Potential impacts of climate change on the distributions and diversity patterns of European mammals
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts an increase in global temperatures of between 1.4°C and 5.8°C during the 21st century, as a result of elevated CO 2 levels. Using bioclimatic envelope models, we evaluate the potential impact of climate change on the distributions and species richness of 120 native terrestrial non-volant European mammals under two of IPCC’s future climatic scenarios. Assuming unlimited and no migration, respectively, our model predicts that 1% or 5–9% of European mammals risk extinction, while 32–46% or 70–78% may be severely threatened (lose > 30% of their current distribution) under the two scenarios. Under the no migration assumption endemic species were predicted to be strongly negatively affected by future climatic changes, while widely distributed species would be more mildly affected. Finally, potential mammalian species richness is predicted to become dramatically reduced in the Mediterranean region but increase towards the northeast and for higher elevations. Bioclimatic envelope models do not account for non-climatic factors such as land-use, biotic interactions, human interference, dispersal or history, and our results should therefore be seen as first approximations of the potential magnitude of future climatic changes.
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This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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