Red List habitat classification > RLC - Freshwater habitats > RLC5.1b Small-helophyte bed

Small-helophyte bed

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLC5.1b
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)



This habitat is characterized by the dominance of small and amphibious helophytes in oligotrophic to eutrophic water bodies. It is represented by shallow littoral zones of lakes, ponds and rivers subjected during the year to periodical and repeated changes of the water level. In both standing and running waters the small and amphibious vegetation may survive for short periods (1 to few seasons) and decline rapidly due to either exceptional flooding or succession towards tall helophyte-dominated vegetation. However, water bodies with a natural dynamic usually maintain a balanced proportion of small and tall helophyte vegetation. This habitat type has an important function for fauna, by offering shelter to benthic invertebrates, fish and amphibians and food to several species of birds. The general productivity of this habitat is lower than that of habitat C5.1a. In warmer parts of Europe during late summer this habitat may dry out and form transitions towards the habitat types C3.5a and C3.5b. Some amphibious species such as Alisma spp., Glyceria spp., Hippuris vulgaris, Sagittaria sagittifolia, Sparganium spp., typically growing in this habitat, have developed a dimorphism of the leaves (floating and terrestrial leaves) as an adaptation to the water level fluctuation and the water current. Also some small and medium size Cyperaceae, such as Eleocharis spp. and Bolboschoenus spp., are typical of this habitat type in standing water. This habitat usually represents the shore component of aquatic habitats (types C1.1a, C1.1b, C1.2a, C1.2b and C1.4) and therefore is in contact with them. Vegetation of small helophytes of the alliance Carici-Rumicion hydrolapathi, with species like Calla palustris, Comarum palustre, Menyanthes trifoliata, usually grows on organic muddy sediments of dystrophic and mesotrophic water bodies with relatively stable water levels.

Indicators of good quality:

  • Natural hydrology and chemistry of water and substrates
  • Typical structure of vegetation (species poor stands)
  • Anthropogenic impacts low in terms of construction activities, eutrophication and regulation of the water level.
  • No or low occurrence of tall helophytes, and nitrophilous species (e.g. Ranunculus sceleratus, Bidens spp., Chenopodium spp., Amaranthus spp.)
  • Low cover of species from drier habitats (e.g. Ranunculus repens, Potentilla reptans, Agrostis stolonifera)
  • No occurrence of invasive alien species (e.g. Ludwigia spp.)

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

As most countries were not able to report data on the present area, the assessment is less certain than for many other habitats. There has been a strong decline in area, ranging from -20 to -85% in many countries, with only two countries reporting slightly positive trends. Without any corrections for the relative area (due to data gaps), the average European trend in area is -27%, and therefore the habitat is assessed as Near Threatened (NT) under criterion A1. Also the trend in quality has been calculated without weighting for area, leading to results close to the thresholds for Vulnerable, and therefore also resulting in the Near Threatened category.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Near Threatened A1, C/D1
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Near Threatened A1, C/D1

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Pollution
    • Pollution to surface waters (limnic, terrestrial, marine & brackish)
  • Natural System modifications
    • Human induced changes in hydraulic conditions
    • Landfill, land reclamation and drying out, general
    • Flooding modifications
    • Modification of hydrographic functioning, general
  • Climate change
    • Droughts and less precipitations

Habitat restoration potential

Yes, if adequate water levels/hydroperiods or shores can be restored the habitat can easily recover.

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 relevant management measures are (1) the preservation of shallow littoral zones of ponds, lakes, and meanders of streams and rivers, (2) maintain or restore natural water regime (fluctuating levels in water courses or regular dry periods in standing waters), (3) reduce water pollution (nutrient inputs from sewage/agricultural waters), and (4) promote extensive grazing where tall helophytes are expanding.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Restoring/Improving the hydrological regime


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)
Austria Present Unknown Stable Decreasing
Belgium Present 10 Unknown Unknown
Czech Republic Present 9 Stable Stable
Denmark Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Germany Present unknown Stable Decreasing
Hungary Present 600 Decreasing Decreasing
Ireland Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Sardinia Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Lithuania Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Netherlands Present 23 Unknown Stable
Slovakia Present 0,9 Stable Increasing
Slovenia Present 0.5 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present 39 Decreasing Decreasing
Corsica Present 39 Decreasing Decreasing
Bulgaria Present unknown Stable Increasing
Croatia Present 1 Decreasing Decreasing
Finland mainland Present unknown Stable Stable
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present unknown Unknown Unknown
Spain mainland Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
United Kingdom Present Unknown Unknown Increasing
Estonia Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Aland Islands Present unknown Stable Stable
Crete Uncertain unknown Unknown Unknown
East Aegean Uncertain unknown Unknown Unknown
Italy mainland Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Sicily Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Latvia Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Poland Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Romania Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Balearic Islands Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Canary Islands Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Sweden Uncertain Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Northern Island Present Unknown Unknown Increasing
Gibraltar Uncertain Unknown Unknown Increasing
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Switzerland Present Unknown Stable Decreasing
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 2 Decreasing Decreasing
Iceland Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Kaliningrad Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Monaco Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Norway Mainland Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Svalbard Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Serbia 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 6412700 1864 637 Data deficient - estimates based on 6 countries only
EU28+ 1880 635 Data deficient - estimates based on 7 countries only
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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