Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE3.4a Moist or wet mesotrophic to eutrophic hay meadow

Moist or wet mesotrophic to eutrophic hay meadow

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE3.4a
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)


The habitat comprises various wet to moist grasslands that are influenced by a high water table level and in some cases can be temporarily flooded. This group contains nutrient rich hay meadows, which sometimes are (moderately) grazed at the end of the summer period or in autumn after hay making. When the human impact is reduced or stopped, the habitat will be invaded by tall forb species (Filipendulion, Galio-Urticetea) and consequently by shrub and tree species (Salicion cinereae, Alno-Fraxinetalia). On the other hand, an intensive grazing regime will convert these meadows into pastures (Cynosurion cristati, Potentillo-Poygonetalia). Time and duration of flooding and/or the impact of groundwater are important factors in determining the floristic composition, as they influence the physiological (e.g. roots become in anaerobic condition) and ecological conditions (e.g. availability of nutrients). The main soil types are palanosol and gleysol (also amphigley). These mesotrophic  to eutrophic hay meadows can be found widespread over Europe. In temperate zones, they may occur in fresh and relatively nutrient-rich flooded plains along rivers and on wet mesotrophic mineral to peaty soils in brook valleys and comparable landscapes. In other parts of Europe (subcontinental, submediterranean), such wet meadows are found on alluvial plains that are relatively dry during parts of the year.

These habitats should be mown regularly to prevent afforestation process. This process can be started with various high forb communities (mainly from the alliance Filipendulion). The other threat for these grasslands is increased drainage of the habitat that causes turnover of species and formation of low and medium altitude hay meadows. In case of increased humidity, there appear sedges and reed (Phragmiti-Magnocaricetea). Communities from the alliance Oenanthion fistulosae indicate the transition between those two classes: Molinio-Arrhenatheretea and Phragmiti-Magnocaricetea. A further threats is (over)grazing that could convert those meadows into pastures.

The following characteristics can be considered as Indicators of good quality:

  • High richness in herb species;

  • Occurrence of regionally distinct species;

  • Long-term habitat stability;

  • Extensive management regime aimed at long-term continuation of yearly mowing;

  • No encroachment of trees en shrubs.

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

Based on a reduction in quantity over the past 50 years, this habitat type is endangered both in EU28 and EU28+ (EN). Furthermore, a substantial reduction in biotic and abiotic quality results in a nearly theatened status (NT).
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
    • Cultivation
    • Modification of cultivation practices
    • Agricultural intensification
    • Mowing / Cutting of grassland
    • Intensive mowing or intensification
    • Fertilisation
    • Irrigation
  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Urbanised areas, human habitation

Habitat restoration potential

The habitat type needs human intervention for restoration, by re-introducing traditional mowing regimes and improving the hydrological conditions. The latter may take a relatively long period to become effective. The presence of relict populations of key species is crucial for success, so restoration programmes will have more success in areas where species rich meadows still do occur.Specific management measurements like the spread of hay derived from still intact (preferebly nearby) nature reserves may be considered to overcome the 'dispersal problem'.

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

Continuation of these meadows is directed towards the maintainance of traditional hay making in combinatin with safeguarding the appropriate hydrological conditions. This applies to both the site and the landscape level. Where damaged, restoration programmes can be set up, but - especially in the European lowlands - the nowadays scattered occurrences of this habitat types will cause problems for recolonisation of the aimed species.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to agriculture and open habitats
    • Maintaining grasslands and other open habitats
  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Restoring/Improving the hydrological regime


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 200 Decreasing Decreasing
Bulgaria Present 3.8 Decreasing Decreasing
France mainland Present 1500 Decreasing Decreasing
Germany Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Hungary Present 300 Decreasing Decreasing
Slovakia Present 300 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 128 Unknown Decreasing
Belgium Present 50 Decreasing Decreasing
Croatia Present 750 Decreasing Decreasing
Czech Republic Present 160 Decreasing Decreasing
Denmark Present Unknown Stable Decreasing
Estonia Present 46 Decreasing Decreasing
Finland mainland Present 40 Decreasing Decreasing
Italy mainland Present 605 Decreasing Decreasing
Latvia Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Lithuania Present 130 Decreasing Decreasing
Poland Present 5250 Decreasing Decreasing
Romania Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Slovenia Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
Sweden Present Unknown Decreasing Decreasing
United Kingdom Present 90 Decreasing Decreasing
Netherlands Present 30 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 40 Decreasing Decreasing
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present 50 Decreasing Unknown
Switzerland Present 300 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 7410650 16552 9600 AOO and EOO incl. potential distribution
EU28+ 16711 10000 AOO and EOO incl. potential distribution
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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