Red List habitat classification > RLF - Heathland and scrub > RLF4.3 Macaronesian heath

Macaronesian heath

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLF4.3
Threat status
Europe Least Concern
EU Least Concern
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)

Summary

Shrub communities of Azores, Madeira and the Canaries dominated or co-dominated by Erica, Daboecia or Calluna that are either i) pioneer, ii) permanent in thin soils or iii) seral or hedge of mature macaronesian forests (i.e. G2.7, G2.3). Although Erica azorica, E. playcodon subsp. pl. and Erica canariensis (= E. arborea sensu auct. can. & mad. non L.) may participate in the G2.7, G2.3 forest habitats, we strictly circumscribe the F4.3 type to the i), ii) and iii) conditions adding also iv) being nanophanerophytic. See also the G2.7 factsheet. This is a heterogeneous habitat with relation to biogeography, composition, structure and ecological context. Two main subtypes should be considered:

1) Azorean heathland. Azorean heahlands include several variants. i) A community dominated by Daboecia azorica with Thymus caespititius sitrictly permanent in pyroclast or volcanic rock nutrient-poor acidic leptosols, in the supratemperate belt of the Pico mountain (Pico island); ii) permanent communities of Calluna vulgaris with Huperzia dentata in recent lava fields (sometimes with post-XV century age); iii) Erica azorica pioneer communities that colonize former patches of Juniperus brevifolia mesotemperate microforest (G3.9c – Culcito macrocarpae-Juniperenion brevifoliae suballiance) and that collapsed by gravitational disturbance, i.e. catastrophic soil mass movements removing the juniper microforest, its  blanket bog, the peat layer, and the placic (iron-pan) horizon. This heath is part of a ‘cyclic-climax’ dynamics that will lead again, by sucession, to juniper microforest and the above referred  geomorphology; iv) Thermotemperate, occasionally thermomediterranean (S. Miguel island)  low altitude, Erica azorica  with Morella faya (= Myrica faya) heathland seral of Picconia azorica mature woodlands (G2.3 – Myrico fayae-Pittosporion undulatti) or permanent community in leptosols and rock outcrops or younger lava fields. A special variant of the later case are the Corema azorica termophyllous heaths in lava-fields up to 20 m.s.m.

2) Madeiran and Canarian heathland. Several variants of the habitat can be recognized. i) Shrub , sometimes tall-shrub, communities dominated by Erica canariensis, E. platycodon subsp. platycodon or E. platycodon subsp. maderincola along with Morella faya, Ilex canariensis (and sometimes in Madeira Picconia excelsa) that are the tall hedge of the laurel /heathy  forests (G2.7, G23 – Ixantho-Laurion, Sibthorpio-Clethrion and Polysticho-Ericion) or many times their first seral stage (they are included in Myrico-Ericion in both archipelagos). Therefore, sometimes they include elements of the laurel forest (Laurus, Prunus, Viburnum, etc.). The Erica platycodon subsp. maderincola mantles of tree-heath forests in the summits of Madeira are, nevertheless, species-poor. In thin, rocky or dry soils it can have a permanent character. ii) Heath / broom communities that are, in general, seral stages of laurus /heathy forest, in concrete:-  the second seral stage following the Myrico-Ericion stage. In steep, near-vertical slopes, they are admitted to be permanent communities. Along with the Erica species mentioned in 2) of low height, it also includes Erica maderensis (summits of Madeira only) and several species of genus Teline, Adenocarpus, Argyranthemum, Echium, Chamaecytisus that can be co-dominant in the heath /broom variant (see characteristic species, flora).

