Red List habitat classification > RLG - Forests > RLG3.A Picea taiga woodland

Picea taiga woodland

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLG3.A
Threat status
Europe Near Threatened
EU Near Threatened
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


This habitat comprises of mesic to herb-rich forest vegetation on mineral soils in the boreal and boreonemoral zones. The soils are often podzolic, but other soil types occur and the humus is raw or mull. The canopy is often dominated by Picea abies but, despite the name of the habitat, stands dominated by Pinus sylvestris or Betula pendula or mixtures of these trees are also common. Other tree species include Alnus incana, Betula pubescens, Populus tremula, Salix caprea, Sorbus aucuparia, and in the boreonemoral and southern boreal subzones also Acer platanoides, Alnus glutinosa, Quercus robur, Tilia cordata, Ulmus glabra and Ulmus laevis. Under natural conditions, forest succession will lead to the development of a Picea abies forest, but the proportions of tree species are nowadays largely regulated by forestry. The shrub layer is best developed in moist herb-rich stands, where Frangula alnus, Lonicera xylosteum, Prunus padus, Ribes spp., Rubus idaeus and other shrubs can form dense thickets. On mesic sites, by contrast, the only true shrubs are Juniperus communis, Salix caprea and other Salix spp. Understorey vegetation varies from the dwarf shrub and feather moss dominated vegetation in mesic situations to the most luxurious and species-rich herb dominated vegetation. In mesic situations, Vaccinium myrtillus usually dominates, followed by Vaccinium vitis-idaea, Linnaea borealis and, in the middle and northern boreal subzones, even Empetrum nigrum, Ledum palustre and Vaccinium uliginosum. The commonest herbs are Convallaria majalis, Dryopteris carthusiana, Epilobium angustifolium, Maianthemum bifolium, Melampyrum pratense, Melampyrum sylvaticum, Pteridium aquilinum, Solidago virgaurea and Trientalis europaea, while species like Lathyrus vernus and Oxalis acetosella grow on slightly more nutrient-rich soils. Calamagrostis arundinacea and Deschampsia flexuosa are the most abundant grasses on mesic sites. Common graminoids also include Carex digitata, Carex globularis, Deschampsia cespitosa, Luzula pilosa and Melica nutans. There is great compositional variation in the herb layer of the richer sites, depending on the geographic location, soil moisture, soil nutrient status and canopy composition. In general, the number of herb species is high, and there are also many graminoids, but dwarf shrubs are few or non-existent. However, the number of vascular species decreases towards the north of the range. In addition to species thriving on mesic sites, examples of typical herb species are Aegopodium podagraria, Anemone nemorosa, Angelica sylvestris, Anthriscus sylvestris, Athyrium filix-femina, Cirsium helenioides, Cornus suecica, Corydalis solida, Dryopteris carthusiana, Dryopteris expansa, Filipendula ulmaria, Fragaria vesca, Galium boreale, Geranium sylvaticum, Geum rivale, Gymnocarpium dryopteris, Hepatica nobilis, Matteuccia struthiopteris, Paris quadrifolia, Pulmonaria obscura, Ranunculus auricomus, Ranunculus fallax, Stellaria nemorum, and common grasses are Agrostis capillaris, Calamagrostis purpurea, Melica nutans, Milium effusum and Poa nemoralis. On mesic sites the moss layer is usually continuous and dominated by feather mosses like Pleurozium schreberi and Hylocomium splendens. Other common species are Dicranum fuscescens, D. majus, D. polysetum, D. scoparium, Polytrichum commune, Ptilium crista-castrensis and on slightly more nutrient-rich sites Climacium dendroides, Rhodobryum roseum and Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. The abundance and number of liverwort species, like Barbilophozia lycopodioides, increases towards north. On mesic sites there may even be some terricolous lichens. On herb-rich sites, the cover of the moss layer is usually small, and feather mosses are scarce. Instead, there is a rich flora of nutrient-demanding mosses and liverworts like Brachythecium spp., Cirriphyllum piliferum, Plagiochila asplenioides, Plagiomnium spp., Plagiothecium spp., Pseudobryum cinclidioides and Rhizomnium spp. After a major disturbance such as windfall, forest fire or regeneration cutting, herbs and grasses increase, Vaccinium myrtillus declines and bryophytes decrease.

Indicators of good quality:

• Natural composition of canopy

• Structural diversity/ complexity with (semi)natural age structure or completeness of layers

• Typical flora and fauna composition of the region

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

• Presence of natural disturbance such as treefall openings with natural regeneration

• Long historical continuity (ancient woodland) with high species diversity

• Survival of larger stands of forest without anthropogenic fragmentation and isolation (to support fauna which need large undisturbed forests)

• Absence of non-native species in all layers (flora & fauna)

• No signs of eutrophication or pollution

• No man-induced very high population levels of ungulates

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat is assessed as Least Concern (LC) under criterion A1 (decline in quantity) in both EU28 and EU28+, as there has been a small increase in its quantity over the last 50 years. The area of the habitat is currently stable or increasing in the Nordic countries, but declining in the Baltic countries. However, in the same period there has been a reduction in the quality of this habitat, affecting 52% of its extent with moderate severity, and the habitat therefore is assessed as Near Threatened (NT) under criterion C/D1. The habitat quality continues to decrease throughout Europe. The assessment for EU28+ is the same as for EU28, but as Norway holds a relatively large part of the habitat's area, the result for the EU28+ is more uncertain. Most of the quality degradation has occurred already before the 1960's, and long-term trends may lead to a more trheatened status, but data on these decline are not available.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Near Threatened C/D1
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Near Threatened C/D1

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Forestry clearance
    • Removal of dead and dying trees
    • Thinning of tree layer
    • Forestry activities not referred to above
  • Climate change
    • Habitat shifting and alteration

Habitat restoration potential

The habitat has a capacity to recover naturally after a severe damage, but a full recovery including deadwood and species which are dependent on it will take a very long time. The rate of recovery is also dependent on the extent of the damaged area. Measures like planting trees or sowing tree seeds, planting large pieces of humus layer with attached vegetation and adding artificial deadwood is likely to fasten the process considerably.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Increasing Increasing
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Decreasing Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

Current most common approaches are establishing protected areas/sites, establishing wilderness areas/allowing succession, restoring/improving forest habitats and adaptation of forest management. Additional actions needed are further optimizing the use of funds for conservation (what kind of areas are chosen for conservation and where), conservation of all successional stages (protection of natural old forests, creating (simulated) young successional stages of natural forests), further improving methods for conservation/nature management in managed forests (e.g. regarding deadwood) and control of overgrazing.

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


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)
Estonia Present 260 Unknown Decreasing
Finland mainland Present 103428 Decreasing Increasing
Aland Islands Present 103428 Decreasing Increasing
Latvia Present 6177 Decreasing Decreasing
Lithuania Present 4000 Decreasing Decreasing
Sweden Present 171741 Decreasing Stable
Poland Present 23 Unknown 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)
Norway Mainland Present 55500 Decreasing Stable

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 1509200 9283 285629
EU28+ 10284 341129
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