Red List habitat classification > RLF - Heathland and scrub > RLF7.3 Eastern Mediterranean spiny heath (phrygana)

Eastern Mediterranean spiny heath (phrygana)

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLF7.3
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)


This habitat includes low, thorny and chamaephytic communities of hemispherical shrubs, widespread at low and middle altitudes in the eastern Mediterranean and Anatolian regions. These phrygana communities occur at the coastal thermo-, meso- and the supra-Mediterranean zones of the Aegean islands, of mainland Greece and the Ionian islands, of coastal Anatolia and Crete (up to 1200 m a.s.l.), and are much more widespread and diverse than the western Mediterranean spiny shrub communities (F7.1-2). The Sarcopoterium spinosum-dominated communities, by far the commonest phrygana facies, are widespread in the Aegean archipelagos and Crete, with local outposts in continental Greece, the Ionian islands and coastal Anatolia. In this habitat are also included varied communities of supra- and oro-Mediterranean levels of Crete resulting from the broad contact between phryganas and hedgehog-heaths, with Euphorbia acanthothamnos, Verbascum spinosum, Berberis cretica, Phlomis cretica, Satureja thymbra, Sideritis syriaca, Hypericum empetrifolium, Origanum microphyllum, Micromeria juliana, Helichrysum italicum subsp. microphyllum, Genista acanthoclada and Astragalus angustifolius. Here are also included phrygana communities rich in Cistus, Erica and Genista species which  occur on calcareous (Hyperico empetrifolii-Micromerion graecae, Micromerion julianae, Helichryso sanguinei-Origanion syriaci), as well as on non-calcareous substrates (Helichryso barrelieri-Phagnalion graeci, Hyperico olympici-Cistion cretici, Helichryso sanguinei-Origanion syriaci), such as granite, gneiss and phyllitic schists, on serpentine, on hard and soft marls, on volcanic soils, and on sand. The distribution range of the Helichryso barrelieri-Phagnalion graeci includes Peloponnesus and Crete, the Ionian and the Aegean sides of the Greek mainland, the Central and South Aegean islands and the Aegean coast of Anatolia northward to approx. 39o N (Barbero & Quezel 1989, Mucina et al. 2009), i.e. a region where vegetation linked to the thermo-mediterranean belt is widely distributed (Quezel & Barbero 1985), although the communities of the alliance are not strictly limited to low altitudes (also vegetation relevés from the Pilion peninsula middle altitudes are placed in the Helichryso barrelieri-Phagnalion graeci). The distribution range of the Helichryso sanguinei-Origanion syriaci includes Cyprus, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, where it occurs on calcareous and marl substrates as well as on serpentines and metamorphic substrates, at altitudes ranging from the sea level to 1200 m (thermo-, meso- and supra- Mediterranean vegetation belts). The distribution range of the Hyperico olympici-Cistion cretici and the Micromerion julianae includes Northern Greece (Central Macedonia, Thrace), Central Greece (Thessaly), where the phrygana communities occur on non-calcareous and calcareous substrates respectively. Included here are also the thorny cushion communities of the Thracian wooded steppe zone enclaved between the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean, with Sarcopoterium spinosum and Astragalus thracicus. These are distributed in northeastern Greece and Turkey-in-Europe, with local representatives in the xerothermic oak belt of the hills and rim of the Northern Thracian plain (East Rumelian plain) of southeastern Bulgaria, in particular, in the Bakadzicita hills of the Yambol Tundzja basin and in the foothills of the eastern Rhodopes. Finally, the cushion-forming thermo-mediterranean summer-deciduous phrygana communities of Cyprus are assigned to the Sarcopoterio spinosi-Genistion fasselatae alliance. They are mostly characteristic of the Cyprian central plains (thermo- and meso- Mediterranean altitudinal levels: 0-800 m a.s.l.), with a semi-steppic batha appearance (Irano-Turanian affinities) formed by Sarcopoterium spinosum, Thymbra capitata, Lithodora hispidula, Onosma fruticosum, Galium suberosum. They are distributed on sandy and loamy soils. This habitat can be of primary origin or having a climax character especially in the islands of the Aegean, as well as in the coastal zones of Anatolia, Cyprus, Syria and Lebanon. It is often the result of retrogressive succession of evergreen sclerophyllous vegetation.

Indicators of quality

  • Low levels of soil compactness
  • Absence of active secondary succession
  • Low degree of shrub and grass encroachment
  • Mosaics of the phyrgana communities with screes, rocks, boulders
  • Patchiness of shrubs with herbs/grasses, and potentially arborescent shrubs (e.g. Pistacia lentiscus, Quercus coccifera, Juniperus phoenicea) or single trees
  • Natural, undisturbed relief
  • Absence or low cover (<5%) of invasive and/or ruderal species

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat includes some of the most species rich plant communities of the Mediterranean basin and is assessed at the Least Concern status. This is because it has an extensive distribution in the Eastern Mediterranean and no decline has been recorded to the extent and the quality characteristics of the habitat during the last 50 years. Furthermore, due to the socio-economic changes of the last 50 years, the trend in quality and quantity is increasing and is predicted that also the future trend will be increasing.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Agriculture
    • Grazing
    • Intensive grazing
  • Transportation and service corridors
    • Roads, paths and railroads
  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Urbanised areas, human habitation
  • Natural biotic and abiotic processes (without catastrophes)
    • Biocenotic evolution, succession
    • Species composition change (succession)
  • Geological events, natural catastrophes
    • Fire (natural)

Habitat restoration potential

Depending on the dynamics of the different phyrgana communities assigned to this habitat along its East Mediterranean distribution, different restoration/recovery times are expected. Some phrygana communities represent initial but duarable stages within the secondary succession of abandoned fields, other communities form part of a series of post-fire regeneration stages of woodland and rangeland vegetation, and finally other communities in thermo- and meso-Mediterranean regions such as southern Greece and the Aegean (as well as in the coastal zones of Anatolia, Cyprus, Syria and Lebanon), mature phrygana occur which are considered to represent at least partly primary natural ecosystems. The natural recovery of the habitat after complete deterioration or destruction is rapid and no management measures are needed.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Increasing Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Increasing Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

No conservation management measures have been applied to the phrygana vegetation along its distribution in the Eastern Mediterannean. Different phrygana vegetation communities are established after the abandonment of cultivated fields (and depending on the crop, different species are predominating).

List of conservation and management needs

  • No measures
    • No measures needed for the conservation of the habitat/species
  • Measures related to agriculture and open habitats
    • Maintaining grasslands and other open habitats
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Manage landscape features


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)
Bulgaria Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Cyprus Present 192 Stable Stable
Greece (mainland and other islands) Present 7910 Stable Increasing
Crete Present 7910 Stable Increasing
East Aegean Present 7910 Stable Increasing
Italy mainland Present 16.4 Stable Decreasing
Sicily Present 16.4 Stable Decreasing
Malta Present 1 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)
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Present Unknown Unknown Unknown
Serbia Present Unknown Unknown Unknown

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 873500 1147 8186 The current estimated total area is based only on the territorial data provided and we have also added the current area given for the Annex I habitat type 5420 Malta.
EU28+ 1148 8186 No quantitative data exist for addiitonal EU 28+ countries.
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
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