Types of Forests in Europe

As per the estimation by the European Union (EU), 39% of the total area covered by forests is measured as 159 million hectares. And people from different parts of the world get fascinated by the natural scenarios of European countries. Further, there are various types of forests in Europe. And we can classify them into several subtypes.

types of forests in Europe

Here in this article, we will briefly discuss the different kinds of European forests.

FAO (Forest Resource Assessment) has classified different ecological zones based on temperature. There are five domains: tropical, subtropical, boreal, temperate, and polar.

Temperate is the zone where the average temperature is above 10 degrees Celsius annually for 4 to 8 months. An ecological domain where the average temperature is above 10 degrees Celsius for at least eight months is known as subtropical.

Further, the region with a temperature above 10 degrees Celsius for one to four months is called boreal. Summers are generally short here. And the polar domains are those which have a temperature below 10 degrees all around the year.

So, now we will travel through the European countries to understand the different types of forests. Let’s explore!

Different Types of Forests in Europe

According to the classification basis by the EU, there are 14 higher levels of forest types and 75 sub-types found in Europe. These are such as:

Boreal Forest

In the boreal zone of Europe, coniferous and mixed broad-leaved coniferous forests are well known as Taiga. Here you can see two abundant species, Scots pine and Norway spruce. This region is primarily located in Russia and Fennoscandia. Further, the boreal zone in Europe is divided into northern, middle, and southern parts. There are two types of Boreal forests:

  • Spruce Dominated Boreal Forest

The northernmost area, where Norway spruce (Picea abies) and Siberian spruce (Picea obovata) are dominant, is spread to Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the Ural Mountains.

  • Pine Dominated Boreal Forest

Such forests are found in dominant form in Norway and Finland. This is the northern boreal region where the soil is nutrient-poor and dry. Scots Pines are the most abundant species here.

Hemiboreal, Nemoral Coniferous, Mixed-broad leaved Forests

The middle region between nemoral forests and the temperate forest is the Hemi-boreal region. Here two different types of trees are found abundantly such as coniferous trees on poor nutrient soils and mixed-broadleaved trees in fertile soil.

There are six subtypes of this category:

  • Hemiboreal Forests
  • Mixed scots pine pedunculate oak forest
  • Nemoral spruce forest
  • Nemoral black pine forest
  • Nemoral Scots pine forest
  • Mixed scots pine birch forest

Hemiboreal, Nemoral coniferous, Mixed-broad leaved forests - under european forests

Mesophytic Deciduous Forest

The mesophytic Deciduous Forest is a type of forest in Europe where the soil has a rich or moderately prosperous amount of nutrients, and the canopy is a mixed type. Here different types of oak trees are dominantly found.

The third type of European forest has nine sub-types:

  • Sessile oak–hornbeam forest
  • Pedunculate oak–hornbeam forest
  • Ashwood and oak-ash forest
  • Maple-oak Forest
  • Maple-lime Forest
  • Lime forest
  • Maple-oak Forest
  • Ravine and slope forest
  • Lime-oak Forest
  • Other mesophytic deciduous forests

Sub types of Mesophytic Deciduous Forest in European forest

Thermophilous Deciduous Forest

Thermophilous Deciduous and Semi-deciduous species of plants are the primary plants in these forests. And the dominant species of plant is Quercus pubescent.

The distribution of such forests occurs far north to the Atlantic region, continental and pannonic parts. The thermophilous Deciduous Forest has the following types:

  • Turkey oak, Hungarian oak, and Sessile oak forest
  • Pyrenean oak forest
  • Downy oak forest
  • Valonia oak forest
  • Macedonian oak forest
  • Chestnut forest
  • Portuguese oak and Mirbeck’s oak Iberian Forest
  • Other thermophilous deciduous forests

European forests: Thermophilous Deciduous Forest sub types

Coniferous Forest

The biogeographical distribution of coniferous forests occurs in the Mediterranean, Anatolian and Macaronesian regions. Here mainly xerophytic plants and coniferous species plants like pines, cypress, cedar, junipers, firs are seen.

These are some of the types inside this category:

  • Canarian pine forest
  • Mediterranean and Anatolian Black pine forest
  • Mediterranean pine forest
  • Alti-Mediterranean pine forest
  • Mediterranean and Anatolian fir forest
  • Cedar forest
  • Juniper forest
  • Mediterranean and Anatolian Scots pine forest
  • Tetraclinis articulata stands
  • Cypress forest
  • Mediterranean yew stands.

