Red List habitat classification > RLH - Sparsely vegetated habitats > RLH3.1a Boreal and arctic siliceous inland cliff

Boreal and arctic siliceous inland cliff

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLH3.1a
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)

Summary

Siliceous (rich in quartz and silicate minerals such as mica or feldspar) rock walls and cliffs in the boreal and arctic biogeographical regions, excluding supralittoral cliffs adjacent to the sea with salt spray influence (habitat B3.1) as well as very wet, dripping vertical rocks (habitat H3.4). These siliceous cliffs in the North chiefly consist of granite, gneiss and other kinds of hard crystalline acid rock. Soft mica schist is also common. Volcanic rocks occur locally.

The vegetation consists of a limited number of vascular plants in rock crevices and on ledges, while epilithic bryophytes, lichens as well as micro-algae occur on dry or wet rock faces, overhangs and in all kinds of sheltered microsites. Although these rock types are all base-poor, they show marked variation in their chemical composition and can harbor hundreds of different lichens and bryophytes and a range of plant communities. For example, lichen communities on quartzite and diorite are composed largely of different species. The most base-poor rocks include sandstone and quartzite, followed by granites, gneisses, and granulites. Rocks with reduced acidity include phyllite, mica schist, gabbro, and diorite; they host species that are slightly more nutrient demanding. In the boreal zone, diabase and amphibolite represent more base-rich rock types that form transitions between base-poor and base-rich habitats (this type and H3.2a). However, in most cases these cliffs do not host remarkable calciphilous communities, like on limestone cliffs.

Usually, the highest diversity of species is found in cliffs with the highest geomorphological diversity. Especially lichen and bryophyte communities vary according to microhabitats like rock slopes, vertical and overhanging rock faces, cavities, shelves, and ledges, as well as crevices of different size or fissures on walls. For example, the most bare and sunny walls are dominated by crustose and foliose lichens and small cushion-forming bryophytes, whereas shady vertical surfaces are covered by mat- or cushion-forming bryophytes. The gloomiest cavities may harbor fan-like bryophytes (e.g. Neckera spp.), powdery lichens or algae. Crustose and foliose lichens are well represented with numerous genera; particularly species-rich are, e.g., Lecanora, Parmelia s.l., Rhizocarpon, Stereocaulon, and Umbilicaria. Among the mosses, numerous species of Grimmia, Racomitrium, Schistidium, Andreaea and many other genera occur. The vegetation of vascular plants is rather poor but small ferns (Asplenium spp.) may occur, except in the far north.

Specific plant communities can be recognized on Fe and Cu sulphide-rich rocks, where the specialized flora includes copper moss Mielichhoferia elongata and lichens that favour iron-containing rocks (e.g. Acarospora sinopica, Lecanora epanora, Lecidea silacea, Miriquidica atrofulva, Tremolecia atrata). Bird nesting cliffs (excl. coastal bird cliffs) have also a special species composition, as they gain extra nutrients from guano and host so-called ornithocoprophilous plants.

Boreal and arctic siliceous cliffs occur in Iceland, northern Scotland, the Shetland, Orkney and Faroe Island groups, Svalbard, Fennoscandia and the northern Baltic region, moreover in Greenland, northern Russia and circumpolar in North Siberia and North America. In the boreal lowlands, cliffs are usually small and low and located in forest environments, whereas in the Scandinavian Mountain range and in the arctic zone the most massive cliffs occur on open mountain slopes and may be hundreds of meters high and kilometers long.

Indicators of good quality:

Boreal and arctic siliceous cliffs are of particular importance for cryptogams, in particular for lichen and bryophyte diversity. The biodiversity varies between regions, phytogeographic zones and altitudinal belts. The species diversity varies enormously also in entirely natural communities in cliff habitats. Usually, the smallest rock formations with monotonous microtopography and little variation in rock types show low diversity, whereas larger cliff complexes with heterogeneous geomorphology and varying rock types may represent local biodiversity hotspots. Therefore, low species diversity or absence of rare species should not as such be interpreted as an indicator of low habitat quality, unless it is caused by anthropogenic influence.

