Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE1.1i Perennial rocky calcareous grassland of subatlantic-submediterranean Europe

Perennial rocky calcareous grassland of subatlantic-submediterranean Europe

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE1.1i
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 type occurs on shallow calcareous substrates with hardly any soil and humus, mostly on slopes. The underlying bedrock can be of different geological origin, including Carboniferous limestone and Cretaceous chalk. The open vegetation is characterized by perennials, among which a large percentage of chamaephytes. This is in contrast with habitat type 1.1d (Pioneer grassland on shallow soils on calcareous and ultramafic rocky outcrops), where annuals play a prominent role. Syntaxonomically, the vegetation type forms a separate order (Artemisio albae-Brometalia erecti) within the class Festuco-Brometea. The communities have a rather small distribution, ranging from the United Kingdom in the northwest and Italy (Liguria) in the southeast. In the National Vegetation Classification of the UK, it is represented by the sub-community with Helianthemum canum and Asperula cynanchica of the ‘Sesleria albicans-Galium sterneri grassland’ (CG9). The centre of the distribution is in France and Germany. In France, these grasslands are (for the greater part) described as ‘pelouses primaires’ in contrast to the other limestone grasslands of the Festuco-Brometea that are considered to be ‘pelouses secondaires’ or ‘semi-naturelles’. The habitat type, occurring from the lowlands to the submontane zone, is regarded as a western vicariant of E1.1g (Perennial grassland on rocky outcrops at low altitudes in Central and Southeastern Europe). The bedrock is often broken, resulting in a lot of loose material, resembling screes at higher altitudes in the mountains. The nutrient status (nitrogen, phosphorous) is extremely low, the pH high. Although the production of the vegetation is very low, grazing is important to guarantee that the sites are not grown over by shrubs and trees. As such, the habitat generally is part of a traditional management regime. 

Indicators of quality:

·      Open and low vegetation structure, with a high percentage of bare rock

·      Absence of nutrient-demanding and ruderal species

·      Chamaephytes account for a large proportion in the vegetation

·      Exposed to sunshine to support light-demanding species

·      Extensive grazing regime preventing the encroachment of shrubs and tree at the sites and the near vicinity

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat is assessed as Vulnerable since it has suffered a maximum estimate of reduction in quantity of just more than 30% in the last decades. The mean estimate calculated from territorial data is 29.8%. Although only the maximum estimate meets the criterion of reduction in quantity, it has to be taken into account that the habitat has also suffered an intermediate decline in quality (55%) affecting more than 30% of its area in the past 50 years. Considering that the main threat for its conservation is the abandonment of extensive grazing, it is expected that the decline will continue in the future.
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
    • Modification of cultivation practices
    • Agricultural intensification
    • Grassland removal for arable land
    • Grazing
    • Abandonment of pastoral systems, lack of grazing
  • Pollution
    • Air pollution, air-borne pollutants
    • Nitrogen-input
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Biocenotic evolution, succession
    • Species composition change (succession)

Habitat restoration potential

Grasslands of this habitat grow in shallow soils. Once destroyed or severely damaged, their recovery will take a long time. If the habitat degradation is due to abandonment and consequent shrub encroachment, it can only be recovered by re-introducing traditional extensive grazing.
The time needed for recovery is strongly dependent on the type of damage. As the most common is shrub encroachment, the estimation of time is given for that case.

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 maintenance of traditional silvopastoral systems is very important for the conservation of this habitat. Extensive grazing is a basic feature, and management should be focused on this key factor. The rare occurrences of the habitat in the Atlantic region (British Isles and Atlantic region in Germany and France) should receive special protection and avoid activities such as tree plantation, extraction and urbanization. In general, trampling by people should be controlled, and grassland removal for crop plantation should be avoided as long as possible.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to agriculture and open habitats
    • Maintaining grasslands and other open habitats
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Legal protection of habitats and species
    • Manage landscape features


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 <1 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present 400-800 Decreasing Decreasing
Germany Present <20 Decreasing Decreasing
Ireland Present 0.1-1.0 Unknown Stable
Italy mainland Present 827 Decreasing Decreasing
Luxembourg Uncertain unknown Unknown Unknown
United Kingdom Uncertain - -
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 Oct-20 Decreasing Decreasing

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 1627450 436 1,448 no data from Luxembourg and UK
EU28+ 503 1,463
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
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