Red List habitat classification > RLB - Coastal habitats > RLB1.3b Mediterranean and Black Sea shifting coastal dune

Mediterranean and Black Sea shifting coastal dune

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLB1.3b
Threat status
Europe Vulnerable
EU Vulnerable
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


Embryonic shifting dunes and "white" shifting dunes along the shoreline of the Macaronesian islands, Black Sea, Mediterranean and Thermo-Atlantic region (northwards up to central Portugal) represent the first stages of dune construction. The habitat consists of mobile coastal sand ridges which are occupied by open grasslands; they sometimes form tall dune ridges but in many cases rather low (less than 10 m high). A zonation is distinguished form primary, embryonic dunes towards higher, and more stable white dunes, but these different sectors are not always well separated. Embryonic dunes are characterised by Elymus farctus (= Elytrigia juncea = Agropyron junceum) that produces horizontal rhizomes which crawl along the sand or penetrate it. Its stalks constitute obstacles where sand accumulates to a few decimetres forming embryonic dunes. These dunes are at the start of the psammosere; they grow by sand accretion and are sporadically inundated by the sea during storms. More inland, white shifting dunes are found, characterised by the dominance of Ammophila arenaria (subsp. arundinacea in the Mediterranean) that has a growth form in which the older parts (strong erect culms up to 1.5 m high) protect the plant and enable it to regenerate from its center. Ammophila arenaria is a very important rhizomatous dune species as it constitutes a barrier for windblown sand, contributing to the increase of the dune height. These dunes occur on yellow, very permeable and humus poor soils. Among the characteristic species accompanying the dominant grasses on embryonic and white dunes Sporobolus pungens, Chamaesyce peplis ( = Euphorbia peplis), Otanthus maritimus, Medicago marina, Anthemis maritima, Eryngium maritimum, Pancratium maritimum, Euphorbia paralias, Calystegia soldanella, Echinophora spinosa, Cutandia maritima and Polygonum maritimum could be mentioned. On the Macaronesian islands both Ammophila arenaria and Elymus farctus are absent, but in some places white dunes exist, characterized by Chamaesyce peplis ( = Euphorbia peplis), Euphorbia paralias, Cyperus capitatus, Polygonum maritimum (with some island endemics such as Plantago madarensis on Madeira) and succulent shrubs of the alliance Traganion moquinii (see habitat B1.6c). Large parts of the Mediterranean dunes are disturbed or completely destroyed by human pressure such as tourism activities, coastal urbanisation and industry.

Indicators for good quality:

  • Undisturbed, discrete coastal dune zonation (spatial succession pattern)
  • Sparse vegetation cover ≥ 20%
  • No presence of alien or ruderal species

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat has experienced a substantial reduction in abiotic and biotic quality over the last 50 years, affecting 47% (average) to 52% (maximum) of the extent of the habitat, with about 67% relative severity. The figures are on the edge of the categories Near Threatend and Vulnerable, but it is assessed by expert knowledge that this habitat should be considered Vulnerable (VU) under Criterion C/D1, both at the EU28 and the EU28+ levels.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable C/D1
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable C/D1

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Urbanised areas, human habitation
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Walking, horseriding and non-motorised vehicles
    • Trampling, overuse
    • Intensive maintenance of public parcs / Cleaning of beaches
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Erosion

Habitat restoration potential

The habitat could recover without specific actions in few decades but it depends on: a) the coastal area should be stable or in accretion (regular supplies of sand are needed for some characteristic species, psammophytes such as Ammophila arenaria, b) natural sources of propagules are also needed. If the former conditions are met and the dune morphology is still relatively well preserved, the habitat could recover naturally. However, for natural recover enclosures are highly recommended. When the habitat is severely damaged, human intervention could be suggested, such as planting Ammophila arenaria and /or Elymus farctus but using regionally collected plant material in order to prevent genetic pollution.

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

Legal protection of habitats and species is still needed. In particular, a general legislation to prevent construction of new infrastructures at expense of this habitat should be shared by all the EU countries. Moreover, establishing new protected areas/sites and restoring degraded coastal areas are also important. However, in many cases just the simple delimitation of the shifting dunes could be an efficient deterrent to avoid trampling. Finally, urban and industrial waste management should be regulated. Special attention should be paid to the mechanical cleaning of beaches which could also affect this habitat negatively.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Restoring coastal areas
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Legal protection of habitats and species
  • Measures related to urban areas, industry, energy and transport
    • Urban and industrial waste management


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 1.6 Decreasing Decreasing
Croatia Present 0.01 Decreasing Increasing
Cyprus Present 1 Unknown Unknown
France mainland Present 70 Decreasing Decreasing
Corsica Present 70 Decreasing Decreasing
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 66 Decreasing Decreasing
Crete Present 66 Decreasing Decreasing
East Aegean Present 66 Decreasing Decreasing
Italy mainland Present 139 Decreasing Decreasing
Sardinia Present 139 Decreasing Decreasing
Sicily Present 139 Decreasing Decreasing
Malta Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Portugal mainland Present 24 Decreasing Decreasing
Portugal Azores Present 24 Decreasing Decreasing
Madeira Present 24 Decreasing Decreasing
Savage Islands Present 24 Decreasing Decreasing
Romania Present 8 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 6 Decreasing Decreasing
Balearic Islands Present 6 Decreasing Decreasing
Canary Islands Present 6 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)
Albania Present 1 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 3453050 1343 316
EU28+ 1345 317
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)
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