Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE1.3a Mediterranean closely grazed dry grassland

Mediterranean closely grazed dry grassland

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE1.3a
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)

Summary

These grasslands consist of heavily grazed pastures, mostly by sheep. They are usually found on fine clay/silt soils and on flat areas, often at low elevations, which are intensively grazed and trampled by livestock. Due to grazing, their soils are often eutrophic, although they contain low abundance of nitrophilous plant species, probably due to the xerothermic conditions of these areas and to the effect of soil compaction by trampling. These anthropogenic grasslands are dry in early summer, but with the first autumn rains sprout and grow rapidly, remaining green and fertile during the winter. The dominating species, usually hemicryptophytes and chamaephytes such as Poa bulbosa and clovers, are characterized by grazing-tolerant mechanisms (e.g. rosettes) and low height. Such grasslands are found mostly in the Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean zone of the western and central Mediterranean basin, including N-W Africa; their eastern distribution limit lies within the Balkan Peninsula. Depending on the environmental conditions and the geographic location, these grasslands include:

(a) Communities on acidic soils that tend to create uniform turfs with grasses and legumes adapted to grazing (e.g. Poa bulbosa, Aira caryophyllea, Trifolium subterraneum, Trifolium nigrescens). In Portugal these grasslands, among others, serve as very important food resources for wild rabbit populations and consequently for the diet of several important birds of prey, such as Aquila adalberti.

(b) Communities on clay soils of the western Mediterranean dominated by low hemicryptophytes and therophytes adapted to very intensive grazing, such as species with rosettes. The most common species of these grasslands are Plantago serraria and Trifolium subterraneum, while some of the diagnostic species are Paronychia echinulata, Erodium primulaceum and Biscutella baetica.

(c) Mesophilous grasslands of southern Italy which are usually the result of forest degradation. The most common species of these grasslands are Bellis perennis, Barbarea bracteosa, Trifolium repens, Poa bulbosa, Plantago cupanii and several others, some of which are endemic to Sicily.

(d) Communities of the southern Balkan Peninsula on fine clay soils (sometimes also in humid salty soils) around intensively grazed areas. In these early spring communities typical species develop from February to the end of March gradually drying out until summer, and only some C4 (drought-resistant species) plants can be found afterwards (e.g. Achnatherum bromoides). The most common species of these grasslands are Romulea spp., Hedypnois rhagadioloides, Hypochoeris cretensis.

Indicators of good quality:

·       Presence of traditional grazing regime without signs of abandonment

·       Absence of indication of significant, crevice-like, erosion

·       Absence (or very low cover) of nitrophilous species

·       No signs of secondary succession (e.g. encroachment of chamaephytes or shrub species)

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat type is assessed as Least Concern at the EU28 and EU28+ levels since, although a decline in quantity and quality has been reported, it is not declining fast enough as to qualify for a threatened category. The quantitative trend shows a slight decrease in the last 50 years (3% on average), indicating that in spite of the general tendency to abandon the traditional grazing activities, still the actual decline for this habitat type is not so severe, although the reduction is expected to be far more serious in the next future. The values of EOO and AOO largely exceed the thresholds for higher levels of threat. Only few countries reported about the qualitative decline, with average values not qualifying for any threatened category. Further research is needed on the quality trends, especially for Spain, accounting for the largest area.
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -

Confidence in the assessment

medium
Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Modification of cultivation practices
    • Agricultural intensification
    • Grazing
    • Abandonment of pastoral systems, lack of grazing
  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Forest planting on open ground (native trees)
    • Artificial planting on open ground (non-native trees)
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Biocenotic evolution, succession
    • Species composition change (succession)
  • Geological events, natural catastrophes
    • Fire (natural)

Habitat restoration potential

Being a semi-natural habitat almost completely dependant on correct management, the typical character and functionality can only be recovered once the traditional intensive grazing activity is re-established. The floristic composition should include plant species well adapted to grazing, depending on the proximity of a seed source, although a basic role in the colonization is provided by the grazing animals who act as vectors for the dissemination.

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 general deep transformation and loss of the traditional grazed landscapes is affecting most of the seminatural dry grasslands all over central and southern Europe, including this habitat type. Promotion, and in many cases reintroduction, of the traditional pastoral systems with intensive grazing are the most effective ways (and probably the only ones) for the conservation of these complex systems and their landscape. A controlled use of fire can also represent an effective way to maintain this habitat type. The establishment of protected areas, supported by an active protection of habitats and landscapes, might enhance the conservation of this habitat type, based on proper protocols for a correct management.

List of conservation and management needs

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

Distribution

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)
Italy mainland Present 477 Decreasing Stable
Sardinia Present 477 Decreasing Stable
Sicily Present 477 Decreasing Stable
Portugal mainland Present 98 Unknown Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 6.7 Unknown Decreasing
Bulgaria Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Croatia Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 115 Unknown Unknown
Malta 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)
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present 10 Stable Stable
Albania Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 5 Decreasing Decreasing
Montenegro Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Kosovo 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 2504350 2027 7,388
EU28+ 2055 7,403
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

The full list of characteristic species and genus are available above from the Summary. The species available in the EUNIS database are shown here.
Birds Aquila adalberti
Flowering Plants Achnatherum bromoides
Flowering Plants Barbarea bracteosa
Flowering Plants Bellis perennis
Flowering Plants Biscutella baetica
Flowering Plants Erodium primulaceum
Flowering Plants Hedypnois rhagadioloides
Flowering Plants Hypochoeris cretensis
Flowering Plants Paronychia echinulata
Flowering Plants Plantago serraria
Flowering Plants Poa bulbosa
Flowering Plants Trifolium repens
Flowering Plants Trifolium subterraneum
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Aquila adalberti Spanish Imperial Eagle Birds
Achnatherum bromoides Flowering Plants
Barbarea bracteosa Flowering Plants
Bellis perennis Flowering Plants
Biscutella baetica Flowering Plants
Erodium primulaceum Flowering Plants
Hedypnois rhagadioloides Flowering Plants
Hypochoeris cretensis Flowering Plants
Paronychia echinulata Flowering Plants
Plantago serraria Flowering Plants
Poa bulbosa Flowering Plants
Trifolium repens Flowering Plants
Trifolium subterraneum Flowering Plants

Vegetation types

Relation to vegetation types (syntaxa)

Not available

Other classifications

This habitat may be equivalent to, or broather than, or narrower than the habitats or ecosystems in the following typologies.
Classification Code Habitat type name Relationship type
EUNIS Habitat Classification 200711 E1.3 Mediterranean xeric grassland narrower
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