Red List habitat classification > RLF - Heathland and scrub > RLF5.5 Thermomediterranean scrub

Thermomediterranean scrub

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLF5.5
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

Low to medium-sized scrub in the arid and semiarid South Mediterranean areas in southeast Spain, south Sicily, the southern Aegean islands, and south Cyprus, further in lowland Mediterranean North Africa and the Near East. They often form dense or sometimes more widely spaced, frequently spiny shrub patches. Open ground in between supports numerous xerophilous herbaceous plants and subshrubs. Sclerophyllous species are dominant (e.g., Pistacia lentiscus, Periploca angustifolia) as well as deciduous shrubs (e.g., Zizyphus lotus) and dwarf palms (Chamaerops humilis). Depending on the region and aspect of the vegetation, formations have been referred to as retamal (dominated by broom shrubs; mainly covered by habitat F3.1c), palmetto (dwarf palm), tomillar (dominated by needle-leaved or otherwise microphyllous Labiatae) or garrigue (dominated by Cistus, Pistacia and other shrubs). Most types of thermo-Mediterranean arid scrub are 2-3 metres tall, and they occur abundantly along the arid to semiarid North African Mediterranean coasts, being represented only in a few areas in Europe. Woodlands of Tetraclinis and Ziziphus reach 5-6 m.

Thermo-Mediterranean arid scrub occurs on a wide variety of bedrock and exclusively on dry soils. Rocky calcareous or dolomitic lithosols, sandy soils or eroded marly, gypsum and argillite sites are most common. On marly and argillaceous soils it is often affected by soil flow-off. The scrub is frequently wind-exposed, sometimes moderately halophytic if on sea cliff tops. Some subtypes of thermo-Mediterranean scrub may be replaced by woodland in the course of succession but scrub of the most arid and most exposed sites tends to be stable under current conditions and is considered natural or seminatural vegetation, particularly in SE Spain (Murciano-Almeriense province). Some stands are hardly accessible and thus only little affected by human influence. Many of the stands are however browsed by domestic animals (goats), sometimes severely.

Due to the extremely variable species composition and wide geographical range, thermo-Mediterranean scrub forms numerous plant associations and alliances and is part of several phytosociological classes. Dominant plants are Periploca angustifolia, Tetraclinis articulatus, Gymnosporia europaea and Zizyphus lotus, but in all the cases the shrubland is extremely dense, inextricable and spiny, being practically impenetrable. It produces abundant organic matter which favors the soil formation, being a valuable habitat type for soil protection and against erosion. Among the widespread plant communities occurring in this habitat are some of those dominated by Pistacia lentiscus (throughout the South Mediterranean), and most stands of Euphorbia dendroides (from the Balearic Islands to the East Mediterranean) and Periploca angustifolia (from Spain and Northwest Africa to the South Aegean). Many other habitat-specific shrubs, dominant or not, are restricted to single islands or island groups, such as Euphorbia melitensis dwarf shrublands on Malta, Cytisus aeolicus in Sicily, Genista ephedroides in Sardinia and Genista majorica on the Balearic island of Mallorca.

Indicators of good quality:

  • Absence of greenhouse farming
  • No construction or building works, garbage dumping, solar panels, traffic, or other serious habitat impact.
  • No evidence of overgrazing
  • Absence of alien species such as Oxalis pes-caprae (the latter recognizable above ground only in early spring)

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat has been assessed to be Vulnerable (VU) due to the decline reported from its main area in Spain. The areas reported from Sicily are also declining, while Cyprus accounts for a stable trend. These latter areas are smaller, but represent insular versions of this habitat which need special conservation concern, because of the phytogeographical and evolutionary significance. This habitat deserves a clear conservation effort in the sense of implementing a sound conservation policy in order to preserve its biodiversity.
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Vulnerable A1

Confidence in the assessment

medium
Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Non intensive grazing
  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Artificial planting on open ground (non-native trees)
  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Urbanised areas, human habitation
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Sport and leisure structures

Habitat restoration potential

The recovery speed of these shrublands is slow due to the climatic arid or semi-arid conditions of the area, provided sufficient period of time without disturbance taking place.

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

Preventing from being urbanized and occupied by intensive agriculture resorts (greenhouses). Preventing from pine and eucalypt plantations. If a well dveloped type is desired, then no disturbance should be assured, particularly repeated fires, firewood extraction and grazing. Including in protected areas.

List of conservation and management needs

  • 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)
Cyprus Present 2.5 Increasing Increasing
Spain mainland Present 89 Decreasing Decreasing
Balearic Islands Present 89 Decreasing Decreasing
Sicily Present 23 - -
Greece (mainland and other islands) Uncertain Unknown Unknown Unknown
East Aegean Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
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 740100 140 114 Area in Malta and Greece unknown
EU28+ 140 114 Area in Malta and Greece unknown
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 Pinus halepensis
Flowering Plants Ampelodesmos mauritanicus
Flowering Plants Asparagus horridus
Flowering Plants Calicotome intermedia
Flowering Plants Chamaerops humilis
Flowering Plants Cytisus aeolicus
Flowering Plants Euphorbia dendroides
Flowering Plants Euphorbia melitensis
Flowering Plants Genista ephedroides
Flowering Plants Osyris quadripartita
Flowering Plants Oxalis pes-caprae
Flowering Plants Periploca angustifolia
Flowering Plants Pistacia lentiscus
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Pinus halepensis Conifers
Ampelodesmos mauritanicus Flowering Plants
Asparagus horridus Flowering Plants
Calicotome intermedia Flowering Plants
Chamaerops humilis Flowering Plants
Cytisus aeolicus Flowering Plants
Euphorbia dendroides Flowering Plants
Euphorbia melitensis Flowering Plants
Genista ephedroides Flowering Plants
Osyris quadripartita Flowering Plants
Oxalis pes-caprae Flowering Plants
Periploca angustifolia Flowering Plants
Pistacia lentiscus 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 F5.5 Thermo-Mediterranean scrub same
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