Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE2.3 Mountain hay meadow

Mountain hay meadow

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE2.3
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)


This habitat is characteristic of deep, well-drained, mesic soils through the sub-montane and montane zones of northern and central Europe, being favoured by an oceanic rather than continental climate and, at southern latitudes, more limited to high mountains.  It is especially well developed in the Alps and Carpathians but extends also into Scandinavia and the United Kingdom and the Pyrenees and Balkan Peninsula.  A shorter and/or cooler growing season at higher altitudes results in less productive growth than in lowland meadows on similar soils and often only one hay crop a year.  Spring and aftermath grazing occurs in some regions.  These meadows have traditionally been fertilized by dung and so tend to be more frequent near settlements, farms and mountain huts  where grazing stock were available and carting easier. Typically, chemical fertilisers are not used.

These meadows share many species of medium-tall grasses and herbs with mown grasslands of lower altitudes but the distinctive character is provided by such plants as Trisetum flavescens, Polygonum bistorta, Geranium sylvaticum, Cirsium helenioides, Trollius europaeus,  Alchemilla vulgaris agg.  Some of these plants occur both in these meadows and in the more open woodlands of the montane belt from which they were probably originally derived.

Distinctive sub-types of mountain hay meadows reflect regional contrasts in climate from the more oceanic north and west of Europe (with Lathyrus linifolius, Poa chaixii, Anemone nemorosa, Crepis mollis), the sub-Continental central European mountains (Meum athamanticum, Galium hercynicum, Arnica montana), the Jura and Alps (Rumex alpestris, Pleum alpinum, Poa alpina, Campanula scheuchzeri, Myosotis alpestris, Rhinanthus alectorolophus) and the Tatra and west Carpathians (Alchemilla walasii, A. crinita, Cardaminopsis halleri).

Indicators of good quality:

  • High species-richness

  • Occurrence of regionally distinctive rare plants

  • Continuation of traditional management with one or two hay cuts per year, optionally with light aftermath grazing

  • Absence of heavy grazing

  • No encroachment of trees and shrubs

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

  • Absence of alien plant species

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

An overall assessment of Vulnerable (VU) is based on the average loss in extent over recent historical time (A1) and over the longer time period (A3), with recent reduction in quality (C/D1) providing a Near Threatened (NT) rating.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1, A3
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1, A3

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Modification of cultivation practices
    • Crop change
    • Grassland removal for arable land
    • Mowing / Cutting of grassland
    • Abandonment / Lack of  mowing
    • Grazing
    • Intensive grazing
  • 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. Restoration is more successful on meadows which still retain some measure of floristic diversity but, even where restoration 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


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 55 Decreasing Decreasing
Belgium Present unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Bulgaria Present 479 Decreasing Decreasing
Croatia Present 2 Decreasing Decreasing
Czech Republic Present 160 Decreasing Stable
France mainland Present 1000 Decreasing Decreasing
Germany Present 190 Decreasing Decreasing
Hungary Present 20 Decreasing Decreasing
Italy mainland Present 1126 Decreasing Decreasing
Poland Present 168 Stable Decreasing
Romania Present 120 Stable Stable
Slovakia Present 13 Decreasing Decreasing
Slovenia Present 102 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 15 Unknown Decreasing
Sweden Present unknown Unknown Unknown
United Kingdom Present 9 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 80 Decreasing Decreasing
Kosovo Present unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Montenegro Uncertain - -
Norway Mainland Present 2918 Decreasing Decreasing
Switzerland Present 600-800 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 5775850 3331 4359 Among all the countries returning an assessment, only Belgium (Flanders) records an unknown present extent.
EU28+ 3508 8057 The very large extent from Norway much affects this total
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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1050 Copenhagen K
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