Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE1.F Azorean open dry, acid to neutral grassland

Azorean open dry, acid to neutral grassland

Quick facts

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


Non-grazed perennial grasslands of rocky outcrops and slopes dominated by strictly Azorean endemic grasses, hemicryptophytes and dwarf chamaephytic forbs. The majority of the non-woody vascular Azorean endemics are found in this habitat. The habitat can be divided in subtypes that are different in substrate, geomorphology and bioclimate, and thus in species composition, vegetation structure and dominance. It spans from the thermomediterranean (Santa Maria and SW of São Miguel Islands only) and thermotemperate to the supratemperate belts of the Azorean biogeographical Province. Two main subtypes can be distinguished:

Subtype #1. Open grasslands with scattered megaphorbs dominated or co-dominated by combinations of Deschampsia foliosa, Festuca francoi (=F. jubata), Holcus rigidus, Agrostis azorica, Leontodon rigens and Leontodon filii. They grow in meso-supratemperate climate (i.e. in altitudes above 300 m.), in nutrient-poor, acid soils, either in steep earthy or rocky slopes subject to gravitational disturbance, slope deposits with peat formation or under the permanent influence of gusting winds. Pioneer versions can be found colonizing former biotopes, like blanket bogs that were removed by catastrophic mass movements. The subtype contacts with vegetation of Azorean Juniperus woodland (G3.9c) and Azorean heath (F4.3).

Subtype #2. Low-altitude (thermomediterranean and thermotemperate) open grasslands of cliffs and landslide scarps, either in rock outcrops or earthy platforms between rocks, dominated by combinations of Agrostis congestiflora subsp. congestiflora, Festuca petraea, Holcus rigidus and Brachypodium gaditanum. The main contacts are woody vegetation of Picconia azorica and/or Pittosporum undulatum (alliance Myrico fayae-Pittosporion, habitat G2.3) and Azorean heath (F4.3).

The enormous extent of zooanthropic swards of introduced grasses in the Azores, used for dairy production, is a severe threat to the endemic grasslands. Soil tilling followed by cattle grazing causes immediate destruction of the endemic habitat type and its permanent substitution by alien-dominated swards. Also, even if endemic grasslands are preserved well in sites far from artificial swards, alien flora tends to invade them by seed dispersal, leading to invasion of endemic grassland by alien grasses with similar ecological requirements and genetic contamination of Azorean endemics by taxonomically close relatives (i.e. aliens of the same genus). The main alien grasses of artificial swards are Anthoxantum odoratum, Holcus lanatus, Dactylis glomerata and Agrostis castellana. Some other frequent aliens are Lotus pedunculatus, Rumex conglomeratuss, Crepis lampsanoides and Hypochaeris glabra. Ecological integrity of Azorean endemic grasslands is beste maintained by exclusion of man-induced disturbances and keeping distance to zooanthropogenic swards.

Indicators of good quality:

  • absence of alien plant species
  • no human disturbances

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

A large extent of reduction in the last 50 years was estimated (-53%), yielding criterion A1 applying to the Endangered (EN) status. This decline was a result of large expansion of nitrogen-driven intensive swards grazed by cattle. Historical reduction (criterion A3) was estimated to be at least 50%, resulting in a Vulnerable (VU) status. The same category (VU) results from a restricted distribution (EOO=39000 km2, AOO=23 grid cells) in combination with a continuing decline. Conservation actions were taken and trends are estimated to stabilise in the future.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Endangered A1
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Endangered A1

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Intensive grazing
    • Intensive cattle grazing
    • Fertilisation
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species
  • Geological events, natural catastrophes
    • Collapse of terrain, landslide

Habitat restoration potential

Ceasing of grazing and fertilization in marginal areas that still host endemic species may help the gradual restoration of the habitat. The time period needed for the full restoration of characteristic species composition and structure is estimated to be long.

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

Most important management approaches are:Conservation of meadow habitats that will be designated as reserves, with strict protection.Restoring of marginal, less intensive swards, which still host endemic species by ceasing cattle grazing and fertilization.Implementation of a monitoring scheme.

List of conservation and management needs

  • No measures
    • Measures needed, but not implemented
  • Measures related to agriculture and open habitats
    • Maintaining grasslands and other open habitats
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites


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)
Portugal Azores Present 8 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)

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 39000 23 8
EU28+ 23 8
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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