Coniferous Forest Sub types of European forests

Alpine Coniferous Forest

The major trees in the Alpine region of Europe include Abies alba, Picea abies, P. mugo, and Pinus sylvestris. The geographical distribution of these coniferous forests happens in the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Apennine, the Carpathians, and the Scandinavian Alps. Here are the types of forests seen in the coniferous Alpine category:

  • Subalpine larch-arolla pine and dwarf pine forest
  • Alpine Scots pine and Black pine forest
  • Subalpine and mountainous spruce and mountainous mixed spruce-silver fir forest.

Alpine Coniferous Forest Sub types in european forest

Beech Forest

Fagus sylvatica L. and Fagus Orientalis are common species found in Beech forests. Some other vital genera of these forests are Quercus, Acer, Populus, Betula, Carpinus, Prunus, Sorbus, Tilia, etc.

The major categories under Beech forests are;

  • Atlantic and subatlantic lowland beech forest
  • Subatlantic sub mountainous beech forest
  • Central European sub mountainous beech forest
  • Lowland beech forest of southern Scandinavia and north-central Europe
  • Illyrian sub mountainous beech forest
  • Carpathian sub mountainous beech forest
  • Moesian sub mountainous beech forest

Mountainous Beech Forest

Another type of Beech Forest is seen in Europe, namely the Mountainous Beech Forest. Phagus and some coniferous species are the major plants in such forests.

The sub-category under the mountainous beech forest is:

  • Apennine-Corsican mountainous beech forest
  • Carpathian mountainous beech forest
  • Central European mountainous beech forest
  • Moesian mountainous beech forest
  • Crimean mountainous beech forest
  • Illyrian mountainous beech forest
  • Southwestern European mountainous beech forest (Cantabrians, Pyrenees, central Massif, southwestern Alps)
  • Oriental beech and hornbeam-oriental beech forest.

Sub types of Mountainous Beech Forest in European forests

Mire and Swamp Forest

Mire and Swamp Forests are broadly available on Peaty soils with a wet and moist atmosphere. The classification based on the environment determines whether the forest would be called a Mire or Swamp Forest. Various types of herbs are found in these types.

Below are some of the categories under Mire and Swamp Forest:

  • Conifer dominated or mixed mire forest
  • Birch swamp forest
  • Alder swamp forest
  • Aspen swamp forest
  • Pedunculate oak swamp forest

Broad Leaved Evergreen Forest

Sclerophyllous and Lauriphyllous evergreen trees that have broad leaves as characteristics are dominant in such forests. As per the distribution and plant types, these forests are sub-classified into five types;

  • Mediterranean evergreen oak forest
  • Palm groves
  • Macaronesian laurisilva
  • Olive-carob Forest
  • Other sclerophyllous forests

Acidophilus Oak and Oak-birch Forest

Inside the nemoral forest zone, oligotrophic soils are seen, and acidophilus oakwoods and oak-birch are the dominant types of plants. Such forests are distributed in the Continental and Atlantic regions. Here are the subtypes under this category:

  • Oak-birch Forest
  • Acidophilus oakwood

Floodplain Forest

The composition of such forests depends largely on flooding and is thus known as Floodplain forests. Such forests are present in main European river channels. Some of the types include;

  • Fluvial forest
  • Mediterranean and Macaronesian riparian forest
  • Riparian forest

Non-riverine Alder, Birch, or Aspen Forest

Aspen, Birch, and Alder are the dominant species of plants present in this category of forest in Europe. These forests can further be divided into the following sub-groups:

  • Boreal birch forest
  • Italian alder forest
  • Alder forest
  • Aspen forest
  • Southern boreal birch forest

Plantation and self-sown Exotic Forests

Self-sown exotic species and plantation species are the results of afforestation and reforestation. This is the last category under the broad types of forests in Europe. And the sub-types under the plantation and self-sown exotic forests includes;

  • Plantations of not-site-native species and self-sown exotic forest.
  • Plantations of site-native species.


So, these are the broad classification of types of forests in Europe based on the kinds of climatic conditions and the variety of species found in different locations. Several organizations are managing these forests for their maintenance and productivity. This is extremely important to retain our biodiversity in these regions.

By preserving different types of Forests in Europe, we can progress towards our sustainable development goals by saving them from natural and artificial disasters.

References and Resources:

  1. ec.europa.eu – “Overview of Forestry.”
  2. ies-ows.jrc.ec.europa.eu – “European forests an Ecological Overview.”

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