Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE2.2 Low and medium altitude hay meadow

Low and medium altitude hay meadow

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE2.2
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)

Summary

This habitat includes grasslands mown for hay occurring on deep, well-drained, mesic soils throughout much of Europe, especially in the nemoral and boreo-nemoral zones where they are found from low to medium altitudes. In southern Europe they are confined to precipitation-rich areas at higher altitudes, occurring in the mountains of the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula, the Apennines and the supra-Mediterranean zone of the Balkan Peninsula. These meadows are typically fertilized by dung, only lightly by chemical fertilisers, and mown once or twice a year for hay, rather than silage, with light spring and/or aftermath grazing in some places.

They are dominated by productive grasses such as Arrhenatherum elatius, Briza media, Dactylis glomerata, Festuca pratensis, F. rubra, Poa pratensis and Trisetum flavescens, dicotyledonous herbs, particular rosette plants with taller flowering stems, including Crepis biennis, Heracleum sphondylium, Knautia arvensis agg., Leucanthemum vulgare agg., Pimpinella major, Plantago lanceolata and Rumex acetosa, and clonal geophytes such as Geranium pratense and Sanguisorba officinalis. Species-richness can be high, especially in types where low-input management has been consistent over long periods of time. Such grasslands also better reflect regional differences in climate and local variations in soil, whether to more base-rich or acidic substrates, or to moister or drought-prone situations.   Transitions to E2.1a Mesic permanent pastures are widespread in the lowlands, especially where there is a shift from mowing to more consistent grazing which favours a lower structure, the elimination of more palatable grasses and the prevention of flowering among taller rosette hemicryptophytes.    

Although the meadows of this type are still widespread through the nemoral and boreo-nemoral zones, they have been declining for many decades either because of such conversion to intensively grazed pastures or through heavy fertilizing and reseeding for crops of silage which can be cut three or more times a year.  In landscapes dominated by intensive agriculture, this habitat often survives best on road verges that are cut annually for amenity reasons but, where coarse perennials or weeds invade such situations, the vegetation does not belong to this habitat. Abandonment and subsequent encroachment of shrubs and trees is also widespread.

Indicators of good quality:

  • Continuation of traditional management with one or two hay cuts per year

  • Light or no spring and/or aftermath grazing

  • High species richness

  • Absence of patches dominated by nutrient-demanding, tall-growing competitive dicotyldeonous herbs

  • Absence of alien plant species

  • No encroachment of trees and shrubs

  • Absence of heavy grazing

  • No increase of fertility with addition of chemical fertilisers

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

Reliable estimates of decline in extent in recent historical time (A1) provide clear justification for an assessment of Vulnerable. A close to severe decline in quality over 50% of the extent over the same time period (C/D1) more than confirms this and suggests that a higher category of Endangered is being approached.
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1, A3, C/D1
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1, A3, 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
    • Grassland removal for arable land
    • Mowing / Cutting of grassland
    • Abandonment / Lack of  mowing
  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Forest planting on open ground
  • Pollution
    • Air pollution, air-borne pollutants
    • Nitrogen-input

Habitat restoration potential

Restoration is often hindered by the accumulated fertility (especially of bound phosphate) in the soils; by the lack of a market for hay; the lack of suitable stock or of pasture when the hay-fields are closed; and by the loss of social memory among ageing farmers and changing communities. More successful on meadows which still retain some measure of floristic diversity but, even where success is better, the wider fabric of traditional farming with its landscape-scale diversity, vernacular architecture, field names and festivals has often disintegrated.

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

Conservation of this habitat is directed towards maintaining as many of the traditional elements of farming practice as possible: relief from grazing in late spring, cutting of hay in summer, use of only dung, urine, lime and mild phosphates as fertilisers. This usually means payments to farmers for income foregone since these days hay cropping is uneconomic, especially at the often reduced levels of productivity in traditional meadows, and various schemes of agri-environment funding have been implemented to administer this financial support. Where damaged, restoration aims, one way and another, to reinstate elements of traditional practice: repeated cuts of existing herbage to reduce soil fertility, reduced levels of spring grazing, later cutting of the hay or haylage crop and strewing of green hay cut from remaining better quality meadows to seed in distinctive species.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to agriculture and open habitats
    • Maintaining grasslands and other open habitats