The following characteristics may be used as indicators for assessing trends in quality:
•    Occurrence of rare species of lichens, bryophytes and phytogeographically significant vascular plant taxa, 
•    Presence of sizable open exposed rock with species-rich bryophyte carpets and lichen crusts, and of different aspects of rock walls, different exposure to insolation, moisture and rock structures such as overhangs, cavities, rock shelters, ledges
•    Presence of indicators of good air quality, e.g. usneoid lichens or Lobaria spp.
•    Contact with natural habitats such as screes, boulder fields, and pioneer grasslands 
•    Absence of quarrying and control structures 
•    Absence of garbage dumping and anthropogenic nutrient input from above the cliff
•    Absence of rock climbing facilities
•    Absence of alien species

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

Despite missing territorial data from Norway and Sweden, this habitat type is labelled as Least Concern (LC), because Finnish data are of very good quality and it is possible to extrapolate them to Norway, based on information from the Norwegian Red List of Ecosystem (Least Concern status).
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -
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
    • Forestry clearance
  • Mining, extraction of materials and energy production
    • Mines
  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Dispersed habitation
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Outdoor sports and leisure activities, recreational activities
  • Pollution
    • Nitrogen-input

Habitat restoration potential

At least for generalist rock plants, the natural recovery of this habitat is possible and fast when it is not isolated from habitats of the same type. The return of specialized nesting birds after strong disturbances is less easy for example. The same applies to specialist plants of rock micro-habitats.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Unknown Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Unknown Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

As a highly natural habitat, this habitat type requires no specific management regarding its maintenance but to leave it undisturbed and undestroyed. Conservation is then effective when free evolution is possible, like within protected areas. ‘Manage landscape features’ refers to the need to better protect this kind of habitats with a high degree of naturalness in land-use planning, especially when no specific regulation can be applied (no protected species or habitat, outside a protected area, outside a Natura 2000 site).

