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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Distribution of animal species

Distribution of animal species

Note: new version is available!
Topics: ,

Update planned for November 2012


Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Justification for indicator selection

The northward shift in distribution of animal species has a range of potential consequences for agriculture (livestock and crops), human health, as well as for biodiversity and its conservation (Sparks et al., 2007). The distribution of many animal species will be particularly affected by climate change if landscape fragmentation impedes their movement to more suitable climatic conditions. This will also affect the ability of Europe to meet its biodiversity target (above). In addition, warmer conditions, particularly warmers winters, are allowing the establishment of new pest species such as the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis), American bollworm (Heliothis armigera), gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) and some migratory moths and butterflies. Health risks associated with vector-borne diseases are linked to invasions of species such as ticks and mosquitoes.

Scientific references:

  • References Araújo, M. B.; Thuiller, W. and Pearson, R. G., 2006. Climate warming and the decline of amphibians and reptiles in Europe. Journal of Biogeography 33: 1712-1728. Bakkenes, M., 2007. Produced for the EEA by Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL),  based on data of the ALARM project ( ). Gregory, R. D.; Willis, S. G.; Jiguet, F.; Voríšek, P.; Klvaňová, A.; van Strien, A.; Huntley, B.; Collingham, Y. C.; Couvet, D. and Green, R. E., 2008. An indicator of the impact of climatic change on European bird populations (in press). Hickling, R.; Roy, D. B.; Hill, J. K.; Fox, R. and Thomas, C. D., 2006. The distributions of a wide range of taxonomic groups are expanding polewards. Global Change Biology 12: 450-455. Huntley, B. et al., 2008. A Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. IPCC, 2007. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Parry, M. L.; Canziani, O. F.; Palutikof, J. P.; van der Linden, P. J. and Hanson, C. E. (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. Lemoine N.; Schaefer, H. C. and Böhning-Gaese, K., 2007. Species richness of migratory birds is influenced by global climate change. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 16 (1): 55-64. Levinsky, I.; Skov, F.; Svenning, J. and Rahbek, C., 2007. Potential impacts of climate change on the distributions and diversity patterns of European mammals. Biodiversity and Conservation 16 (13): 3803-3816. Ott, J., 2007. The expansion of Crocothemis erythraea (Brullé, 1832) in Germany -- an indicator of climatic changes. Odonata: Biology of Dragonflies. Tyagi, B.K. (ed.) Scientific Publishers (India) pp. 201- 22. Parmesan, C.; Ryrholm, N.; Stefanescu, C.; Hill, J. K.; Thomas, C. D.; Descimon, H.; Huntley, B.; Kaila, L.; Kullberg, J.; Tammaru, T.; Tennent, W. J.; Thomas, J. A. and Warren, M., 1999. Poleward shifts in geographical ranges of butterfly species associated with regional warming. Nature 399: 579-83. Sparks, T. H.; Dennis, R. L. H.; Croxton, P. J.; Cade, M.; 2007 Increased migration of Lepidoptera linked to climate change. European Journal of Entomology 104: 139-143. Thuiller, W.; Lavorel, S.; Araújo, M. B.; Sykesand, M. T. and Prentice, I. C., 2005. Climate change threatens plant diversity in Europe. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences US 102: 8245-8250. UKCIP, 2005. UK Climate Impacts Programme. . Warren, M. S.; Hill, J. K.; Thomas, J. A.; Asher, J.; Fox, R.; Huntley, B.; Roy, D. B.; Telfer, M. G.; Jeffcoate, S.; Harding, P.; Jeffcoate, G.; Willis, S. G.; Greatorex-Davies, J. N.; Moss, D. and Thomas, C. D., 2001. Rapid response of British butterflies to opposing forces of climate and habitat change. Nature 414: 65-69. Wilson, R. J.; Gutierrez, D.; Gutierrez, J.; Martinez, D.; Agudo, R. and Monserrat, V. J., 2005. Changes to the elevational limits and extent of species ranges associated with climate change. Ecology Letters 8: 1138-1146.  

Indicator definition

  • Latitudinal shifts in northern range margins in the United Kingdom for selected groups of animal species over the past 40 years
  • Impact of climate change on populations of European birds, 1980-2005
  • Projected impact of climate change on the potential distribution of reptiles and amphibians in 2050


Policy context and targets

Context description

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 aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see:


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Key policy question

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Data sets uncertainty

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

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.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Hans-Martin Füssel


Joint Research Centre (JRC)
European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CLIM 024
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Climate change Climate change


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DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Geographical coverage

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