Red List habitat classification > RLG - Forests > RLG3.1b Temperate mountain Abies woodland

Temperate mountain Abies woodland

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLG3.1b
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

Abies alba is a conifer of central and southern Europe where it occupies an intermediate position between Fagus sylvatica and Picea abies, both geographically favouring climates that are only moderately continental, and altitudinally. In areas where both fir and spruce are present, it rarely dominates in a belt between forests of beech and fir, but more often occurs intermixed with these two trees, here especially with beech towards the sub-montane limits of the occurrence of this woodland type. These fir and fir-beech forests are most extensive in the mountain ranges of western and central France, the Black Forest, the Swiss Alps, Austria and the Carpathians, with outliers in the Pyrenees, Czechia, Slovakia, Poland, the Balkans, occurring on usually base-poor soils but extending also on to more base-rich and mesotrophic profiles where distinctive contingents of associates occur, especially in the field layer. Abies temperate moutain woodlands can also be found in Corsica, Italy (mainland) and reaches the north of Greece. Though located in mountain near the mediteranean belt, those fir forests do not correspond to the Mediteranean Abies mountain (see G3.1c) type (with A. Cephalonica...). The dominant trees here are Fir or mixtures of Fir, Spruce and Beech. Except in the Pyrenees, Massif central and most parts of the Vosges (where it is alien), Picea abies can also occur, particularly where site conditions are harsher, and it has been very widely planted in preference to Abies. Other broadleaves can occur, notably Acer pseudoplatanus, A, platanoides Betula pendula, Populus tremula, Sorbus aucuparia, Quercus robur (towards the sub-montane zone), and, in more Atlantic regions like the Pyrenees, Massif central, the Vosges and the Black Forest, where this kind of woodland is most extensive, Ilex aquifolium. In the Balkans and northern Greece, A. borisii-regis and Fagus moesiaca replace Abies alba, and Acer heldreichii and A. obtusatum occur among the associates in this woodland at its southern limit among xerothermic oak forests. Towards the upper mountain or sub-alpine zone, Abies alba dominates, expecially where Picea abies is absent. On acidic soils, the flora resembles that of the heathy spruce forests and Picea abies can be quite abundant, along with Pinus sylvestris. Saplings of the canopy trees are often the most abundant element of the understorey with Vaccinium myrtillus, V. vitis-idaea, Deschampsia flexuosa, Dryopteris carthusiana, D. dilatatae, Luzula luzuloides, L. nivea, L. sylvatica, Listera cordata, Maianthemum bifolium, Oxalis acetosella, Hieracium murorum in the field layer, together with bulky mosses such as Polytrichum formosum, Dicranum scoparium, Hylocomnium splendens and Pleurozium schreberi. At the sub-alpine zone, the flora is very close to the flora of sub-alpine spruce forests, with Homogyne alpina, Rhododendron ferrugineum, Sphagnum div. sp., Lycopodium annotinum, Bazzania trilobata, Rhytidiadelphus loreus… On less impoverished and moister soils, Abies alba often dominates more substantially with Fraxinus excelsior and Ulmus glabra figuring among the canopy trees, Rubus idaeus, R. fruticosus and Lonicera nigra in the understorey. Galium rotundifolium, Oxalis acetosella, Prenanthes purpurea, Sanicula europaea, Mercurialis perennis, Crepis paludosa, Chaerophyllum hirsutum, Adenostyles glabra, Valeriana tripteris, Carex alba, C. digitata, Cirsium erisithales can occur in the field layer. Like Spruce mountain forest, fir forests can also be found at lower altitudes (among beech forests) on rocks or peat.