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Manage landscape features

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)
Estonia Uncertain - -
Finland mainland Present 2000 Stable Stable
Latvia Uncertain - -
Lithuania Uncertain - -
Sweden Present unknown Unknown Unknown
United Kingdom Uncertain unknown 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)
Iceland Present unknown Unknown Unknown
Norway Mainland Present 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 4378900 4557 2000 Data only for Finland (open cliffs and sparsely wooded rocks outcrops)
EU28+ 4674 2000 Data only for Finland (open cliffs and sparsely wooded rocks outcrops)
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.
Ferns Asplenium septentrionale
Ferns Cystopteris fragilis
Ferns Phegopteris connectilis
Ferns Polypodium vulgare
Ferns Woodsia alpina
Ferns Woodsia ilvensis
Flowering Plants Alchemilla alpina
Flowering Plants Arabidopsis thaliana
Flowering Plants Arenaria norvegica
Flowering Plants Astragalus alpinus
Flowering Plants Campanula rotundifolia
Flowering Plants Cardaminopsis petraea
Flowering Plants Cerastium alpinum
Flowering Plants Draba incana
Flowering Plants Epilobium collinum
Flowering Plants Festuca ovina
Flowering Plants Geranium robertianum
Flowering Plants Hieracium schmidtii
Flowering Plants Hylotelephium maximum
Flowering Plants Moehringia trinervia
Flowering Plants Poa glauca
Flowering Plants Polygonatum odoratum
Flowering Plants Potentilla argentea
Flowering Plants Rumex acetosella
Flowering Plants Saxifraga cotyledon
Flowering Plants Silene rupestris
Flowering Plants Stellaria graminea
Flowering Plants Veronica fruticans
Flowering Plants Viola tricolor
Flowering Plants Viscaria alpina
Flowering Plants Viscaria vulgaris
Mosses & Liverworts Andreaea rothii
Mosses & Liverworts Andreaea rupestris
Mosses & Liverworts Cnestrum schisti
Mosses & Liverworts Dicranum scoparium
Mosses & Liverworts Ditrichum zonatum
Mosses & Liverworts Dryptodon patens
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia affinis
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia alpestris
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia apiculata
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia arenaria
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia caespiticia
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia curvata
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia donniana
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia elatior
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia elongata
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia funalis
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia incurva
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia muehlenbeckii
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia ovalis
Mosses & Liverworts Grimmia torquata
Mosses & Liverworts Hedwigia ciliata
Mosses & Liverworts Homalia trichomanoides
Mosses & Liverworts Homalothecium sericeum
Mosses & Liverworts Hylocomium splendens
Mosses & Liverworts Mielichhoferia elongata
Mosses & Liverworts Orthodicranum montanum
Mosses & Liverworts Paraleucobryum longifolium
Mosses & Liverworts Plagiomnium cuspidatum
Mosses & Liverworts Pleurozium schreberi
Mosses & Liverworts Pterigynandrum filiforme
Mosses & Liverworts Racomitrium fasciculare
Mosses & Liverworts Racomitrium heterostichum
Mosses & Liverworts Racomitrium lanuginosum
Mosses & Liverworts Racomitrium microcarpon
Mosses & Liverworts Racomitrium sudeticum
Mosses & Liverworts Rhabdoweisia fugax
Mosses & Liverworts Sanionia uncinata
Mosses & Liverworts Ulota curvifolia
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Asplenium septentrionale Ferns
Cystopteris fragilis Ferns
Phegopteris connectilis Ferns
Polypodium vulgare Ferns
Woodsia alpina Ferns
Woodsia ilvensis Ferns
Alchemilla alpina Flowering Plants
Arabidopsis thaliana Flowering Plants
Arenaria norvegica Flowering Plants
Astragalus alpinus Flowering Plants
Campanula rotundifolia Flowering Plants
Cardaminopsis petraea Flowering Plants
Cerastium alpinum Flowering Plants
Draba incana Flowering Plants
Epilobium collinum Flowering Plants
Festuca ovina Flowering Plants
Geranium robertianum Flowering Plants
Hieracium schmidtii Flowering Plants
Hylotelephium maximum Flowering Plants
Moehringia trinervia Flowering Plants
Poa glauca Flowering Plants
Polygonatum odoratum Flowering Plants
Potentilla argentea Flowering Plants
Rumex acetosella Flowering Plants
Saxifraga cotyledon Flowering Plants
Silene rupestris Flowering Plants
Stellaria graminea Flowering Plants
Veronica fruticans Flowering Plants
Viola tricolor Flowering Plants
Viscaria alpina Flowering Plants
Viscaria vulgaris Flowering Plants
Andreaea rothii Mosses & Liverworts
Andreaea rupestris Mosses & Liverworts
Cnestrum schisti Mosses & Liverworts
Dicranum scoparium Mosses & Liverworts
Ditrichum zonatum Mosses & Liverworts
Dryptodon patens Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia affinis Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia alpestris Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia apiculata Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia arenaria Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia caespiticia Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia curvata Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia donniana Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia elatior Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia elongata Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia funalis Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia incurva Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia muehlenbeckii Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia ovalis Mosses & Liverworts
Grimmia torquata Mosses & Liverworts
Hedwigia ciliata Mosses & Liverworts
Homalia trichomanoides Mosses & Liverworts
Homalothecium sericeum Mosses & Liverworts
Hylocomium splendens Mosses & Liverworts
Mielichhoferia elongata Mosses & Liverworts
Orthodicranum montanum Mosses & Liverworts
Paraleucobryum longifolium Mosses & Liverworts
Plagiomnium cuspidatum Mosses & Liverworts
Pleurozium schreberi Mosses & Liverworts
Pterigynandrum filiforme Mosses & Liverworts
Racomitrium fasciculare Mosses & Liverworts
Racomitrium heterostichum Mosses & Liverworts
Racomitrium lanuginosum Mosses & Liverworts
Racomitrium microcarpon Mosses & Liverworts
Racomitrium sudeticum Mosses & Liverworts
Rhabdoweisia fugax Mosses & Liverworts
Sanionia uncinata Mosses & Liverworts
Ulota curvifolia 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 H3.1 Acid siliceous inland cliffs narrower
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