Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE1.1d Cryptogam- and annual-dominated vegetation on calcareous and ultramafic rock outcrops

Cryptogam- and annual-dominated vegetation on calcareous and ultramafic rock outcrops

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE1.1d
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)


This habitat includes low-grown, open herbaceous communities on very shallow, skeletal soils over limestone, dolomite, gypsum, serpentine or other base-rich bedrock types. Short-lived vernal therophytes and succulents are the dominant life forms among the vascular plants. The therophyte synusia is often rich in species, however, it is subject to considerable inter-annual dynamics in total abundance and species composition, which depends on specific weather conditions of each year. Typical therophytes include those of the genera Alyssum, Androsace, Arabis, Arenaria, Cerastium, Erophila, Thlaspi and Veronica. Succulents are represented by various species of Sedum and Sempervivum (including Jovibarba). Geophytes such as Allium are also typical. Perennial grasses and forbs are regularly present in this vegetation, but usually with a low cover.

This habitat is one of the few types in Europe, where non-vascular plants typically reach similar or higher cover and often also higher small-scale species richness than the vascular plants. There are many medium-sized to tiny cushions or lawns of acrocarpous mosses, mainly from the family Pottiaceae. Lichens are represented by several larger lobate or fruticose species, but mainly by soil-covering crusts. These crustose species are often colourful, like Fulgensia spp. (yellow), Psora decipiens (red), Toninia sedifolia (bluish) and Squamarina lentigera (bright white) and form the so-called coloured lichen synusia.

This habitat usually occurs in small patches on rock outcrops or in slightly disturbed places within calcareous grasslands. Disturbance can be by soil erosion on outcrops and steep slopes, by grazing or trampling. The soils are usually very shallow Lithic, Skeletic, Rendzic, Calcaric or Dolomitic Leptosols, developed on various types of limestone, dolomite or gypsum. In some places, especially on the Balkan Peninsula, this vegetation develops also on ultramafic bedrock (serpentines), which are also base-rich, but with an increased amount of Mg2+ rather than Ca2+ cations.

This habitat is distributed from the submediterranean to the hemiboreal zones of Europe. In southern Europe it occurs mainly at higher altitudes, while similar sites at lower altitudes support annual vegetation with different species composition, dominated by Mediterranean annual species. Compared to the rocky grasslands of type E1.1g, which typically cover larger areas on slopes, the stands of E1.1d normally grow in more or less plain patches where the erosion is reduced and thus tiny annuals and cryptogams can survive. While such situations in most parts of Europe occur only as small patches within dry grasslands, the so-called alvars in the hemiboreal zone of Europe (mainly the Swedish islands of Öland and Gotland as well as Western Estonia) display this habitat as landscape-dominating feature, partly extending over many square kilometres as in the Great Alvar of Öland. Here, pre-Cambrian limestone flatrocks that are covered only partly and very thin with fine soil, which is subject to strong frost action in winter, create an extraordinary habitat, rich in specialised species, including even some endemic taxa.

While human land use has slightly increased the spatial extent of this habitat type (through clearing forest and creating artificial rocks, such as wall tops), the majority of stands of E1.1d are natural.

 Indicators of quality:

These grasslands occur at sites disturbed by natural erosion, grazing, or due to human impact such as trampling. Although very frequent or intense disturbance may be detrimental, especially if coupled with nutrient enrichment, slight disturbance is positive because it reduces overgrowing by competitively stronger grasses and herbs. Some occurrences of this habitat, especially those occurring outside rock outcrops or steep slopes, would decline in the absence of disturbance.

The following characteristics can be considered as indicators of good quality:

·      Long-term habitat stability

·      High species richness

·      Occurrence of rare species

·      Dependence on naturally stressful conditions or natural disturbance rather than human-induced disturbance

·      Absence of tall, nutrient-demanding, ruderal and alien species

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

Based on a short-term reduction in quantity of 44% and 45%, respectively, the habitat type is Vulnerable (VU) both in EU28 and EU28+. Furthermore, a significant reduction in biotic and abiotic quality in the last 50 years results in a Near threatened status (NT).
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Abandonment of pastoral systems, lack of grazing
  • Mining, extraction of materials and energy production
    • Open cast mining
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Mountaineering & rock climbing
  • Pollution
    • Nitrogen-input
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Species composition change (succession)

Habitat restoration potential

Degraded semi-natural (e.g. in former pasture systems) and anthropogenic stands (e.g. wall tops; railway gravel) can be restored by re-installing the former grazing system and/or cutting down woody encroachment inside the habitat and in its surrounding (if it throws shadow on the site).
Natural and and semi-natural sites that have been degraded by quarrying or leisure activities can recover themselves when the negative impact has stopped, but this will take considerable time.

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

Generally, continuation of low-intensity grazing is the recommended measure. However, the majority of stands is rather stable also without management.

List of conservation and management needs

  • No measures
    • No measures needed for the conservation of the habitat/species
  • Measures related to agriculture and open habitats
    • Maintaining grasslands and other open habitats


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 1.2 Decreasing Decreasing
Belgium Present 0.55 Decreasing Decreasing
Bulgaria Present 31 Decreasing Decreasing
Croatia Present 0.7 Stable Stable
Cyprus Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Czech Republic Present 0.5 Decreasing Decreasing
Denmark Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Estonia Present 1 Unknown Unknown
Finland mainland Present 0.5 Decreasing Decreasing
Aland Islands Present 0.5 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present 100 Decreasing Decreasing
Corsica Uncertain 100 Decreasing Decreasing
Germany Present 5 Decreasing Decreasing
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 191 Decreasing Unknown
Crete Uncertain 191 Decreasing Unknown
Hungary Present 0.5 Stable Stable
Ireland Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Italy mainland Present 138 Decreasing Stable
Sardinia Uncertain 138 Decreasing Stable
Sicily Uncertain 138 Decreasing Stable
Latvia Present 0.01 Decreasing Unknown
Lithuania Present 0.05 Decreasing Unknown
Luxembourg Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Malta Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Netherlands Present 0.001 Unknown Decreasing
Poland Present 0.45 Decreasing Decreasing
Portugal mainland Present 5.4 Unknown Decreasing
Portugal Azores Uncertain 5.4 Unknown Decreasing
Madeira Uncertain 5.4 Unknown Decreasing
Romania Present 0.5 Unknown Stable
Slovakia Present 0.36 Stable Decreasing
Slovenia Present 0.2 Stable Stable
Spain mainland Present 123 Unknown Stable
Balearic Islands Uncertain 123 Unknown Stable
Canary Islands Uncertain 123 Unknown Stable
Sweden Present 26 Unknown Stable
United Kingdom Present 0.5 Unknown Decreasing
Northern Island Uncertain 0.5 Unknown Decreasing
Gibraltar Uncertain 0.5 Unknown 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 Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Andorra Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 30 Decreasing Decreasing
Guernsey Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Isle of Man Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Jersey Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Kaliningrad Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Kosovo Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Liechtestein Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Monaco Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Montenegro Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Norway Mainland Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
San Marino Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Serbia Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Switzerland Present 5 Decreasing Decreasing
Vatican City 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 6658750 3605 680 Provided areas for Sweden and Estonia were clearly too low
EU28+ 4008 800
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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