Red List habitat classification > RLB - Coastal habitats > RLA2.5b Baltic coastal meadow

Baltic coastal meadow

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLA2.5b
Threat status
Europe Endangered
EU Endangered
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)

Summary

This habitat comprises natural or semi-natural grasslands along the coasts of the Baltic Sea. The habitat resembles A2.5c, Atlantic salt marshes, but in the Baltics tidal differences are much smaller, in the northern parts insignificant and the Baltic sea has a pronounced salinity gradient. Because of this, the species composition and zonation belts are different and the geomorphology is more flat, without pronounced levees and depressions. In general a zonation is found of specific communities in the lower parts, the hydrolittoral (below mean water level) and others in the higher parts (geolittoral, above mean water level). But species composition also changes in longitudinal direction over the area due to climatological as well salinity gradient that ranges from about 20‰ near the Kattegat, through  8‰ in the Darß-region to 2-5‰ in the Bothnian Gulf and Finnish Gulf. Tidal differences are small, and overruled by irregular, seasonal fluctuations in flooding regime due to storms, wind direction, changes in air pressure and drifting ice. The habitat is found on clayey sediments, sometimes mixed with gravelly substrates. Besides, the land upheaval of the northern parts of the Baltic Sea, continuing after the recession of the last glaciers in the ice ages, causes the development of saline meadows on non-sedimentary soils. Overall, the habitat is best represented in large bays, where clayey sediments are available, like in the Bothnian Bay and in Western Estonia.

In relatively saline areas, the most flooded, hydrolittoral and lower geolittoral belts harbour communities of the Puccinellion maritimae, with amongst others Puccinellia maritima, Triglochin maritima , Spergularia maritima and Plantago maritima, and of the Spergulario-Puccinellion, with Puccinellia distans(ssp. distans and ssp. borealis) and Spergularia salina. Sometimes Salicornia europaea is present. The total vegetation cover often is low (< 50%). However in areas strongly influenced by freshwater, like in the Darß, large helophytes or Cyperaceae of the Scirpion maritimi dominate the lower belts, mainly Bolboschoenus maritimus, but also Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani, Eleocharis uniglumis , Carex paleacea or Carex halophila may dominated such areas. The lower belt is especially pronounced in the northern part of the Bothnian Gulf, where the land uplift creates bare substrate that becomes colonized by pioneer species.

The higher, geolittoral belt has in general a closed vegetation cover and is characterized by communities of the Armerion maritimae and Potentillion anserinae, containing the following species: Juncus gerardi, Festuca rubra, Agrostis stolonifera, Vicia cracca, Potentilla anserina, Carex nigra, Trifolium fragiferum, Lotus tenuis, and Calamagrostis stricta. In many cases the species composition is a mixture of ‘real’ salt marsh species (halophytes) and more freshwater indicating species. In places with freshwater influence Blysmus rufus may dominate. On the higher edge of the meadows, the habitat may form transitions to or mosaics with grassland communities of the Cynosurion cristati (habitat E2.1a).

The Bothnian Gulf is one of the few areas in Northern-Europe where after the Ice Ages new, endemic taxa have developed. Endemics of the saline meadows are Deschampsia cespitosa ssp. bottnica (= Deschampsia bottnica),  characteristic of gravelly shores within the salt meadows, and Euphrasia bottnica, which grows in the higher parts of the meadows. Also a high amount of boreal-arctic species  is found here, having (sometimes rare) relict populations from a period when there existed a connection between the Baltic and the White Sea. Examples of such species are mainly found in brackish conditions, like Puccinellia phryganodes and Primula nutans ssp. finmarchica, more characteristic of Arctic salt marshes (habitat A2.5a), and Carex glareosa, Carex mackenziei, Carex paleacea and Carex halophila (in both habitat A2.5a and A2.5b). Most of these species grow in low grasslands and depend on grazing for their sustainable survival. Rare species in the saline meadows of the Baltic States is Angelica palustris, while along the East-German and Polish Baltic coast, Middle Sweden, southern Finland and Estonia the rare Eleocharis parvula forms pioneer communities on muddy, brackish soils in sheltered lagoons.

Traditionally the saline meadows have been more-or-less intensively grazed or mowed for ages, but due to recent abandonment of this type of land-use, in several parts of the Baltics the habitat is threatened by succession towards reed beds. Unlike for the Atlantic salt-marshes, such reed beds are not considered part of the habitat itself, but are in the definition of C5.1.

The habitat forms an important breeding and resting sites for many water birds and migratory birds. It also contains a set of specialized insects, in many cases living on just one or a few halophytic plant species.

