Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE1.5e Madeiran oromediterranean siliceous dry grassland

Madeiran oromediterranean siliceous dry grassland

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE1.5e
Threat status
Europe Critically Endangered
EU Critically Endangered
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


This habitat consists of perennial cespitose grasslands of oromediterranean, humid to ultrahyperhumid bioclimates, in the summit of mountains of Madeira Island, to which this vegetation is strictly endemic. Such communities occur at altitudes over 1,500 m Asl, either in earthy rock crevices (chasmophytic) or over horizontal platforms along hillsides with shallow andosols, on silicate volcanic substrata (either hardrock or pyroclast). The physiognomy of these communities varies from dense mat-like, more or less continuous in platforms, to discontinuous on rock outcrops following crevices; it´s height is normally between 0.2 and 0.4 m. Dominant species are mostly madeiran endemic grasses: Parafestuca albida (= Koeleria albida), Deschampsia maderensis, Festuca jubata, Anthoxanthum maderense, Agrostis obtusissima and Holcus pintodasilvae; notheworthy madeiran endemics having their optima in this habitat are: Armeria maderensis, Anthyllis lemmaniana, Crepis andryaloides, Orchis scopulorum, Micromeria varia subsp. thymoides var. cacuminicolae, Rumex bucephalophorus subsp. fruticescens.

This vegetation occupies azonal permanent habitats in a mosaic with tree-heath forests of Madeira (Polysticho falcinelli-Ericion canariensis- G2.7 =Polysticho-Ericion arboreae) and mat-forming mountain low heath communities of Erica maderensis (Argyranthemo montani-Ericetum maderensis, Bystropogono punctati-Telinion maderensis –G2.7). Side contacts with succulent semi-deciduous rosette Crassulaceae comophyte (i.e. on the surface of rock) communities (Sinapidendro angustifolii-Aeonion glandulosi – F8.2) enrich the madeiran grasslands with many other endemics (see F8.2- Madeiran xerophytic scrub). Other common contacts are with Thymus micans communities (E1.Ad).

As the summit of Madeira´s mountains was, until recently, grazed mostly by domestic goats, the coenotic extreme of the community in platforms is thought to be quite rare, being the rocky coenotical extreme the dominant case. Platforms if permanently grazed normally had nitrogen-prone grasslands dominated by Agrostis castellana / Holcus sp. pl. With withdrawal of goat grazing the platforms with shallow andosols were gradually colonized, in recent years, by this habitat's community where the habitat optimum seems to be. Thus, due to grazing withdrawal the actual area of the community is bigger than it was ten years ago. Although in shallower platforms and rock outcrops the community seems to be of a permanent type (a permasigmetum in the sense of S. Rivas-Martínez) and kept by regular gravitational disturbance, in deeper more stable soils ecological succession may lead to substitution of grasslands by woody types.

Indicators of quality:

The habitat contains a set of endemics with high constancy and fidelity that are observed in most well-preserved situations. Nevertheless, poorer basal communities dominated by few of the grasses can be found. These have lower floristical quality, but, in turn can develop into fully coenotically saturated versions. In general, the greater the diversity of the above cited flora is found and less of generalist Mediterranean and Madeiran-Canarian grasses or semi-nitrogen-prone grasses (e.g. Bromus sp. pl.) are found, the better the habitat quality is (e.g. Dactylis smithii subsp. hylodes, Agrostis castellana).

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

This habitat is only found in the highest peaks of Madeira Island, and has an extremely restricted geographic range (extent of occurrence (EOO) is 200 Km2, area of occupancy (AOO) is only 2 grid cells). It is assessed as Critically Endangered since wildfires and an invasive shrub species (Cytisus scoparius) are likely to lead to a continuing decline in the quantity and quality of this habitat in the next 20 years.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Critically Endangered B1, B2
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Critically Endangered B1, B2

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Forest replanting (native trees)
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species
    • Introduction or spread of non-indigenous species
  • Natural System modifications
    • Burning down
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Erosion
    • Species composition change (succession)
  • Climate change
    • Temperature changes (e.g. rise of temperature & extremes)
    • Droughts and less precipitations
    • Migration of species (natural newcomers)

Habitat restoration potential

Provided that are well-conserved habitats nearby that may act as sources of propagula (seeds), after burning, a landslide or banning grazing, it is expected that habitat recovers with relative ease. Human-induced disturbances are expected to be also kept at minimum possible level (wildfire, trampling).

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Increasing Increasing
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

The main conservation measures needed are the establishment of strictly protected areas, the strict control of touristic visits (minimizing trampling), the prevention of grazing and the control of the expansion of invasive Cytisus scoparius and planting of other species, even if they are Madeiran native trees and shrubs.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Legal protection of habitats and species
  • Measures related to hunting, taking and fishing and species management
    • Specific single species or species group management measures


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)
Madeira Present 6.5 Stable 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)

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 200 2 6.5
EU28+ 2 6.5
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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