Red List habitat classification > RL - Marine habitats > RLBAL - Baltic > BAL55 Sparse or no macrofaunal communities in Baltic upper circalittoral sand

Sparse or no macrofaunal communities in Baltic upper circalittoral sand

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code BAL55
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 Baltic Sea benthic habitat occurs in the aphotic zone where there is least 90% coverage of sand according to the HELCOM HUB classification.  Macrofauna, epifauna and infauna are sparse or absent. It is typically present below depths of 30m and occurs in high energy exposure areas. One associated biotope has been identified: ‘Baltic aphotic sand dominated by meiofauna’ (AB.J4U1). This occurs in all wave exposure classes and is identified by a large representation of meiofauna (for example Oligochaeta, Ostracoda, Nematoda, Copepoda), which constitutes at least 50% of the biomass. In the Gulf of Bothnia nectobenthic Mysidae can be associated with the biotope, and Mysidae can also appear in benthic grab-samples.

Indicators of quality: 

Both biotic and abiotic indicators have been used to describe marine habitat quality. These include: the presence of characteristic species as well as those which are sensitive to the pressures the habitat may face; water quality parameters; levels of exposure to particular pressure, and more integrated indices which describe habitat structure and function, such as trophic index, or successional stages of development in habitats that have a natural cycle of change overtime. There are no commonly agreed indicators of quality for this habitat, although particular parameters may have been set in certain situations e.g. protected features within Natura 2000 sites, where reference values have been determined and applied on a location-specific basis. 

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

The quantity and quality of this habitat is considered to have been stable over the last 50 years and no change is expected in the near future. The overall assessment for this EUNIS level 4 habitat has been based on the HELCOM (2013) assessments for the associated HELCOM HUB biotopes. Draft assessments were derived using a weighted approach whereby the HELCOM assessment outcomes were assigned a score. This was averaged across the relevant biotopes. The outcomes were reviewed by Baltic experts to reach a final conclusion. HELCOM (2013) assessed this habitat (AB.J4U1) as Least Concern (A1). There is no additional data or information to update the assessment outcome past the HELCOM 2013 assessment. The current expert opinion is therefore an assessment of Least Concern for both the EU 28 and EU 28+.
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

  • Pollution
    • Pollution to surface waters (limnic, terrestrial, marine & brackish)
    • Nutrient enrichment (N, P, organic matter)
  • Natural System modifications
    • Human induced changes in hydraulic conditions
    • Removal of sediments (mud...)
    • Dredging/ Removal of limnic sediments
    • Estuarine and coastal dredging
    • Extraction of sea-floor and subsoil minerals (e.g. sand, gravel, rock, oil, gas)
    • Change of sea-floor substrate
    • Modification of hydrographic functioning, general
    • Alteration of sea-floor/ Water body morphology
    • Siltation rate changes, dumping, depositing of dredged deposits
    • Dumping, depositing of dredged deposits
    • Other siltation rate changes
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions
    • Sea-level changes
    • Changes in biotic conditions
    • Habitat shifting and alteration

Habitat restoration potential


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 conservation or management measures have been identified specifically for this habitat, however turbidity monitoring would be beneficial to detect any changes in the quality.

List of conservation and management needs

  • No measures
    • Measures needed, but not implemented


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

Seas Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Baltic Proper Present Unknown Stable Stable
Belt Sea
Gulf of Bothnia
Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Riga
The Sound

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 >50,000 >50 Unknown Based on known presence in all the Baltic sub-basins and expert opinion.
EU28+ >50 Unknown Based on known presence in all the Baltic sub-basins and expert opinion.
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)
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1050 Copenhagen K
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