Indicators of good quality:

As its biogeography and ecological is so diverse, there isn´t a unique set of bioindicators of degradation. Thus, on each habitat stance, the loss of characteristic set of bioindicators must be evaluated in comparison to well-conserved descriptions of it (published phytosociological tables, for instance). In general, poorer versions tend to be dominated by just one or two species, few characteristics, less elements of the laurel /heathy forest and more plants of grassy stages. Also, the presence of aliens tends to be greater. In the case of the Azores: Pittosporum undulatum, Clethra arborea, Melaleuca sp. pl., Metrosideros excelsa, Banksia integrifolia, Solanum mauritianum, Laurus azorica x nobilis, Hedychium gardneranum, Criptomeria japonica (shrubby), Acacia sp. pl.; in the case of Madeira and the Canaries: Ulex, Cytisus scoparius, Arundo, Acacia, Hackea, Callotropis, Opuntia, Ailanthus, Eucalyptus, etc..

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The situation of this type does not present any threat nor concern as far as disturbance regime does not change its current tendency and climate maintains its rainfall regime constant over the Macaronesian archipelagos. The conclusion therefore is Least Concern (LC).
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -

Confidence in the assessment

medium
Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Artificial planting on open ground (non-native trees)
  • Transportation and service corridors
    • Paths, tracks, cycling tracks
  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Dispersed habitation
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species
  • Climate change
    • Droughts and less precipitations

Habitat restoration potential

As a habitat linked to a quite high disturbance level, its recovery after disturbing episodes is relatively quick.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Increasing Increasing
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Increasing Increasing
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

For the habiat it is best to keep the human intervention at a moderate level of logging and low frequency burning. In this way succession towards forest is limited.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to forests and wooded habitats
    • Adapt forest management
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Legal protection of habitats and species
    • Manage landscape features

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)
Portugal Azores Present 963 Unknown Increasing
Canary Islands Present 149 Increasing Increasing
Madeira Present 963 Unknown Increasing
Savage Islands Present 963 Unknown Increasing
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 537850 120 1112
EU28+ 120 1112
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.
Conifers Juniperus brevifolia
Ferns Huperzia dentata
Ferns Huperzia suberecta
Ferns Oreopteris limbosperma
Flowering Plants Bunium brevifolium
Flowering Plants Calluna vulgaris
Flowering Plants Cedronella canariensis
Flowering Plants Clethra arborea
Flowering Plants Cytisus scoparius
Flowering Plants Daboecia azorica
Flowering Plants Echium candicans
Flowering Plants Erica azorica
Flowering Plants Euphorbia stygiana
Flowering Plants Hedychium gardneranum
Flowering Plants Hypericum foliosum
Flowering Plants Hypericum inodorum
Flowering Plants Ilex canariensis
Flowering Plants Laurus azorica
Flowering Plants Marcetella maderensis
Flowering Plants Myrica faya
Flowering Plants Picconia azorica
Flowering Plants Picconia excelsa
Flowering Plants Pittosporum undulatum
Flowering Plants Plantago malato-belizii
Flowering Plants Rubia agostinhoi
Flowering Plants Smilax canariensis
Flowering Plants Solanum mauritianum
Flowering Plants Thymus caespititius
Flowering Plants Vaccinium cylindraceum
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Juniperus brevifolia Conifers
Huperzia dentata Ferns
Huperzia suberecta Ferns
Oreopteris limbosperma Ferns
Bunium brevifolium Flowering Plants
Calluna vulgaris Flowering Plants
Cedronella canariensis Flowering Plants
Clethra arborea Flowering Plants
Cytisus scoparius Flowering Plants
Daboecia azorica Flowering Plants
Echium candicans Flowering Plants
Erica azorica Flowering Plants
Euphorbia stygiana Flowering Plants
Hedychium gardneranum Flowering Plants
Hypericum foliosum Flowering Plants
Hypericum inodorum Flowering Plants
Ilex canariensis Flowering Plants
Laurus azorica Flowering Plants
Marcetella maderensis Flowering Plants
Myrica faya Flowering Plants
Picconia azorica Flowering Plants
Picconia excelsa Flowering Plants
Pittosporum undulatum Flowering Plants
Plantago malato-belizii Flowering Plants
Rubia agostinhoi Flowering Plants
Smilax canariensis Flowering Plants
Solanum mauritianum Flowering Plants
Thymus caespititius Flowering Plants
Vaccinium cylindraceum 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 F4.3 Macaronesian heaths same
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