Red List habitat classification > RLB - Coastal habitats > RLA2.5d Mediterranean and Black Sea coastal salt marsh

Mediterranean and Black Sea coastal salt marsh

Quick facts

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


These coastal salt marshes include various Mediterranean and western Black Sea plant communities of the classes Juncetea maritimi and Salicornietea fruticosae which are under influence of saline sea water. On the thermo-Atlantic coast along the SW Iberian Peninsula tidal flooding is relevant and determines communities zonation. The northern limit of this habitat along the Atlantic shores is the Mondego river mouth in Central Portugal. In the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, soil texture, salinity and water content govern the main gradients. The vegetation is dominated by perennial and shrubby halophytes growing on the extreme upper shores of low sedimentary coasts, sheltered from the waves mechanical action.

The habitat can develop on a variety of sandy and muddy sediments, but in coasts with coarse sands beach communities develop (habitat B1.1b). The species composition is diverse, depending on the geographical range and the climatic conditions. On the Black Sea coast this habitat is presented mainly by mono-dominant communities of the tall rushes Juncus maritimus and/or Juncus acutus. Besides, shrub communities of Halocnemum stobilaceum occur in the Northern Black Sea coast of Romania and Ukraine. However, in the Danube Delta and on the marine sandbanks within the Razelm-Sinoe lagoon complex (known as the southern Delta), behind sand dunes or around saline ponds and lakes, salt marshes occur with vegetation more similar to continental inland salt marshes, for example with Salicornia perennans, Puccinellia limosa and Juncus gerardi.

In the Mediterranean the habitat is much more diverse, especially in the Iberian Peninsula and in southern Italy (Sicily, Apulia, Calabria), where soil salinity levels reach the highest values due to extreme climatic summer drought. In these parts of the range the habitat forms a mosaic of tall rushes mixed with shrubby and other herbaceous species, often with succulent stems and/or leaves, forming halophytic shrublads and thickets (alliances Arthrocnemion glauci and Salicornion fruticosae).In soils with brackish water beds of reed and other tall helophytes grow. Annual halophytic species (Salicornia sp., Suaeda sp) may exist in small spots occupying depressions between the communities of tall rush, shrub and thickets (class Thero-Salicornietea), while Frankenia spp. and Sagina maritima (class Saginetea maritimae) grow on the higher parts of sandy shores. The habitat further includes Mediterranean halo-psammophile meadows (Plantaginion crassifoliae), humid halophilous moors with the shrubby stratum dominated by Artemisia coerulescens (Agropyro-Artemision coerulescentis), halo-nitrophilous shrubby seablite thickets of Suaeda vera rarely inundated (Suaedion verae), shrub communities of Limoniastrum sp. (Limonastrion monopetali, Limonion algarvenso-lanceolatii), and communities in the Dalmatian coastal region, in somewhat drier habitats with less salt, which are not directly affected by waves and tides (Agropyro-Plantaginion maritime). On intertidal muds, cord grasses (Spartinion maritimae) may grow, but these are relatively rare in the Mediterranean and more common along the Atlantic coast.

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The reduction in quantity over the last 50 years is on average 13%. At the same time there is some quality decline (affecting 23-30% of the habitat with 51% severity). These trend values do not meet the thresholds for the different Red List criteria. However, the habitat type is assessed as Near Threatened (NT) because of the reduction in quality, meeting almost the thresholds for Vulnerable. The overall result may be slightly underestimated, as the most similar Annex I-habitats are in a relatively bad conservation status in the Mediterranean region.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Near Threatened C/D1
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Near Threatened C/D1

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Agricultural intensification
    • Grazing
    • Intensive grazing
  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Urbanised areas, human habitation
  • Pollution
    • Pollution to surface waters (limnic, terrestrial, marine & brackish)
  • Natural System modifications
    • Human induced changes in hydraulic conditions
    • Saltwater intrusion
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions

Habitat restoration potential

The habitat has some capacity to recover naturally but it is dependent on geomorfological prosseses which occur relatively slow. It could be restored in some areas especially with the restoring of hydraulic conditions, management of salt production, ect.

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 conservation measure is a strict protection of the salt marshes, including their hydraulic conditions, as the habitat is very sensitive to changes in flooding and hydrological functioning. Projects for the restoration of some habitat areas include restoring of the hydraulic conditions of salt marshes and regulation of salt production.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Restoring/Improving water quality
    • Restoring/Improving the hydrological regime
    • Restoring coastal areas
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites


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)
Bulgaria Present 50 Decreasing Decreasing
Croatia Present 2.7 Decreasing Decreasing
Cyprus Present 4 Stable Stable
France mainland Present 213 Decreasing Decreasing
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 69 Decreasing Decreasing
Crete Present 69 Decreasing Decreasing
East Aegean Present 69 Decreasing Decreasing
Italy mainland Present 377 Decreasing Decreasing
Sardinia Present 377 Decreasing Decreasing
Sicily Present 377 Decreasing Decreasing
Portugal mainland Present 126 Decreasing Decreasing
Slovenia Present 1.2 Stable Stable
Spain mainland Present 296 Decreasing Decreasing
Corsica Present 213 Decreasing Decreasing
Romania Present 4 - -
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Albania Present 15 Decreasing Decreasing
Montenegro 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 4614900 1737 1137
EU28+ 1741 1137
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
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100