Red List habitat classification > RLB - Coastal habitats > RLB1.4b Mediterranean and Macaronesian coastal dune grassland (grey dune)

Mediterranean and Macaronesian coastal dune grassland (grey dune)

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLB1.4b
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)


These stable coastal dunes of the Mediterranean are dominated by herbs, graminoids and chamephytes, with a broad variety of plant communities: a) fixed dunes of the western and central Mediterranean and North Africa, with Crucianella maritima (a steno Mediterranean species) and Pancratium maritimum; b) coastal stabilised dune grassland communities with medium to fine calciumcontaining sand, growing approximately 200 m from the sea on dunes of about 0.15-10 m; c) associations with many small annuals and often abundant ephemeral spring bloom of deep sands in dry interdunal depressions of the coasts: d) dune formations of pseudo-steppe with grasses and annuals of the Thero-Brachypodietea class; e) meso- and thermo-Mediterranean xerophile, mostly open, short-grass perennial grasslands rich in therophytes, as well as therophyte communities of oligotrophic soils on base-rich, often calcareous substrates. All of these components are established generally landwards of the white dunes. The term "grey dunes" originates from the color of the substratum which comes from the increased proportion of humus and silt in the sand. Here, the amount of windblown sand is much reduced, compared to the white dunes, and also salt spray and erosive processes are highly reduced, with higher plant cover. The number of species in general is higher than in shifting dunes. These communities may be followed in succession by evergreen sclerophyllous coastal scrubs and in some cases by Quercus ilex woodlands, but may form relatively stable grassland in more extreme sites, less suitable for shrubs.

Human pressures reduce coastal landscape heterogeneity and biodiversity and converge to a striking simplification of the natural zonation on highly urbanized coasts. The impoverishment of soils in highly disturbed areas not only reduces the number of typical native species, but also promotes the colonization of alien and ruderal species. Touristic development and recreational activities (trampling, infrastructures) are the most severe threats for dune habitats, together with land clearance for the expansion of cultivated lands, sand extraction and changes due to in sand enrichment. In fact, large parts of the Mediterranean grey dunes are currently influenced by touristic and recreational activities, or have changed to urbanized areas, arable lands or woody plantations.

Indicators of good quality:

The following characteristics may be considered as indicators of good quality, but these indicators differ in different regions:
- High species richness
- Presence of rare and/or threatened species
- Diversity within the type within an area and over the whole range
- High cover of open soil
- Low cover of encroaching tall grasses, tall herbs and shrubs
- No cover of alien species
- No or few indications of disturbance

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat type is assessed as Endangered under Criterion C/D1 both at the EU28 and the EU28+ levels, as the habitat has experienced a substantial reduction in abiotic and/or biotic quality over the last 50 years, affecting about 81% of the extent of the habitat with a 79% relative severity.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Endangered C/D1
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Endangered 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
    • Trampling, overuse
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species

Habitat restoration potential

If the habitat is dominated by herbaceous annual plants, it could recover without specific actions in a few decades if natural sources of propagules are present in the surroundings. For natural recovery, enclosures are highly recommended. If the habitat is dominated by chamephytes such as Crucianella maritima, special conservation measures are suggested, such as planting C. maritima 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

Most important is the restoration from tourism activities (trampling) and the stop or even removal (restoration) of urbanisation.

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)
Croatia Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Cyprus Present 0.1 Stable Stable
France mainland Present 550 Decreasing Decreasing
Corsica Present 550 Decreasing Decreasing
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 10 Decreasing Decreasing
Crete Present 10 Decreasing Decreasing
East Aegean Present 10 Decreasing Decreasing
Italy mainland Present 195 Decreasing Decreasing
Sardinia Present 195 Decreasing Decreasing
Sicily Present 195 Decreasing Decreasing
Malta Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Portugal mainland Present 17 Decreasing Decreasing
Portugal Azores Present 17 Decreasing Decreasing
Madeira Present 17 Decreasing Decreasing
Savage Islands Present 17 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 5 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 3085000 1217 779
EU28+ 1217 784
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