Red List habitat classification > RLB - Coastal habitats > RLB3.4b Mediterranean and Black Sea soft sea cliff

Mediterranean and Black Sea soft sea cliff

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLB3.4b
Threat status
Europe Data Deficient
EU Data Deficient
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


This habitat is formed by coastal soft cliffs and rocks (clays, friable sands, shales and glacial deposits) that are poorly resistant to the natural processes of erosion on the coasts of the Mediterranean and Black Sea, and in the southern Atlantic parts of Europe (northwards up to Porto, Portugal). These cliffs are subject to frequent slumps and land slips caused by erosion (e.g. waves, rain, winter storms, and groundwater percolating through the cliffs). The soft-sea cliffs frequently form borders with hard cliffs, giving rise to more complex habitats. On most soft cliff sites there are a range of micro-habitats formed by the fracture water streaming down the rocks, plus mosaics from open rocks and small patches of grassland and shrubs. In comparison to many coastal cliffs formed by granite, limestone and chalk, soft lithologies often form low, shallow, sloping cliffs which are more easily colonized by vegetation. However, the soft cliffs also erode much quicker than hard cliffs and vegetation is therefore restricted to pioneer stages in many places. Soft cliffs may support scrub similar to that on dunes with species like Hippophae rhamnoides, Juniperus spp. and Crataegus monogyna. On the western Black Sea coast many steppe and halophytic species, like Camphorosma monspeliaca, Matthiola odoratissima and Peganum harmala, may inhabit the chalk deposits over the sea. The single Black Sea locality of Hippophae rhamnoides outside the Danube Delta also occurs on soft sea-cliffs. Soft-sea cliffs are threatened by some natural causes such as slumping and landslips, which are sometimes of a cyclical nature. They can also be damaged through insensitive cliff top management and artificial drainage. Other threats include tourist development of the coastal area, pollution and nitrification of the coastal cliffs, and increase of non-typical ruderal species.

Indicators of quality:

  • High species and micro-habitat richness
  • Presence of rare and/or threatened species
  • Low number of nitrophilous ruderals and alien species
  • Absence of human infrastructure on the top of coastal cliffs

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

This habitat is poorly known, with for example incomplete data on distribution, resulting in unreliable values for area of occupancy (AOO) and extent of occurrence (EOO). The available quantitative data on trends in quality and quantity come from only one Mediterranean country (Portugal) and one Black Sea country (Romania). The available data indicates an assessment of Least Concern, but given the lack of data from several countries with possibly large area (e.g. France, Spain and Italy), this habitat is assessed as Data Deficient.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Data Deficient -
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Data Deficient -

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Urbanised areas, human habitation
    • Continuous urbanisation
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species
    • Problematic native species
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Abiotic (slow) natural processes
    • Erosion
    • Silting up

Habitat restoration potential

The habitat has little capacity to recover because it results from natural geological and geomorphological processes.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Decreasing Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Decreasing Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

The most important conservation measure necessary is strict protection of the coastal shores, in order to maintain their natural conditions. Artificial restoration of the habitat is impossible.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Legal protection of habitats and species


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 Unknown Unknown Unknown
France mainland Present Unknown Decreasing Unknown
Italy mainland Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Sardinia Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Sicily Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Portugal mainland Present 0.8 Decreasing Decreasing
Romania Present 1.5 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Corsica Present Unknown Decreasing Unknown
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Crete Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
East Aegean Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
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 Uncertain 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 1017450 31 Unknown EOO incl. potential/AOO excl. potential
EU28+ 31 Unknown EOO incl. potential/AOO excl. potential
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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1050 Copenhagen K
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