Red List habitat classification > RLH - Sparsely vegetated habitats > RLH6.1 Mediterranean and temperate volcanic field

Mediterranean and temperate volcanic field

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLH6.1
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)


The habitat includes permanent habitats occurring on the volcanic areas of the Mediterranean and Macaronesian regions, and - very rarely - in temperate parts of Europe. The plant communities of such environments are typically characterized by pioneer, floristically poor and endemic-rich bio-coenoses. Soils are very primitive, eroded and, as such, they reflect with unusual fidelity the chemical composition of the bedrock. The severe ecological conditions hamper the development of soils, and hence the habitat usually looks very stony, with a feeble accumulation of finer particles wherever conditions become slightly better.

Intense solar radiation, remarkable daily temperature variations, long lasting snow-cover, and mechanical disturbances caused by strong winds are usual conditions for this habitat type. Vegetation typically is scattered and discontinuous with very low cover values (<25%), chiefly dominated by few, relic vascular plants. Large areas are completely unvegetated or only occupied by a cryptogamic vegetation. The most frequent vascular plants are Cerastium tomentosum, Anthemis aetnensis, Scleranthus vulcanicus, Rumex aetnensis, Senecio aethnensis, Saponaria sicula, Viola cheirantifolia, Silene nocteolens, and Argyranthemum tenerifae. Bryophytes (e.g. Isopterygium tenerum, Campylopus pilifer, C. introflexus, Calymperes erosum, etc.) and lichens (e.g. Stereocaulon vesuvianum, Xanthoparmelia conspersa, etc.) are widely spread.

These habitats are found on recently deposited volcanic scoriae (tephra), lava flows or orifices in volcanic areas emitting hot gases and vapours of Italy (Tuscany, Sicily, Latium and Campania), and the Canary Islands. At lower altitudes or where ecological conditions are more suitable, they are dynamically connected with the hemicrypto-chamaephytic plant communities dominated by dwarf, thorny, cushion-like species and/or grasses. Furthermore, they may be contiguous to the phanaerophytic communities chiefly dominated by conifers (e.g. Pinus sp. pl., Juniperus sp. pl., etc.). The great phytogeographical and scientific value of these habitats is given by the high number of relic, mostly endemic, taxa. Outside the Mediterranean and Macaronesian region, some marginal (unvegetated) sites are found in the temperate parts of Europe, like in Romania. Subarctic volcanic features on Iceland are considered under habitat H5.1c.

Indicators of quality:

Natural vegetation chiefly occurring in hostile areas not or slightly affected by human activities, as touristic facilities (e.g. skiing areas, etc.). It is generally rather stable, but local surface area variations linked to the volcanic activity may occur.

Indicators of good quality are:

  • occurrence of rare, endemic and phyto-geographically significant plants
  • no disturbance by hiking, skiing activities, roads, etc.
  • contacts with other natural habitats such as cliffs, mountain woodlands, etc.

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

This habitat is assessed as Least Concern (LC) in view of its stable trend in quantity, as there have been no declines over the last 50 years. Past, historical or future trends in quality cannot be evaluated, but no indication of negative trend is explicitly indicated.
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

  • Mining, extraction of materials and energy production
    • Geothermal power production
  • Transportation and service corridors
    • Roads, motorways
    • Car parcs and parking areas
  • Urbanisation, residential and commercial development
    • Urbanised areas, human habitation
    • Discontinuous urbanisation
    • Dispersed habitation
  • Geological events, natural catastrophes
    • Volcanic activity

Habitat restoration potential

Recover of this habitat is always possible, provided that the natural geo-morphological processes are not hampered.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Unknown Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

The best management for this highly natural habitat is to leave it simply untouched, just avoiding any human interference with its natural processes. Natural succession, if any, cannot be seen as a threat. Increased public awareness about the biological relevance of such apparently inhospitable and sterile environments is important in order to make more effective conservation efforts.

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
    • Establishing wilderness areas/allowing succession
    • Legal protection of habitats and species
    • Manage landscape features
  • Measures related to hunting, taking and fishing and species management
    • Specific single species or species group management measures


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)
Italy mainland Present 168 Unknown Unknown
Sicily Present 168 Unknown Unknown
Portugal mainland Present 2 Unknown Stable
Canary Islands Present 43 Stable Unknown
Portugal Azores Present 2 Unknown Stable
Madeira Uncertain 2 Unknown Stable
Savage Islands Uncertain 2 Unknown Stable
Romania Present marginal 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 1540950 28 214 none
EU28+ 28 214 none
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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