Red List habitat classification > RLH - Sparsely vegetated habitats > RLH5.1a Fjell field

Fjell field

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLH5.1a
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

This habitat occurs on mountain summits, ridges and slopes of the mountains in the boreal zone. Herb layer is sparse and short, including graminoids such as Carex bigelowii, Deschampsia flexuosa, Festuca ovina agg. and Juncus trifidus, dicot herbs Hieracium alpinum agg. and Lychnis alpina, and dwarf shrubs such as Arctostaphylos alpina, A. uva-ursi, Empetrum nigrum agg. and Loiseleuria procumbens. The vegetation is dominated by fruticose lichens, especially those of the genera Cladonia (Cladina) and Cetraria (incl. Flavocetraria), and bryophytes.

This vegetation is distributed in the alpine belt of the Scandinavian mountains and also at lower altitudes in northern Scandinavia and Scotland. It is confined to convex landforms affected by strong winds, which blow off snow and fine soil particles. Therefore the vegetation is exposed to winter climatic extremes, which are tolerated only by arctic-alpine cryptograms and a few adapted species of vascular plants. Soils are shallow, stony and often affected by cryoturbation. They are drier than soils in other landforms of arctic and alpine landscapes, poor in nutrients, with low microbial activity, and usually – but not always – acidic.

Compared to the polar deserts (type H5.1b) the summer temperatures on fjell fields are higher. The volcanic sparsely vegetated ash fields of Iceland are included as a separate, somewhat similar type as well (habitat H5.1c). Besides, similarities exist with tundra vegetation dominated by Racomitrium species in the arctic region. In the temperate mountains of Europe this kind of sparsely-vegetated summits in most cases are part of the mountain grassland communities on siliceous substrates (habitat E4.3b) or calcareous substrates (habitat E4.4a, E4.4b), or may be considered under limestone pavements (habitat H3.5a).

Indicators of good quality:

This is natural vegetation occurring mostly in remote areas which are under limited human influence. It is generally rather stable. Locally these habitats can be overgrazed by reindeer. The following characteristics can be considered as indicators of good quality:

  • No signs of overgrazing
  • No disturbance by man
  • Presence of thick lichen carpets

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat has been assessed as Near Threatened (NT) for the EU28 based on large declines in quality, mostly resulting from intensive grazing of wind-exposed mountain heaths by reindeer, nitrogen pollution and (more generally) climate change. The assessment has a large amount of uncertainty, however, due to uncertainties in the provided data. For the EU28+ (where a much larger amount of the habitat occurs in Norway) the situation is expected to be relatively better, leading to the conclusion Least Concern (LC).
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Near Threatened C/D1
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

  • Agriculture
    • Intensive grazing
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Other sport / Leisure complexes
    • Trampling, overuse
  • Pollution
    • Nitrogen-input
  • Climate change
    • Temperature changes (e.g. rise of temperature & extremes)

Habitat restoration potential

The natural recovery of habitats with sparse vegetation is very slow. It can even be lower than in the related mountain heath or birch forest due to hard environmental (soil, temperature) conditions and available amount of propagules (e.g. seeds). This process requires a lot of time, it is a long-term process.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Decreasing Decreasing
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

For this habitats it is the best regime to control intensity of pasture (reindeer, etc.) and frequency of people inputs. The fjell fields are relatively stable habitats when the climatic conditions do not change and human activities are under control.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Legal protection of habitats and species
    • 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)
Sweden Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
United Kingdom Present 380 Decreasing Stable
Finland mainland Present 290 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)
Norway Mainland Present 4752 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 530000 319 >700 Finland data includes wind-exposed heath
EU28+ 1090 >5500
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.
Flowering Plants Antennaria alpina
Flowering Plants Arctostaphylos alpinus
Flowering Plants Carex bigelowii
Flowering Plants Deschampsia flexuosa
Flowering Plants Diapensia lapponica
Flowering Plants Empetrum nigrum
Flowering Plants Festuca ovina
Flowering Plants Hieracium alpinum
Flowering Plants Juncus trifidus
Flowering Plants Loiseleuria procumbens
Flowering Plants Luzula spicata
Flowering Plants Lychnis alpina
Fungi Cetraria cucullata
Fungi Cladonia amaurocraea
Fungi Stereocaulon paschale
Fungi Thamnolia vermicularis
Mosses & Liverworts Dicranum elongatum
Mosses & Liverworts Polytrichum juniperinum
Mosses & Liverworts Racomitrium lanuginosum
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Antennaria alpina Flowering Plants
Arctostaphylos alpinus Flowering Plants
Carex bigelowii Flowering Plants
Deschampsia flexuosa Flowering Plants
Diapensia lapponica Flowering Plants
Empetrum nigrum Flowering Plants
Festuca ovina Flowering Plants
Hieracium alpinum Flowering Plants
Juncus trifidus Flowering Plants
Loiseleuria procumbens Flowering Plants
Luzula spicata Flowering Plants
Lychnis alpina Flowering Plants
Cetraria cucullata Fungi
Cladonia amaurocraea Fungi
Stereocaulon paschale Fungi
Thamnolia vermicularis Fungi
Dicranum elongatum Mosses & Liverworts
Polytrichum juniperinum Mosses & Liverworts
Racomitrium lanuginosum 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 H5.1 Fjell fields and other freeze-thaw features with very sparse or no vegetation narrower
EUNIS Habitat Classification 200711 E4.2 Moss and lichen dominated mountain summits, ridges and exposed slopes overlap
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