Red List habitat classification > RLH - Sparsely vegetated habitats > RLH3.1b Temperate high-mountain siliceous inland cliff

Temperate high-mountain siliceous inland cliff

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLH3.1b
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)


Siliceous (rich in quartz and silicate minerals such as mica, feldspar, biotite and hornblende) cliffs and walls of acid rock in the high mountains of the nemoral biogeographical zone. The most common kinds of siliceous rock are granite, gneiss and crystal schist, mostly of Palaeozoic age. Younger igneous-volcanic acid rocks such as quartz-porphyry also occur, for instance in the western central Alps. As gneiss and granitic rocks weather more slowly than calcareous rock, the vegetation of vascular plants in crevices and on ledges in the high mountains is less species-rich. Siliceous rock-faces, on the other hand, are richer in epilithic lichens. Lichens of crustose (Acarospora, Haematomma, Lecanora, Lecidea s.l., Rhizocarpon, Sarcogyna, Schaereria, Sporastatia) and foliose (Parmelia s.l., Physcia, Umbilicaria) growth form prevail. Endolithic lichens and micro-algae are other important components of siliceous rock biota. Siliceous rock-dwelling bryophytes of the temperate high mountains include chiefly acrocarpic mosses and hepatics, among others many species of Grimmia, Racomitrium, Schistidium, Andreaea and Marsupella. Bryophyte diversity and abundance is highest in fissures of wet rocks and on ledges with a thin humus layer. Among the vascular plants tufted or matted perennial herbs prevail; plants of rosulate or succulent growth form may be prominent. Species-rich genera of silicolous chasmophytes are Saxifraga, Sempervivum, Primula, Phyteuma and Artemisia. Alpine siliceous cliffs are generally less species-rich than calcareous cliffs of the high mountains. Nevertheless, several range-restricted taxa are confined to siliceous inland cliffs.

The habitat type occurs in the high mountains of nemoral Europe, chiefly in the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Carpathians and the Balkanic mountain ranges of Stara Planina (Balkan range), Rila and Rhodopes, and further east in the Caucasus.

Indicators of good quality:

High-mountain siliceous cliffs of the temperate zone are particularly rich in lichens and bryophytes, less so in vascular plants. It is therefore advisable to take cryptogram diversity into consideration when assessing the habitat quality of siliceous cliffs. Relict arcto-alpine and range-restricted taxa among both phanerogams and cryptogams are the most significant biological quality indicators.

The following characteristics may be used as indicators of favourable quality:

  • Occurrence of rare species of lichens, bryophytes and phytogeographically significant vascular plant taxa,
  • Presence of sizable cliffs and large boulders with species-rich lichen crusts and bryophyte assemblages, with different aspects of rock-faces, different exposure, moisture and rock structures such as vertical rock faces, overhangs, cavities, rock shelters, and ledges
  • Contact with natural habitats such as screes, boulder fields and alpine grasslands
  • Absence of rock climbing facilities

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

As the habitat is widespread in high mountain areas and hence the impact of human activities is limited, reductions in quantity and quality occur mainly at a local scale. All calculated trends qualify for a Least Concern status. Although territorial data were not provided from all countries, the assessment has a high degree of reliability.
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

  • Mining, extraction of materials and energy production
    • Mining and quarrying
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Outdoor sports and leisure activities, recreational activities
    • Mountaineering, rock climbing, speleology
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Biocenotic evolution, succession
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions

Habitat restoration potential

Once completely destroyed the habitat has almost no capacity to recover, as it is dependent on geomorphological processes (orogenesis). In the case of damage without destruction of sites, at least for plants capable of dispersal, the natural recovery of this habitat is rather fast when it is not isolated from similar habitats. The recolonization of sites by breeding birds after strong disturbances may take longer.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

Cliffs are crucial features of high mountain environments. As they are natural habitats, no specific management measures are required except avoiding disturbance and destruction of sites. The protection of those habitats and corresponding species is realised best by the establishment of large-scale protected areas, where natural processes are allowed without any restrictions.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Other marine-related measures
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • 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 55 Stable Stable
Bulgaria Present 125 Decreasing Decreasing
Czech Republic Present 1 Decreasing Stable
France mainland Present 200 Decreasing Decreasing
Germany Present 2 Decreasing Stable
Italy mainland Present 1474 Decreasing Stable
Sardinia Present 1474 Decreasing Stable
Romania Present 0.5 Stable Stable
Slovakia Present 28 Unknown Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 76 Decreasing Stable
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 20 Decreasing Unknown
Slovenia Present 3 Stable Stable
Poland Present 0.6 Decreasing Stable
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Switzerland Present 800 Decreasing Decreasing
Albania Uncertain - -
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 2 Decreasing Stable
Kosovo Present Unknown Stable Stable
Montenegro Uncertain - -
Serbia 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 2208450 1114 1986
EU28+ 1117 2788 no data from Albania, Montenegro, Serbia
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
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