Indicators of quality:

Spruce forestry is very widely practiced in the zone where this kind of woodland is the natural dominant, so signs of quality are:

  • Natural dominance of fir and/or mixed dominance of fir, spruce and beech with canopy and understorey associates appropriate to the soil conditions and region
  • Mixed age structure of canopy with natural regeneration of the dominant trees -
  • Presence of old trees, a variety of dead wood (lying and standing) and trees with microhabitats (hollows, cracks, broken tops...), 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
  • Absence of anthropogenic invaders with disturbance of forestry operations 
  • 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

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

There has been a slight decline in quality over the last 50 years affecting 62% of the area of EU28, which results in the Near threatened category, although the habitat still has a large total area with more or less stable trends in quantity over the last 50 years. 90% of the surfaces in France show a slight decline in quality which is due to a lack of deadwood (90% of the area with less than 10 m³). The pressures from logging and abiotic pressures due to global change are likely to increase in the future and would certainly lead to the Vulnerable category but such a negative trend is not certain yet. Even if the future trend in quality remains Data deficient, the observed and forecasted effects of climate change confirm the choice of the Near threatened category for the overall Red List category.
The overall situation in EU28+ is better because of more favourable trends in Bosnia and Switzerland (but with lacking data for Serbia), which results in category Least Concern.
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Near Threatened C/D1
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
    • Grazing
  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Forest and Plantation management & use
    • Forest replanting
    • Forestry clearance
    • Forest exploitation without replanting or natural regrowth
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Outdoor sports and leisure activities, recreational activities
    • Sport and leisure structures
    • Skiing complex
  • Pollution
    • Air pollution, air-borne pollutants
    • Acid rain
    • Nitrogen-input
    • Soil pollution and solid waste (excluding discharges)
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Interspecific floral relations
    • Parasitism
    • Introduction of disease (microbial pathogens)
    • Damage by herbivores (including game species)
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions
    • Temperature changes (e.g. rise of temperature & extremes)
    • Droughts and less precipitations
    • pH-changes

Habitat restoration potential

If the habitat has been severely damaged by intensive logging (with 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 bit but most of the recovery process would have to occur naturally.

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

The conservation of temperate mountain fir woodlands requires both integrative and segregative approaches. On most surfaces, the development of sustainable forest management measures plays a key role in the conservation of the characteristic structures and functions and characteristic species. Especially the conservation of deadwood, veteran trees and trees offering microhabitats (e.g. broken tops, cracks or scars, hollow chambers, stem cavities, bark bowls and pockets, burls) is crucial for maintaining not only forest biodiversity but also social and economic functions (forest productivity, protection against erosion or avalanches etc.). Large clear-cuttings and the planting of exotic tree species must be avoided and it is necessary to carry out appropriate management measures in regard to introduced alien species. Sustainable forest management can be promoted by forest certification, in the Natura 2000 network, in public forests and in category V and VI of IUCN protected areas. Even in the most sustainably managed forests, logging cuts the end of the forest cycle: the mature and veteran stands are rare and deadwood volumes can never be the same as in unmanaged forests. Therefore, the appropriate protection of this habitat type 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 be mainly 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.). For variants on peat, the restoration of the hydrological regime is crucial if it has been perturbated.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to forests and wooded habitats
    • Restoring/Improving forest habitats
    • Adapt forest management
  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Restoring/Improving the hydrological regime
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Establishing wilderness areas/allowing succession
    • Legal protection of habitats and species

