are less confined to ravines, particularly where base-rich rocks are extensively exposed. Also, approaching or beyond the limits of Acer pseudoplatanus, A. platanoides and even the limes, as in north-west Great Britain, there is a tendency for stands to be dominated by Fraxinus excelsior and Ulmus glabra, or even Corylus avellana in situations exposed to humid oceanic winds. Similar vegetation reported from southern Scandinavia also falls within this habitat type. Northern montane plants such as Prunus padus, Ribes saxatilis, Actaea spicata, Trollium europaeus, Crepis paludosa, Cirsium helenioides and Geranium sylvaticum can here give this habitat a Boreal feel. Towards southern Europe and particularly in sunny ravines at lower altitudes in Czechia, Hungary, Romania and the Pyrenees, there is a thermophilous contingent in this habitat including Cotoneaster integerrimus, Sesleria caerulea, Athericum ramosum, Vincetoxicum hirundinaria and other species more typical of the G1.7a and G1.7b thermophilous woodlands. South of these latitudes, the habitat occurs locally in the Italian pre-Alps and reaches its southern limit in the humid north-facing ravines of the Appennines. In ravines among G3.1c Mediterranean mountain Abies woodland in such situations, there can be occasional Abies alba among the canopy trees.

Indicators of quality:

• No forest exploitation

• Maintenance of the complex ravine topography, micoclimatic conditions and woodland structure

• Sufficient structural diversity/ complexity (semi)natural age structure or completeness of layers

• Sufficient proportion of historically old (ancient) woodland with high species diversity

• Presence of old trees and a variety of dead wood (lying and standing) and the associated flora, fauna and fungi

• Rich and luxuriant field and ground layers protected by continuous canopy and locally high humidity with typical flora and fauna composition of the region

• Absence of non-native tree species and absence of invasive aliens in all layers (fauna, flora)

• No signs of eutrophication or pollution, absence of nitrophilous adventives

• No fragmentation and isolation (no major disruptions in the ravine forests with coniferous plantations).

Main

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat is Near threatened for the EU28, because of a negative quantitative trend (-25%) during the past 40-50 years. This is combined with a moderate decrease in quality over about a quarter of its area, and an assumed slight decrease over a distinctly larger area. The situation in the EU28+ is slightly better, leading to the conclusion Least Concern. Continuing pressures and threats such as losses by extending hydropower use or infrastructure in valleys and ravines are present. Data availability and reliability is medium to low with data gaps in the often dispersed small occurrences. Because of relatively high values of EOO and AOO the habitat does not qualify under criteria B1 and B2, hovever its dispersed occurrences are often very small. Assessments of historic trends were not possible due to data deficiencies.
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Near Threatened A1
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -

Confidence in the assessment

low
Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Forest and Plantation management & use
    • Forest replanting (non native trees)
    • Forestry clearance
    • Removal of dead and dying trees
    • Thinning of tree layer
    • Forest exploitation without replanting or natural regrowth
    • Grazing in forests/ woodland
  • Transportation and service corridors
    • Roads, paths and railroads
    • Roads, motorways
    • Utility and service lines
  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Urbanised areas, human habitation
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species
    • Problematic native species
  • Natural System modifications
    • Human induced changes in hydraulic conditions
    • Reservoirs
    • Small hydropower projects, weirs
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Introduction of disease (microbial pathogens)
    • Damage by herbivores (including game species)
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions

Habitat restoration potential

Both naturally and through interventation full recovery of the habitat usually needs time-spans over 200 years. While the tree species can be planted, already the characteristic species of the herb layer include many myrmecochore species (seeds dispersed very slowly over small distances by ants). The full set of characteristic species includes many saproxylic intertebrates and fungi which need a historic habitat continuity, all of these need old and dead trees in a late development stage of forests, some of them even after 2-3 tree generations unable to recolonise new forest stands. Pristine remnants and any ancient woodland therefore needs highest conservation priorities. Ravines where the hydrology of the river has been largely modified might need additional efforts in restoring the hydrology and thus also the typical cool and humid climatic conditions of the ravine forests on the slopes.

