Red List habitat classification > RLG - Forests > RLG3.1a Temperate mountain Picea woodland

Temperate mountain Picea woodland

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLG3.1a
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)


These are evergreen coniferous woodlands of the montane and sub-alpine belt in the nemoral zone of Europe, where increased winter coldness towards the more easterly Continental mountains favour Picea abies against its main competitors of more temperate ranges, Fagus sylvatica and Abies alba. Here, at altitudes usually between 1000 and 2000m in the Alps, on the borders of Czechia, Germany and Poland, through the Carpathians, and in the Balkan mountains, spruce dominates on a variety of soils, even those that are very nutrient-poor, wet and cold, or fragmentarily developed on scree or rock exposures. These woodlands can give way at lower altitudes to G3.1b Abies woodland (though the forester’s preference for spruce has often extended its lower limits) and above, where spruce thins to a more open patchy cover, to G3.2/3 Temperate subalpine Larix, Pinus cembra or P. uncinata woodland. Exceptional relict populations of Picea in the lowlands (natural occurrences) are also included. The relict Picea omorika woodland of the Dinaric mountains is also included here. Depending on the particular site conditions, other trees in the canopy include Abies alba, Larix decidua (particularly in the Alps where it is a pioneer for spruce establishment), Pinus sylvestris, P. cembra, P. peuce and rarely Fagus. There can be some Sorbus aucuparia, Lonicera nigra, L. caerulea, L. xylosteum and Rosa pendulina in a patchy understorey. On the more usual acid soils, the field layer characteristically has a rather generalised calcifuge flora with Vaccinium myrtillus, V. vitis-idaea, Deschampsia flexuosa, Luzula luzulina, L. sylvatica, Calamagrostis villosa, Melampyrum sylvaticum, M. pratense, Lycopodium annotinum, Oxalis acetosella, Homogyne alpina, Moneses uniflora, Blechnum spicant, Dryopteris dilatata, D. expansa and bulky mosses such as Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, Hylocomium splendens, Pleurozium schreberi, Polytrichum formosum and Sphagnum girgensohnii. At higher altitudes, a tall herb contingent can be prominent with Adenostyles alliariae, Chaerophyllum hirsutum and Rumex arifolius while, on the more base-rich soils derived from limestones and dolomite, such more basiphilous plants as Adenostyles glabra, Valeriana tripteris, Calamgrostis varia, Carex alba, Polystichum lonchitis, Sesleria albicans, Cirsium erisithales are typical with some beech forest species like Mercurialis perennis, Daphne mezereum, Veronica urticifolia, Primula elatior and, in the eastern Alps and Dinarids, Helleborus niger and Cardamine enneaphyllos. Distinctive geographical floras are associated with the Picea woodlands of the Western Carpathians, the Eastern and Southern Carpathians, the central Balkan peninsula and in Bulgaria and north-east Greece where spruce reaches its southern limit in Europe. On the mountains of the Bosnia/Serbia border, Picea omorika, a rather uncompetitive tree but one able to thrive on limestone screes, in timber clearings or after fire, dominates in woodlands of this same general type with a well- developed understorey and numerous Illyrian and south-east European species including Daphne blagayana, Hieracium rotundatum, Aremonia agrimonoides, Festuca drymeja, Epimedium alpinum, Cardamine trifolia and the Balkan Doronicum columnae, Dianthus petraeus, Athamantha turbith, Sesleria rigida and Edraianthus graminifolius.

Indicators of quality:

  • Natural dominance of Picea abies with modest canopy contributions from Abies alba, Fagus sylvatica and pines
  • Uneven-age canopy with signs of spruce regeneration, distinctively patchy where favourable microsites extend spruce cover into the sub-alpine
  • Presence of old trees and a variety of dead wood (lying and standing) and the associated flora, fauna and fungi
  • Presence of natural disturbance such as windfall openings with natural regeneration
  • Sufficient proportion of historically old (ancient) woodland with high species diversity
  • Presence of well-developed associated flora and fauna reflecting soil conditions and regional climate
  • Absence of non-native tree species and absence of invasive aliens in all layers (fauna, flora)
  • No signs of eutrophication or pollution with e.g. pronounced invasion on nutrient-demanding herbs
  • No fragmentation and isolation with enough stands to support species which need large undisturbed forest habitats (such as wildcat, lynx etc. )

