Red List habitat classification > RLE - Grasslands > RLE6.1 Mediterranean inland salt steppe

Mediterranean inland salt steppe

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLE6.1
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

The vegetation of this habitat is dominated by succulent plants of the Chenopodiaceae family and perennial, rosette-forming Limonium species as well as other salt-tolerant Mediterranean plants and sometimes also albardín (esparto like) grass (Lygeum spartum) in the less saline stretches of the gradient. This habitat occurs in the Mediterranean area, in continental or coastal areas but far from the influence of the sea, under severe climatic drought conditions where endorrheic (non or poorly-drained) clay basins accumulate soluble salts diluted from the surroundings. Several circumstances need to occur for this to happen: a long and deep summer drought, geological material with abundance of soluble salts (often sulfates) and a flat or gentle topography in which such basins can take place, such as the large depressions of some fluvial systems. Under such conditions, soils are temporarily permeated (though not inundated) by saline water and subject to extreme summer drying, with formation of salt efflorescence which is conspicuous during the dry periods, particularly the summer, and forms a white crust of salt micro-crystals. The most characteristic vegetation is represented by the following species: Sarcocornietea fruticosi (Limonietalia and Sarcocornietalia), Juncetea maritimi (Juncetalia maritimi), Thero-Suaedetea (Thero-Salicornietalia) and Saginetea maritimae (Frankenietalia pulverulentae). Different communities belonging to these units appear in the interior salty steppes in a diversity of combinations depending on the geography, salt concentration and climatic conditions. Often they are surrounded by a ring of Lygeum spartum (albardín) or Stipa tenacissima (esparto) grassland in the foothill of the depression together with the succulents, a high number of narrow endemic species of Limonium occur in those communities and with a number of broader distributed reeds (Juncus) and annuals. This vegetation complex presents a phenology in which annuals develop in early spring and perennials in late summer, in a successive flowering pattern which is particularly useful for the local herding management which has to survive the very severe summer drought.

In many areas of the Iberian Peninsula, these salt steppes have been traditionally grazed by sheep or goats, and such use has been compatible with its conservation in good conditions, with all the halophile species and some others linked with grazing activity. Nevertheless, in recent times, as a result of an ancient belief in the local population that these areas could be transformed into arable land, some disastrous initiatives have taken place such as draining, tilling, fertilizing and others, which have caused severe damage to this habitat. This has been done in spite of being declared as a priority habitat by the European Union (EU), in part due to the pressure of the local rural population wills, with the goal of converting these poor and sterile areas into productive ones.

Indicators of good quality:

  • Dominance of halophile species
  • A medium to high vegetation cover
  • Absence of nitrophilic species linked to human activities
  • No visible anthropic disturbances due to draining, tilling, building activities, rubbish accumulation or intensive trampling

Flora:

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat is assessed as Vulnerable (VU) under Criterion A1 as it has experienced a reduction in quantity of 30% over the last 50-60 years.
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1

Confidence in the assessment

low
Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Grassland removal for arable land
  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Urbanised areas, human habitation
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Walking, horseriding and non-motorised vehicles
    • Motorised vehicles
  • Pollution
    • Pollution to surface waters (limnic, terrestrial, marine & brackish)
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species
  • Natural System modifications
    • Modification of hydrographic functioning, general

Habitat restoration potential

The habitat has some capacity to recover naturally if salt accummulation is ongoing and seed sources are near.

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

The habitat is subject to severe aggression due to the pressure to convert those sites into urban areas and arable land. This process needs to be stopped through stricter protection and proper incentives. A relatively high grazing pressure by sheep or goats has been a traditional practice and is perfectly sustainable for the management of this habitat type. Construction of touristic infrastructure (such as paths across some sites) could prevent trampling, offroad driving, etc. Finally, the establishment of new protected areas is needed.

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

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)
France mainland Present 40 Stable Decreasing
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 6 Decreasing Stable
Italy mainland Present 28.42 Decreasing Decreasing
Sardinia Present 28.42 Decreasing Decreasing
Sicily Present 28.42 Decreasing Decreasing
Portugal mainland Present 12.4 Decreasing Decreasing
Spain mainland Present 106.58 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 1989600 624 193
EU28+ 624 193
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 Aeluropus littoralis
Flowering Plants Carex punctata
Flowering Plants Frankenia corymbosa
Flowering Plants Frankenia pulverulenta
Flowering Plants Gypsophila tomentosa
Flowering Plants Halocnemum strobilaceum
Flowering Plants Halopeplis amplexicaulis
Flowering Plants Hordeum marinum
Flowering Plants Hymenolobus procumbens
Flowering Plants Juncus acutus
Flowering Plants Juncus maritimus
Flowering Plants Juncus subulatus
Flowering Plants Limonium aragonense
Flowering Plants Limonium caesium
Flowering Plants Limonium catalaunicum
Flowering Plants Limonium costae
Flowering Plants Limonium delicatulum
Flowering Plants Limonium dichotomum
Flowering Plants Limonium insigne
Flowering Plants Lygeum spartum
Flowering Plants Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
Flowering Plants Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum
Flowering Plants Microcnemum coralloides
Flowering Plants Parapholis incurva
Flowering Plants Plantago maritima
Flowering Plants Puccinellia fasciculata
Flowering Plants Puccinellia pungens
Flowering Plants Sagina maritima
Flowering Plants Salicornia patula
Flowering Plants Senecio auricula
Flowering Plants Sonchus crassifolius
Flowering Plants Spergularia marina
Flowering Plants Spergularia media
Flowering Plants Sphenopus divaricatus
Flowering Plants Stipa tenacissima
Flowering Plants Suaeda maritima
Flowering Plants Suaeda splendens
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Aeluropus littoralis Flowering Plants
Carex punctata Flowering Plants
Frankenia corymbosa Flowering Plants
Frankenia pulverulenta Flowering Plants
Gypsophila tomentosa Flowering Plants
Halocnemum strobilaceum Flowering Plants
Halopeplis amplexicaulis Flowering Plants
Hordeum marinum Flowering Plants
Hymenolobus procumbens Flowering Plants
Juncus acutus Flowering Plants
Juncus maritimus Flowering Plants
Juncus subulatus Flowering Plants
Limonium aragonense Flowering Plants
Limonium caesium Flowering Plants
Limonium catalaunicum Flowering Plants
Limonium costae Flowering Plants
Limonium delicatulum Flowering Plants
Limonium dichotomum Flowering Plants
Limonium insigne Flowering Plants
Lygeum spartum Flowering Plants
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum Flowering Plants
Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum Flowering Plants
Microcnemum coralloides Flowering Plants
Parapholis incurva Flowering Plants
Plantago maritima Flowering Plants
Puccinellia fasciculata Flowering Plants
Puccinellia pungens Flowering Plants
Sagina maritima Flowering Plants
Salicornia patula Flowering Plants
Senecio auricula Flowering Plants
Sonchus crassifolius Flowering Plants
Spergularia marina Flowering Plants
Spergularia media Flowering Plants
Sphenopus divaricatus Flowering Plants
Stipa tenacissima Flowering Plants
Suaeda maritima Flowering Plants
Suaeda splendens Flowering Plants

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 E6.1 Mediterranean inland salt steppes same
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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