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 500 Decreasing Decreasing
Bulgaria Present 276 Decreasing Decreasing
Croatia Present 3,161 Unknown Increasing
Czech Republic Present 50 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present 5,671 Decreasing Increasing
Germany Present 50 Decreasing Stable
Italy mainland Present 1,962 Decreasing Stable
Romania Present 1,070 Decreasing Decreasing
Slovakia Present 100 Unknown Decreasing
Slovenia Present 95 Decreasing Increasing
Spain mainland Present 79 Decreasing Increasing
Poland Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Corsica Present 5,671 Decreasing Increasing
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 1.2 Stable Increasing
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 5,000 Decreasing Stable
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present 276 Unknown Increasing
Switzerland Present 1,600 Decreasing Increasing
Serbia Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Albania Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Kosovo Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Montenegro Present 744 Unknown Decreasing
Vatican City 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 1885250 1309 14,250 Poland is missing but the area for 91P0 Holy Cross fir forest (Abietetum polonicum) is 65 km² and for 9410 more than 6,000 (containing probably 1/4 to 1/10 fir forests) according to Annex 1 article 17
EU28+ 1623 about 21,000 (+/- 2,000) Data for Poland (see above) and Serbia are missing.
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
Conifers Picea abies
Conifers Pinus sylvestris
Ferns Dryopteris carthusiana
Ferns Lycopodium annotinum
Flowering Plants Acer heldreichii
Flowering Plants Acer pseudoplatanus
Flowering Plants Adenostyles glabra
Flowering Plants Betula pendula
Flowering Plants Carex alba
Flowering Plants Chaerophyllum hirsutum
Flowering Plants Cirsium erisithales
Flowering Plants Crepis paludosa
Flowering Plants Deschampsia flexuosa
Flowering Plants Fagus moesiaca
Flowering Plants Fagus sylvatica
Flowering Plants Fraxinus excelsior
Flowering Plants Galium rotundifolium
Flowering Plants Hieracium murorum
Flowering Plants Homogyne alpina
Flowering Plants Ilex aquifolium
Flowering Plants Listera cordata
Flowering Plants Lonicera nigra
Flowering Plants Luzula luzuloides
Flowering Plants Maianthemum bifolium
Flowering Plants Mercurialis perennis
Flowering Plants Oxalis acetosella
Flowering Plants Populus tremula
Flowering Plants Prenanthes purpurea
Flowering Plants Quercus robur
Flowering Plants Rhododendron ferrugineum
Flowering Plants Rubus idaeus
Flowering Plants Sanicula europaea
Flowering Plants Sorbus aucuparia
Flowering Plants Ulmus glabra
Flowering Plants Valeriana tripteris
Mosses & Liverworts Bazzania trilobata
Mosses & Liverworts Dicranum scoparium
Mosses & Liverworts Pleurozium schreberi
Mosses & Liverworts Polytrichum formosum
Mosses & Liverworts Rhytidiadelphus loreus
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Abies alba Conifers
Picea abies Conifers
Pinus sylvestris Conifers
Dryopteris carthusiana Ferns
Lycopodium annotinum Ferns
Acer heldreichii Flowering Plants
Acer pseudoplatanus Flowering Plants
Adenostyles glabra Flowering Plants
Betula pendula Flowering Plants
Carex alba Flowering Plants
Chaerophyllum hirsutum Flowering Plants
Cirsium erisithales Flowering Plants
Crepis paludosa Flowering Plants
Deschampsia flexuosa Flowering Plants
Fagus moesiaca Flowering Plants
Fagus sylvatica Flowering Plants
Fraxinus excelsior Flowering Plants
Galium rotundifolium Flowering Plants
Hieracium murorum Flowering Plants
Homogyne alpina Flowering Plants
Ilex aquifolium Flowering Plants
Listera cordata Flowering Plants
Lonicera nigra Flowering Plants
Luzula luzuloides Flowering Plants
Maianthemum bifolium Flowering Plants
Mercurialis perennis Flowering Plants
Oxalis acetosella Flowering Plants
Populus tremula Flowering Plants
Prenanthes purpurea Flowering Plants
Quercus robur Flowering Plants
Rhododendron ferrugineum Flowering Plants
Rubus idaeus Flowering Plants
Sanicula europaea Flowering Plants
Sorbus aucuparia Flowering Plants
Ulmus glabra Flowering Plants
Valeriana tripteris Flowering Plants
Bazzania trilobata Mosses & Liverworts
Dicranum scoparium Mosses & Liverworts
Pleurozium schreberi Mosses & Liverworts
Polytrichum formosum Mosses & Liverworts
Rhytidiadelphus loreus Mosses & Liverworts

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 G3.1 Abies and Picea woodland narrower
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100