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Cliff

Featuring:Johanna Haapala, UPM

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Cliff

key biotopes

Cliffs are shady and moist habitats.

A cliff is a vertical or nearly vertical exposure of bedrock. Commonly found in hillslopes and next to water courses, cliffs are formed by erosion and weathering. This means that erodible stone material is worn down by wind, water or another natural agents, leaving more resistant types of stone to form a cliff. Fallen boulders are commonly found under a cliff as a result of weathering.

Due to the shade provided by the rockface and the water that drains from it, the microclimate beneath cliffs is cool and moist. The height of the cliff and the direction it faces matter: most representative cliff habitats face towards the north or east and are at least several meters high.

Species living in forests under cliffs are adapted to these conditions. Spruce trees often dominate the landscape, which is dotted with the occasional broadleaved trees. Mosses and ferns cover the forest floor. The rockface itself is a habitat, too. Its surface is home to mosses, lichens and ferns. Because deadwood is often abundant under cliffs, they are important habitats for species that live among decaying wood and require stable and shadowy conditions. Most massive cliffs provide suitable nesting places for Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) and Raven (Corvus corax).

To ensure nature values of cliff forest habitats, it is important to maintain their microclimates. In practice, this means that cliffs and the forests beneath them are left as set-aside areas.

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