Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
Climate warming affects the life-cycles of all animal species. Species adapted to warmer temperatures or dryer conditions may benefit from this change, whereas cold-adapted species may encounter increasing pressure on their life-cycles. Mild winters and the earlier onset of spring allow for an earlier onset of reproduction and, in some species, the development of extra generations during the year. In the case of a phenological decoupling between interacting species in an ecosystem (e.g. reduced pressure from parasitoids and predators), certain populations may reach very high abundances that attain orexceed damage thresholds in managed ecosystems (e.g. bark beetles in conifer forests). Desynchronisation of phenological events may also directly reduce fitness, for example if shortened hibernation times deteriorate body condition or if interactions between herbivores and host plants are lost. It may also negatively affect ecosystem services such as pollination. There is robust evidence that generalist species with high adaptive capacity are favoured, whereas specialist species will be mostly affected negatively.
- DEFRA, 2007. Conserving biodiversity in a changing climate Guidance on building capacity to adapt. DEFRA, UK.
- European Commission (2011) Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020. European Commission (2011) Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020.
- Changes in egg-laying dates of the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca)
Policy context and targets
In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The White Paper stresses the need to improve the knowledge base and to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. The European Commission will be publishing an EU Adaptation Strategy in 2013. A number of Member States have already taken action, and several have prepared national adaptation plans.
The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/) to share knowledge on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health; on relevant research; on EU, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans; and on adaptation case studies.
No targets have been specified.
Related policy documents
Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
DG Climate Action: What is the EU doing about climate change?
Activities of the EU regarding climate change (both mitigation and adaptation)
White paper - Adapting to climate change: towards a European framework for action
EU framework for adaptation to climate change, leading to a comprehensive EU adaptation strategy by 2013
Key policy question
How is climate change affecting the seasonal cycle of animals in Europe?
Methodology for indicator calculation
The trend in laying date between 1980 and 2004 for most of the European breeding areas is simulated by combining geographical variation in mean laying date, the effect of temperature on laying date, and spatial variation in temperature change. Breeding dates of pied flycatchers were taken from the review by Sanz (1997), supplemented with some data from Russia (Both et al. 2004). Only data from latitudes higher than 48°N were used.
Methodology for gap filling
- Both, C. and Marvelde, L. (2007) Climate change and timing of avian breeding and migration throughout Europe. Climate Research 35, 93–105. doi:10.3354/cr00716
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
Data sources in latest figures
Data sets uncertainty
Generally, observations for popular groups such as vascular plants, birds, other terrestrial vertebrates and butterflies are much better than for less conspicuous and less popular species. Similarly, due to extensive existing networks, a long tradition and better means of detection and rapid responses of the organisms to changes, knowledge on phenological changes are better observed and recorded than range shifts. Projections of climate change impacts on phenology rely crucially on the understanding of current processes and responses. For most cases, only a few years of data are available and do not cover the entire area of the EU but are restricted to certain well monitored countries with a long tradition in the involvement of citizen scientists. Based on these short time series, the determination of impacts and their interpretation thus has to rely on assumptions, and achieving a qualitative understanding of species’ responses is more robust than their quantification. One of the greatest unknowns is how quickly and closely species will alter their phenology in accordance to a changing climatic regime. Even experimental studies seem to be of little help, since they notoriously tend to underestimate the effects of climate change on changes in phenology.
Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012 (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/climate-impacts-and-vulnerability-2012/)
No uncertainty has been specified
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoHans-Martin Füssel
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A – What is happening to the environment and to humans?)