Indicators of good quality:

The following characteristics are considered as indicators of good quality:

  • Regularly flooding with brackish water
  • Low vegetation structure
  • Absence of large stands of Phragmites australis
  • Absence of shrubs
  • Presence of rare or endemic species
  • Presence of several zonation belts
  • Reguarly erosion by sea ice

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The Baltic coastal meadows have declined all over its distribution area during the last 100-150 years. The decline has been going on for a long time and started earlier in the north than in the south, and threfore it is hard to assess how much has been lost over the last 50 years. The loss is at least 60%, but may even be more than 90%. According to criteria A1 (trend in area) the habitat is assessed at least as Endangered (EN).
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Endangered A1
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Endangered A1

Confidence in the assessment

medium
Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Abandonment / Lack of  mowing
    • Abandonment of pastoral systems, lack of grazing
    • Fertilisation
  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Dispersed habitation
  • Pollution
    • Marine water pollution

Habitat restoration potential

As a seminatural habitat dependent on grazing it could not recover naturally, but with management it could be restored by quantity rather fast, but to restore the quality if it had gone lost it will take several decades before most species are back.

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

The most important messure is to continue with grazing in grazed areas and areas with abandoned pastures should be restored with grazing

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to agriculture and open habitats
    • Maintaining grasslands and other open habitats
  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Restoring coastal areas

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)
Estonia Present 205 Decreasing Stable
Finland mainland Present 60 Decreasing Decreasing
Aland Islands Present 60 Decreasing Decreasing
Germany Present 40 Decreasing Decreasing
Sweden Present 59 Decreasing Decreasing
Poland Present 3.5 Stable Increasing
Denmark Present 50 Stable Stable
Latvia Present 1.8 Decreasing Decreasing
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Kaliningrad 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 814600 1086 303 Information is possibly lacking from Lithuania.
EU28+ 1086 303 Data is lacking from Russia (Kalingrad, Saint Petersburg oblast).
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.
Birds Calidris alpina
Birds Calidris alpina schinzii
Ferns Ophioglossum vulgatum
Flowering Plants Agrostis stolonifera
Flowering Plants Angelica palustris
Flowering Plants Blysmus rufus
Flowering Plants Bolboschoenus maritimus
Flowering Plants Calamagrostis stricta
Flowering Plants Carex glareosa
Flowering Plants Carex halophila
Flowering Plants Carex mackenziei
Flowering Plants Carex nigra
Flowering Plants Carex paleacea
Flowering Plants Centaurium littorale
Flowering Plants Centaurium pulchellum
Flowering Plants Eleocharis acicularis
Flowering Plants Eleocharis parvula
Flowering Plants Eleocharis uniglumis
Flowering Plants Euphrasia bottnica
Flowering Plants Festuca rubra
Flowering Plants Glaux maritima
Flowering Plants Juncus gerardi
Flowering Plants Lotus tenuis
Flowering Plants Phragmites australis
Flowering Plants Plantago maritima
Flowering Plants Potentilla anserina
Flowering Plants Puccinellia capillaris
Flowering Plants Puccinellia distans
Flowering Plants Puccinellia maritima
Flowering Plants Puccinellia phryganodes
Flowering Plants Salicornia europaea
Flowering Plants Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani
Flowering Plants Spergularia maritima
Flowering Plants Spergularia salina
Flowering Plants Trifolium fragiferum
Flowering Plants Triglochin maritima
Flowering Plants Vicia cracca
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Calidris alpina Dunlin Birds
Calidris alpina schinzii Birds
Ophioglossum vulgatum Ferns
Agrostis stolonifera Flowering Plants
Angelica palustris Flowering Plants
Blysmus rufus Flowering Plants
Bolboschoenus maritimus Flowering Plants
Calamagrostis stricta Flowering Plants
Carex glareosa Flowering Plants
Carex halophila Flowering Plants
Carex mackenziei Flowering Plants
Carex nigra Flowering Plants
Carex paleacea Flowering Plants
Centaurium littorale Flowering Plants
Centaurium pulchellum Flowering Plants
Eleocharis acicularis Flowering Plants
Eleocharis parvula Flowering Plants
Eleocharis uniglumis Flowering Plants
Euphrasia bottnica Flowering Plants
Festuca rubra Flowering Plants
Glaux maritima Flowering Plants
Juncus gerardi Flowering Plants
Lotus tenuis Flowering Plants
Phragmites australis Flowering Plants
Plantago maritima Flowering Plants
Potentilla anserina Flowering Plants
Puccinellia capillaris Flowering Plants
Puccinellia distans Flowering Plants
Puccinellia maritima Flowering Plants
Puccinellia phryganodes Flowering Plants
Salicornia europaea Flowering Plants
Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani Flowering Plants
Spergularia maritima Flowering Plants
Spergularia salina Flowering Plants
Trifolium fragiferum Flowering Plants
Triglochin maritima Flowering Plants
Vicia cracca Flowering Plants

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 A2.5 Coastal saltmarshes and saline reedbeds narrower
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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