5110 Stable xerothermophilous formations with Buxus sempervirens on rock slopes (Berberidion p.p.)
Description and ecological characteristics
This habitat type comprises scrub dominated by box Buxus sempervirens on calcareous soils. Semi-natural and natural box scrub is extremely rare in the UK. At only one site, Box Hill in Surrey, does the scrub form a stable (i.e. persistent) natural or near-natural community, as it is developed on steep, chalk slopes, where other tree species are unable to grow to mature size. At the other two sites, in Gloucestershire and Buckinghamshire, box occurs as seral scrub gradually reverting to woodland where unmanaged and so does not represent a stable formation.
European status and distribution
This habitat is recorded from most EU Member States in central and southern Europe, but is absent from northern Europe.
UK status and distribution
Stable xerothermophilous formations with Buxus sempervirens on rock slopes is known from only a single site in the UK.
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Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment
Surrey, East and West Sussex
Mole Gap in south-east England supports the only area of stable box scrub in the UK, on steep chalk slopes where the River Mole has cut into the North Downs Escarpment, creating the Mole Gap. Here natural erosion maintains the open conditions required for the survival of this habitat type. The site therefore supports a stable formation and has good conservation of habitat structure and function.
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