Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE1.A Mediterranean to Atlantic open, dry, acid and neutral grassland

Mediterranean to Atlantic open, dry, acid and neutral grassland

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE1.A
Threat status
Europe Near Threatened
EU Vulnerable
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)

Summary

Siliceous low sized grasslands of low density and biomass, formed by small ephemeral annuals presenting the typical eco-morphological traits syndrome of the pioneer initial stages of succession. Vascular plant species have a short life cycle of less than one year, usually starting in autumn/winter with the germination and seedlings establishment, followed by a fast growth in early spring and a flowering and a rapid seed production in late spring to early summer. After seed dispersal, the plants immediately die (agostamiento in Spanish) leaving their offspring in form of dormant seeds lying in the soil seed bank until autumn rainfalls trigger germination and the outbreak of a new generation. The biomass of the vegetative phases of this cycle strongly depends on the rainfall amount during early spring, reaching to have high biomass if abundant precipitations are received in the wet season and remaining practically invisible when drought becomes dominant in spring. In such cases seeds remain dormant in the seed bank until the next germinating period.

Soils are dry, with no gravitational surplus of water and no hydromorphy in their profile. Texture varies from coarse sandy to lime rich and inorganic nutrient content is generally low, with low values of pH. The disturbance regime endured by these grasslands does not include strong nitrification due to artificial fertilization nor soil tilling, keeping soils structured and with low content in nitrogen and phosphate compounds. This habitat almost always occupies small surfaces in mosaic with others, usually shrubby or herbaceous, vegetation types, in the clearings and open spaces between shrubs or other taller perennial herbs or grasses. In the Mediterranean region as well as in other Atlantic areas, the scrub or heathland landscape, resulted from human disturbance, entails such inextricable mosaic between patches of these annual grasslands and the scrub itself that it becomes extremely difficult to disentangle one from the other in the medium to large scale, making it difficult performing separate cartographies. These annual grasslands are considered being the initial stage of succession replacing mature vegetation of mainly Quercus forests in disturbed areas submitted to grazing and fire.

This habitat type is the silicicolous replicate of E1.3c being more widely represented in Temperate and Atlantic Europe as in these areas base poor substrata are more frequent due to the leaching effect on the soils favored by the more abundant summer rainfalls. In spite of its low biomass, this habitat type can reach a high species richness, particularly in Mediterranean countries. The total number of taxa bounded to this habitat type is more than one hundred, most of them with a Mediterranean optimal distribution, with few endemics of restricted area. This habitat, together with the homologous E1.3c of base-rich soils, incorporate the majority of the European annual vascular flora not bound to nitrophilic environments.

These grasslands can represent an appreciable resource for grazing flocks in spring period, when they are exploiting the scrub and heathland areas. They are not a highly valuable pasture in absolute terms, but they increase substantially the values of these scrub areas in spring, when sheep are breeding their lambs; for that reason, these grasslands contribute strategically to satisfy a temporary additional energetic and protein demand of the flocks and are much appreciated by the shepherds.

This habitat type occurs in most of the Temperate and Mediterranean countries of Europe but the highest frequency, quantity and diversity is found in the western Mediterranean area, particularly in the Iberian countries, where there are large areas with siliceous substrata with abundant scrub (matorral, garrigue or phrygana). It is also common in the siliceous territories of North Africa and Middle East.

Indicators of good quality:

·       medium disturbance regime

·       extensive grazing

·       absence of nitrophilous species

·       absence of 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

In EU28 this habitat type is assessed as Vulnerable (VU) based on a severe qualitative decrease, due to a reduction in abiotic and/or biotic quality (Criterion C/D1) during the last 50 years. Extent and severity are respectively around 54 and 55%. In EU28+, the application of the same Criterion qualifies this habitat type as Near Threatened (NT), due to a comparable qualitative reduction (severity of 51%) affecting 37% of its extent. As concerns the quantitative trend (Criterion A), these grasslands also show a general decrease during the last 50 years, although it is too low (between 11 and 18%, and between 11 and 17%, respectively for EU28 and EU28+) to meet the indicated thresholds. The values of EOO and AOO are very huge, due to a large distribution area of these annual grasslands, and the application of Criterion B does not meet any threshold qualifying for higher threat levels, bringing also in this case to the cathegory LC. It should be considered, however, that the actual area of the spots covered by these short-sized annual grasslands are very restricted and may be easily overestimated. There are no data available for the application of Criterion E.
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable C/D1
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Near Threatened C/D1

Confidence in the assessment

medium
Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Modification of cultivation practices
    • Agricultural intensification
    • Grazing
    • Intensive 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

This habitat generally develops on shallow rocky soils, even in conditions of strong erosion, so it can rapidly re-colonize empty surfaces, provided that the successional processes are blocked by extensive grazing or controlled fire.

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

Maintaining, promoting and reintroducing the traditional pastoral systems are the most effective ways to preserve this habitat type. During the last 50 years, due to the progressive abandonment of a large part of the the areas of occurrence of this habitat type, the successional processes have long acted and in many cases conservation measures should include the mechanical eradication of shrubs, before being used again as extensive pastures. A controlled use of fire can also represent an effective way to maintain this habitat type.

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

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)
Austria Present 1 Decreasing Decreasing
Belgium Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Bulgaria Present 457 Decreasing Decreasing
Croatia Present 0.1 Decreasing Decreasing
Cyprus Uncertain Unknown - Unknown
Czech Republic Present 0.7 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present 100-1000 Unknown Decreasing
Corsica Present 100-1000 Unknown Decreasing
Germany Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Greece (mainland and other islands) Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Crete Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
East Aegean Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Ireland Present 0.1-0.5 Unknown Unknown
Italy mainland Present 122 Decreasing Decreasing
Sardinia Present 122 Decreasing Decreasing
Sicily Present 122 Decreasing Decreasing
Luxembourg Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Malta Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Netherlands Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Portugal mainland Present 130 Unknown Decreasing
Portugal Azores Present 130 Unknown Decreasing
Madeira Present 130 Unknown Decreasing
Romania Present 6 Unknown Decreasing
Slovenia Present 0.1 Stable Stable
Spain mainland Present 364 Decreasing Decreasing
Canary Islands Present 364 Decreasing 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
Bosnia and Herzegovina Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Kosovo Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present 360 Decreasing Decreasing
Montenegro Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Serbia Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
Switzerland Present 1 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 3089850 123 >2000 EOO+AOO to be corrected
EU28+ 139 >2400 EOO+AOO to be corrected
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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