Red List habitat classification > RLH - Sparsely vegetated habitats > RLH4.1 Snow pack

Snow pack

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLH4.1
Threat status
Europe Vulnerable
EU Vulnerable
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


Snow packs are immobile near-permanent habitats that may persist in the limit of perpetual snow, in particular in avalanche corridors. However, they are susceptible to disappear completely during hot summers, thus excluding accumulation of ice. In spite of the extreme conditions of the habitat, some organisms do grow in this hostile habitat. This is the case of several cryosestonic unicellular algae, whose proliferation gives a reddish or greenish colour to snow packs. Some animals complete part of their life cycle on melting snow, e.g. chip snow (Boreus hyemalis, a Mecoptera) and several Coleoptera and Diptera, where they feed of pollen grains, frozen insects, etc. In Fennoscandia, reindeer gather on snow pack areas for the hottest summer days. Snow pack habitats are found mainly in high altitudes or latitudes. In Europe, the summits of the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Scandes, the Carpathian range, Balkan mountains and the Caucasus are concerned, as well as the arctic regions.

Indicators of good quality:

Quality indicators are difficult to propose for this habitat. Animal species cited below could be candidates.

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The snow packs represent rare and limited habitats strongly dependent on climatic conditions. Under global warming they are generally considered as Vulnerable (VU) in Europe because of declines in area and quality. They are especially htreatened on the southern limit of occurrence, in the Alps and Pyrenees, where they might be locally assessed as Endangered or even Collapsed (or at least near to disappearance). However, there are no quantitative relevant data yet to support these higher levels of threat.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1, C/D1
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1, C/D1

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Mountaineering & rock climbing
  • Pollution
    • Acid rain
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Erosion
    • Silting up
  • Climate change
    • Temperature changes (e.g. rise of temperature & extremes)

Habitat restoration potential

The existence of snow packs is strongly related to winter and summer temperature regime. Under good conditions (snow cover, cold summers and winters) the recovery of snow packs is possible, and these environment sustains also specialized chionophile algae, bryophytes and invertebrates.

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

Snow packs have geographically and climatically limited distribution. Increasing temperature and decreasing of snow precipitation are a limitation for persistence of this habitat and can not be regulated by special management. Usually, these habitats are concentrated on suitable localities e.g. shady gorges, deep valleys at north facing slopes at higher altitudes, where a total exclusion of access of human beings is recommended.

List of conservation and management needs

  • No measures
    • No measure known / impossible to carry out specific measures
  • Measures related to urban areas, industry, energy and transport
    • Urban and industrial waste management


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)
Finland mainland Present 3.5 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Slovenia Present 0.06 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Bulgaria Present 0.5 Decreasing Decreasing
Romania Present 0.1 Decreasing Decreasing
Germany Present 0.4 Decreasing Decreasing
Austria Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Slovakia Present 0.01 Decreasing Decreasing
Italy mainland Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Sweden Present 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)
Switzerland Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Iceland Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Montenegro Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
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 1840350 102 Unknown
EU28+ 1022 Unknown
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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