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 175 Decreasing Decreasing
Belgium Present 153 Decreasing Decreasing
Bulgaria Present 48 Decreasing Decreasing
Czech Republic Present 1907 Decreasing Decreasing
Estonia Present 33 Unknown Decreasing
France mainland Present 7500 Decreasing Decreasing
Germany Present 1640 Decreasing Decreasing
Crete Present 10 Decreasing Unknown
Hungary Present 200-250 Decreasing Decreasing
Ireland Present 1.4-2.9 Decreasing Unknown
Sardinia Present 2410 Decreasing Decreasing
Latvia Present 53 Decreasing Decreasing
Lithuania Present 190-200 Decreasing Decreasing
Netherlands Present 6 Decreasing Decreasing
Poland Present 6375 Decreasing Decreasing
Portugal mainland Present 84 Unknown Decreasing
Romania Present 105 Stable Stable
Slovakia Present 3000 Decreasing Stable
Slovenia Present 327 Stable Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 625 Unknown Decreasing
Sweden Uncertain unknown Unknown Unknown
United Kingdom Present <100 Decreasing Decreasing
Finland mainland Present 1 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)
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present 200 Decreasing Decreasing
Kaliningrad Uncertain - -
Kosovo Present unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present 250 Unknown Decreasing
Montenegro Uncertain - -
Norway Mainland Uncertain - -
Serbia Uncertain - -
Switzerland Present 1000-1500 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 7203550 14420 27373 Data missing from Luxembourg and Sweden within the EU, from Norway, Serbia & Russia outside the EU.
EU28+ 14641 28823
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.
Flowering Plants Achillea millefolium
Flowering Plants Agrostis capillaris
Flowering Plants Arrhenatherum elatius
Flowering Plants Avenula pubescens
Flowering Plants Briza media
Flowering Plants Centaurea jacea
Flowering Plants Cerastium holosteoides
Flowering Plants Crepis biennis
Flowering Plants Cynosurus cristatus
Flowering Plants Dactylis glomerata
Flowering Plants Daucus carota
Flowering Plants Festuca pratensis
Flowering Plants Galium album
Flowering Plants Geranium pratense
Flowering Plants Heracleum sphondylium
Flowering Plants Holcus lanatus
Flowering Plants Leucanthemum vulgare
Flowering Plants Lotus corniculatus
Flowering Plants Luzula campestris
Flowering Plants Pimpinella major
Flowering Plants Plantago lanceolata
Flowering Plants Poa pratensis
Flowering Plants Prunella vulgaris
Flowering Plants Ranunculus acris
Flowering Plants Rumex acetosa
Flowering Plants Salvia pratensis
Flowering Plants Sanguisorba officinalis
Flowering Plants Trifolium dubium
Flowering Plants Trisetum flavescens
Flowering Plants Veronica chamaedrys
Flowering Plants Vicia cracca
Mosses & Liverworts Brachythecium rutabulum
Mosses & Liverworts Plagiomnium affine
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Achillea millefolium Flowering Plants
Agrostis capillaris Flowering Plants
Arrhenatherum elatius Flowering Plants
Avenula pubescens Flowering Plants
Briza media Flowering Plants
Centaurea jacea Flowering Plants
Cerastium holosteoides Flowering Plants
Crepis biennis Flowering Plants
Cynosurus cristatus Flowering Plants
Dactylis glomerata Flowering Plants
Daucus carota Flowering Plants
Festuca pratensis Flowering Plants
Galium album Flowering Plants
Geranium pratense Flowering Plants
Heracleum sphondylium Flowering Plants
Holcus lanatus Flowering Plants
Leucanthemum vulgare Flowering Plants
Lotus corniculatus Flowering Plants
Luzula campestris Flowering Plants
Pimpinella major Flowering Plants
Plantago lanceolata Flowering Plants
Poa pratensis Flowering Plants
Prunella vulgaris Flowering Plants
Ranunculus acris Flowering Plants
Rumex acetosa Flowering Plants
Salvia pratensis Flowering Plants
Sanguisorba officinalis Flowering Plants
Trifolium dubium Flowering Plants
Trisetum flavescens Flowering Plants
Veronica chamaedrys Flowering Plants
Vicia cracca Flowering Plants
Brachythecium rutabulum Mosses & Liverworts
Plagiomnium affine Mosses & Liverworts

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 E2.2 Low and medium altitude hay meadows same
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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