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

Due to a relatively small decline in both quality and quantity over the last 50 years, the habitat type has been assessed as Least concern (LC) both for EU28 and EU28+.The separate assessment of some rare subtypes, especially at lower altitudes, on peat, rocks or with Picea omorika, would have led to a higher category of threat for those types. Pressures from logging and abiotic pressures due to global change are likely to increase in the future but such a negative trend can't be supported by sufficient facts and data yet.
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

  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Forest and Plantation management & use
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Sport and leisure structures
  • Pollution
    • Air pollution, air-borne pollutants
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions
    • Temperature changes (e.g. rise of temperature & extremes)
    • Droughts and less precipitations

Habitat restoration potential

If the habitat has been severely damaged by intensive logging (with a removal of all deadwood and large trees), it takes more than 50 years to recover large enough trees and enough deadwood for the specific fauna, fungi and flora. The first positive effects of an abandonment of exploitation can be seen after 30 years of free evolution (Paillet et al. 2010). A clear-cutting followed by agricultural use would make all characteristic species disappear, and the forest soil would turn to agricultural one, and it would take centuries to recover the typical flora (Dupouey et al. 2002). Plantation can quicken the habitat recovery a little but most of the recovery process would have to occur naturally, with a slow recolonization of typical forest species.

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

Both integrative and segregative approaches are needed for the conservation of temperate mountain spruce woodlands. On most surfaces, the development of sustainable forest management measures can help conserving most of the structures, functions and characteristic species. The prevention of large clear-cuttings and planting of exotic trees, the conservation of deadwood, veteran trees and trees with microhabitats (broken tops, cracks or scars, hollow chambers, stem cavities, bark bowls and pockets, burls) play a key role in maintaining not only forest biodiversity but also social and economic functions (forest productivity especially concerning deadwood, protection against erosion or avalanches if no large clear-cuttings are made, etc.). Sustainable forest management can be promoted by forest certification, in the Natura 2000 network, public forests, category V and VI of IUCN protected areas.
Even in the most sustainably managed forest, logging cuts the end of the forest cycle (the mature and veteran stands are rare, deadwood volumes can never be the same as in unmanaged forests). It stresses the need for a network of vast (more than 100 ha each) unmanaged forests, where the whole forest cycle can be fully accomplished. Those strictly protected areas should especially be located in category I and II IUCN protected areas, and should also protect the most remarkable forests (rare habitats, virgin or quasi-virgin forests, semi-natural forests unmanaged for a long time etc.).
To face global warming, the ability of spruce mountain forests to colonize new sites at higher altitudes is very important, especially on actual open land. For variants on peat, the restoration of the hydrological regime is crucial if it has been perturbated.
Finally, for some rare subtypes on peat or wet soil, restoring or improving the hydrological regime may be necessary.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to forests and wooded habitats
    • Restoring/Improving forest habitats
    • Adapt forest management
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Establishing wilderness areas/allowing succession
    • Legal protection of habitats and 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 4500 Stable Decreasing
Bulgaria Present 842 Decreasing Decreasing
Czech Republic Present 772 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present 500 Decreasing Increasing
Germany Present 500 Decreasing Increasing
Poland Present 4700 Unknown Unknown
Romania Present 5580 Decreasing Decreasing
Slovakia Present 420 Stable Stable
Slovenia Present 109 Stable Stable
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 80 Increasing Stable
Italy mainland Present 5905 Stable Decreasing
Croatia Present 136 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)
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 1200 Decreasing Decreasing
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present 7 Stable Decreasing
Montenegro Present 840 Unknown Stable
Switzerland Present 1800 Decreasing Increasing
Serbia Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Albania Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Liechtestein Uncertain Unknown Unknown 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 1308600 2261 23,000 Poland missing, estimated from art 17 report for 9410 habitat (6,331 km² for whole 9410, containing also more or less a quarter of Fir forests ).
EU28+ 2600 around 31,000 (+/- 3000) Poland missing, estimated from art 17 report for 9410 habitat (6,331 km²). Data missing for other countries in the Balkans with probalby large surfaces in Serbia. The whole area can only be roughly e
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)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100