Red List habitat classification > RLB - Coastal habitats > RLB1.6a Atlantic and Baltic coastal dune scrub

Atlantic and Baltic coastal dune scrub

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLB1.6a
Threat status
Europe Least Concern
EU Least Concern
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


A broad habitat type, covering more or less all low to high scrub in dry dunes and wet dune slacks in the Baltic and Atlantic coastal regions. The species composition differs over climatic regions. In north-western Europe and the southern Baltic Hippophae rhamnoides and Salix repens ssp. arenarius are mainly dominating in dry dunes, while Ulex europaeus, Cytisus scoparius and Rubus ulmifolius are important species in dry dunes of the warmer parts of the Atlantic coasts. In wet dune slacks, typically Salix scrub is found, especially Salix repens, Salix cinerea, Salix atrocinerea and Salix rosmarinifolius. In the Baltic region Salix repens ssp. arenarius and Salix rosmarinifolius grow together with boreal heather species, while along the Portuguese coast in wet dunes Salix repens and Salix atrocinerea are accompanied by some Atlantic-Mediterranean species, like Scirpus holoschoenus. Salix repens ssp. arenarius is found in drier parts of the dunes as well. In mesic dune slacks it is typically accompanied by Monotropa hypopitys, living saprophytic on Salix-specific ectomycorrhizal fungi, and by Pyrola minor and Pyrola rotundifolia, forming the association Pyrolo-Salicetum. This association is known for many rare fungi, of which some live in symbiosis with Salix repens. Very low Salix repens-scrub (mowed or grazed) forming a component in fen or grassland communities is not included in this habitat, but considered under dune slacks (B1.8a) or dune grasslands (B1.4a). The same goes for relatively low scrub of Rosa spinosissima (sometimes known as R. pimpinellifolia), forming a component of grasslands.

The habitat is especially well developed in dry, calcium-rich dunes, where it reaches several meters of height and may form a dense formation, relatively rich in shrub species. Besides the already mentioned species Rhamnus cathartica, Ligustrum vulgare, Berberis vulgaris, Euonymus europaeus, Sambucus nigra, Crataegus monogyna and several species of Rosa and Rubus contribute to the biodiversity. The many berries produced by the shrubs play an important role as a food source for birds, especially during the migrating season in late summer and autumn. A typical accompanying species is the climbing Bryonia cretica.

The dune shrublands have been classified in the order Salicetalia arenariae, in which three alliances are distinguished: Salicion arenariae, Ligustro-Hippophaeion, and Holoschoeno australis-Salicion arenariae, the latter being restricted to the warmest parts of the Atlantic coast. Additional the communities of Salix cinerea (alliance Salicion cinereae.) are included in the habitat. The Pyrolo-Salicetum is sometimes classified in the Empetrion nigri.

In some places also Juniperus species form coastal scrub. Juniperus communis is known from temperate coasts, for example calcareous dunes of north-western Jutland. In the Mediterranean coasts several other Juniperus species are found, and some of them northwards reach the warmer Atlantic dunes.

Indicators of good quality:

  • Dense and high structure of scrub
  • Diversity in shrub species
  • Absence of non-native species, like Rosa rugosa, Eleagnos spp., Cornus spp., ...
  • Low cover of trees
  • Presence of breeding birds
  • Food supply for migrating birds in autumn
  • Presence of rare fungi

In some parts of the range (for example England) dune shrubs have been planted and form a threat to dune grasslands and other more species-rich habitats.

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

As the habitat type is widely distributed and has a stable trend in quantity and a slightly negative trend in quality, the habitat is assessed as Least Concern.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Agricultural intensification
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Outdoor sports and leisure activities, recreational activities
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species
  • Natural System modifications
    • Human induced changes in hydraulic conditions
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Species composition change (succession)

Habitat restoration potential

The habitat can spontaneously restore when dunes stabilise. Succession towards shrubland can occur within short periods (10-20 years).

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Decreasing Decreasing
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

Along the Atlantic coast, in the larger dune areas, expansion of the habitat is considered a threat to other, more open and more species-rich habitats, like dune grasslands and dune slacks. This is especially the case in large parts of the UK, where Hippophae rhamnoides is considered as a non-native species. On the other hand the habitat has an important function for animals, by providing food (berries) and shelter. In optimal situations there is a balance between dynamic conditions causing rejuvenation of dunes and succession towards dune scrub and forest, and no specific management is needed. Many dune areas however are relatively small and often the focus of management will be on the more open habitats, which may be maintained by extensive grazing. In such cases the preservation of at least some patches of shrubland is important and will increase the overall diversity and species-richness of the dunes.
Specific measures relate to the removal of invasive non-native species, which are able to dominate dune shrublands.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to hunting, taking and fishing and species management
    • Specific single species or species group management measures


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)
Belgium Present 7.2 Stable Increasing
Estonia Present Unknown Stable Unknown
Sweden Present 1 Decreasing Unknown
Finland mainland Present 1 Unknown Unknown
Aland Islands Uncertain 1 Unknown Unknown
Germany Present 5 Decreasing Increasing
Ireland Present 3.4 Unknown Increasing
Lithuania Present 1 Stable Decreasing
Netherlands Present 95 Stable Increasing
Portugal mainland Present 2 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 0.1 Decreasing Decreasing
United Kingdom Present 8.8 Decreasing Unknown
Northern Island Present 8.8 Decreasing Unknown
Denmark Present 15 Unknown Decreasing
Poland Present 0.5 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present 90 Stable Increasing
Latvia Present 0.7 Decreasing Stable
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Guernsey Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Jersey Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Kaliningrad Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Norway Mainland 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 2536250 626 231
EU28+ 630 231
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