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

Restoring of ravine forests, where coniferous plantations have been established in the past; Allowing for more wilderness areas and in used forests for more dead wood and old trees. Spatial planning should avoid transportation and new infrastructure in the often narrow valleys or cutting roads into the hillsides in ravine forests. Large reservoirs or dams should not be built in valleys with species-rich ravine forests. Regionally specific grazing regimes or plans to manage invasive species might be needed.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to forests and wooded habitats
    • Restoring/Improving forest habitats
    • Adapt forest management
  • Measures related to hunting, taking and fishing and species management
    • Regulation/Management of hunting and taking
  • 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 350 Stable Unknown
Belgium Present 13 Unknown Unknown
Bulgaria Present 380 Decreasing Decreasing
Croatia Present 1.29 Stable Stable
Czech Republic Present 220 Decreasing Decreasing
Estonia Present unknown Unknown Unknown
Finland mainland Present 0.3 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present 295 Stable Stable
Corsica Uncertain 295 Stable Stable
Germany Present 233 Decreasing Decreasing
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 116 Decreasing Unknown
Hungary Present 85 Decreasing Decreasing
Ireland Present 2 Stable Unknown
Italy mainland Present 603 Decreasing Decreasing
Latvia Present 65 Decreasing Decreasing
Lithuania Present 370 Decreasing Stable
Netherlands Uncertain - -
Poland Present 2.7 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 35 Decreasing Stable
Romania Present 30 Decreasing Decreasing
Slovenia Present 13 Decreasing Decreasing
Slovakia Present 280 Unknown Decreasing
United Kingdom Present 128 Decreasing Unknown
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 unknown Unknown Unknown
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 90 Unknown Decreasing
Kosovo Present unknown Unknown Unknown
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present 10 Decreasing Decreasing
Norway Mainland Present 510 Unknown Stable
Serbia Present < Unknown Unknown
Switzerland Present 180 Decreasing Stable
Montenegro Uncertain - -

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 6508950 7493 3218 minimum, a few data gaps
EU28+ 7671 4008 minimum, incomplete data
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 Abies alba
Ferns Gymnocarpium robertianum
Ferns Phyllitis scolopendrium
Ferns Polystichum aculeatum
Flowering Plants Acer platanoides
Flowering Plants Acer pseudoplatanus
Flowering Plants Aconitum paniculatum
Flowering Plants Aconitum vulparia
Flowering Plants Actaea spicata
Flowering Plants Aegopodium podagraria
Flowering Plants Allium ursinum
Flowering Plants Aruncus dioicus
Flowering Plants Brachypodium sylvaticum
Flowering Plants Carpinus betulus
Flowering Plants Circaea lutetiana
Flowering Plants Cirsium helenioides
Flowering Plants Corydalis cava
Flowering Plants Corylus avellana
Flowering Plants Cotoneaster integerrimus
Flowering Plants Crepis paludosa
Flowering Plants Fagus sylvatica
Flowering Plants Fraxinus excelsior
Flowering Plants Geranium sylvaticum
Flowering Plants Helleborus viridis
Flowering Plants Impatiens noli-tangere
Flowering Plants Lunaria rediviva
Flowering Plants Mercurialis perennis
Flowering Plants Polygonatum verticillatum
Flowering Plants Prunus padus
Flowering Plants Quercus robur
Flowering Plants Sambucus nigra
Flowering Plants Sesleria caerulea
Flowering Plants Sorbus aucuparia
Flowering Plants Tilia cordata
Flowering Plants Tilia platyphyllos
Flowering Plants Ulmus glabra
Flowering Plants Vincetoxicum hirundinaria
Fungi Gyalecta ulmi
Fungi Lobaria pulmonaria
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Abies alba Conifers
Gymnocarpium robertianum Ferns
Phyllitis scolopendrium Ferns
Polystichum aculeatum Ferns
Acer platanoides Flowering Plants
Acer pseudoplatanus Flowering Plants
Aconitum paniculatum Flowering Plants
Aconitum vulparia Flowering Plants
Actaea spicata Flowering Plants
Aegopodium podagraria Flowering Plants
Allium ursinum Flowering Plants
Aruncus dioicus Flowering Plants
Brachypodium sylvaticum Flowering Plants
Carpinus betulus Flowering Plants
Circaea lutetiana Flowering Plants
Cirsium helenioides Flowering Plants
Corydalis cava Flowering Plants
Corylus avellana Flowering Plants
Cotoneaster integerrimus Flowering Plants
Crepis paludosa Flowering Plants
Fagus sylvatica Flowering Plants
Fraxinus excelsior Flowering Plants
Geranium sylvaticum Flowering Plants
Helleborus viridis Flowering Plants
Impatiens noli-tangere Flowering Plants
Lunaria rediviva Flowering Plants
Mercurialis perennis Flowering Plants
Polygonatum verticillatum Flowering Plants
Prunus padus Flowering Plants
Quercus robur Flowering Plants
Sambucus nigra Flowering Plants
Sesleria caerulea Flowering Plants
Sorbus aucuparia Flowering Plants
Tilia cordata Flowering Plants
Tilia platyphyllos Flowering Plants
Ulmus glabra Flowering Plants
Vincetoxicum hirundinaria Flowering Plants
Gyalecta ulmi Fungi
Lobaria pulmonaria Fungi

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 G1.A Meso- and eutrophic Quercus, Carpinus, Fraxinus, Acer, Tilia, Ulmus and related woodland narrower
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