Red List habitat classification > RLG - Forests > RLG2.5a South-Aegean Phoenix grove

South-Aegean Phoenix grove

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLG2.5a
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 woods, in contact with the underground water table, often riparian, formed by the palm tree Phoenix theophrasti, found on the island of Crete and south-western Anatolia. The majority of occurrences of Phoenix theophrasti in Crete, and all existing records made outside Crete and southwest Turkey, are represented only by scattered or isolated trees. Within the EU, Crete holds the only palm groves that are representative for the habitat type. Only two sites are known in Crete with several hundreds of trees: Vai and Preveli, the former is the most extensive (ca. 20 ha). The tertiary relict Phoenix theophrasti woods of Crete and south-western Anatolia (Datça peninsula) are restricted to damp, mostly sandy coastal valleys below 250 m; here are included: a) the most extensive grove in Crete, the forest of Vai in the east of the island, characterized by the luxuriant palm growth, accompanied by a thick shrubby undergrowth rich in Nerium oleander, and b) a few other smaller coastal groves, notably on the south coast of the prefecture of Rethimnon. The westernmost occurrence is in southwest Crete, on coastal plains south of the monastery of Chrisoskalitissa. Phoenix theophrasti trees are known also from some Greek islands (Crete, Karpathos, Kos, Rodhos, Thira, Nisyros, Amorgos) and from the Turkish southeast Aegean sites of Datça and Kumluca-Karaöz, with additional populations in Bodrum-Gölköy, all in southwest Anatolia. In the Aegean palm groves, Phoenix theophrasti is a rather rare constituent of the Aegean Nerio-Tamaricetea vegetation and is restricted to semiarid climate (generally with 400-600 mm annual precipitation). The habitat may be either riparian (with the palm forming temporarily inundated gallery forest along permanent fresh or brackish waters), or related to seasonally or episodically flooded coastal valleys. In the latter, the palm trees are generally more scattered, and they may be restricted to rocky low slopes. Underground water level is high and sufficiently permanent to control habitat ecology and species combination. The soils are frequently sandy but the habitat type does not include mobile dunes. The vegetation belongs to the alliance Rubo sancti-Nerion oleandri but more isolated trees or clusters are surrounded by Pistacio-Rhamnetalia or Cisto-Micromerietalia vegetation. Associated of Phoenix theophrasti are species of wet or semiwet habitats, as well as species with a wider ecological range (see the list of characteristic species below).

Indicators of quality:

  • No forest exploitations in the majority of the area covered by the habitat
  • Intact natural hydrology
  • Natural composition of canopy
  • Structural diversity/ complexity with (semi)natural age structure or completeness of layers
  • Typical flora and fauna composition of the region
  • Presence of old trees and a variety of dead wood (lying or standing) and the associated flora, fauna and fungi
  • Presence of natural disturbance such as treefall openings with natural regeneration
  • Long historical continuity (ancient woodland) with high species diversity
  • Absence of non-native species in all layers (flora & fauna)
  • No signs of eutrophication or pollution

The indicators of good quality are primarily related to the maintenance of the natural structure of the Phoenix theophrasti woods. The presence of rejuvenation of Phoenix theophrasti in all sites of its occurrence, as well as the undisturbed soil (no significant trampling or erosion), the natural relief, the stratified stands (tree, shrub, herb layer present), the closed canopy of Phoenix theophrasti woods ≥25% and Phoenix individuals mostly higher than 3 m are indicators that the structure and functions of the habitat are in favourable conservation status to a significant part of its distribution. Its adjacency to, or its interdigitation with Mediterranean salt meadows of the Juncetalia maritimi (1410 - Annex I of the Dir. 92/43/EEC), and/or Mediterranean tall humid herb grasslands of the Molinio-Holoschoenion (6420 -Annex I of the Dir. 92/43/EEC) are also considered as indicators related to the long-term conservation of the habitat.

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The habitat, although having a very restricted range and area, is assessed at the Least Concern status, because no decline has been recorded to the extent and the quality characteristics of the habitat over the last 50 years and no threats are foreseen for the near future.
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

  • Sylviculture, forestry
    • Grazing in forests/ woodland
  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Trampling, overuse
  • Natural System modifications
    • Burning down
    • Groundwater abstractions for agriculture

Habitat restoration potential

After fire: the natural regeneration of the Phoenix theophrasti woodland stands at the Preveli site (fire in 2005), is a clear evidence on the sucess of the species to natural regeneration; currently the forest stands are completely restored 10 years after the fire. In any case, although to some degree Phoenix theophrasti is fire-tolerant, the frequent or too intensive fires represent a potential threat to the palm trees. Water abstraction: We have no evidence on the recovering capacity of Phoenix theophrasti, after high water abstraction for irrigation purposes, since the manipulation of ground-water for irrigation purposes is the most significant potential threat for this habitat type. The period given for regeneration is related only to the fire. Longer periods would be necessary after water abstraction and through intervention.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

No specific conservation measures are performed. The core area of the largest Greek Phoenix population at Vai was fenced in 1983; monitoring using permanent plots was established recently within the forest area of Vai and Chrysoskalitissa. Permanently high ground-water level has to be assured in all sites but, first of all, ground-water level measures need to be taken as part of the regular monitoring. In the most important sites of the present habitat type, Vai and Preveli, which are frequented by a considerable, and increasing, number of tourists, more environmental and biological information should be offered. Fencing against grazing domestic animals should be more effective. Eucalyptus trees are to be removed; wild camping in the stand and defecation has to be controlled. Some palms in Preveli and elsewhere show traces of fire. Manipulation of groundwater should be prohibited in all sites. Monitoring is required both for the control of vitality and seedling and juvenile establishment, and of ground-water level. Reliable and reproducible data on the size of the area and the population size need to be taken as baseline information for monitoring. The population area and its vicinity require regular monitoring. Annual surveys are indispensable and possible factors that may press and threat the populations need to be documented.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to forests and wooded habitats
    • Restoring/Improving forest habitats
  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Managing water abstraction
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Legal protection of habitats and species


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)
Crete Present 1.3 Stable Stable
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 13600 31 1.3
EU28+ 31 1.3
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)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100