Heathland and shrubs

In Europe, heathlands and shrublands have been coevolving for millennia with human societies. They are semi-natural ecosystems traditionally maintained by low to intermediate management or disturbance events and they represent a distinctive set of European habitats for their biodiversity and their aesthetic and cultural values.

The majority of shrublands require management to conserve them. But often they lack appropriate conservation measures. In addition, they are threatened by atmospheric pollution, overgrazing, excessive wildfires, land use change and fragmentation. Climate change might make these ecosystems even more vulnerable.

This ecosystem type covers heathland, shrub and tundra (vegetation dominated by shrubs or dwarf shrubs), including moors and sclerophyllous vegetation. They are mostly secondary ecosystems with unfavourable natural conditions. From the 233 habitats types targeted by the Habitats Directive 36 belong to the group of heathlands and shrublands, which includes temperate and sclerophyllous, coastal and inland habitat types. Nearly 143 species listed in the Habitats Directive are linked to heath and shrub ecosystems. Of this, 8 % of reptiles and 21 % of mammals are threatened with extinction.

Figures from the EU 2010 Biodiversity Baseline

Further reading:

Selected links:

LIFE projects on heath and scrublands