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

Distribution and abundance of animal species

Indicator Specification Created 09 Nov 2012 Published 20 Nov 2012 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 06:59 PM
Indicator codes: CLIM 024

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)


Justification for indicator selection

Shifts in the distribution of animal species can have consequences for agriculture (livestock and crops), human health, and for biodiversity and its conservation and ecosystems functions and services. The distribution of many animal species will be particularly affected by climate change if habitat fragmentation impedes their movement to more suitable climatic conditions. Northward and uphill movements are taking place two to three times faster than reported earlier. An increased extinction risk compared to previous findings is predicted, and is supported by observed responses to climate change. A ‘biotic homogenisation’ of specific ecological communities of European flora and fauna (i.e. losing regional uniqueness and characteristics) is projected.

Scientific references

Indicator definition

  • Observed latitudinal shifts of four species groups over 25 years in Britain
  • Temporal trend of bird and butterfly community temperature index across Europe
  • Projected impact of climate change on the potential distribution of reptiles and amphibians
  • Projected changes in the climate niche space of the Small Tortoise shell
  • Changes in mammalian species richness


  • km moved northwards
  • Change in the community temperature index
  • % of stable species
  • Area
  • % change in species richness

Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package ( This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change /* COM/2013/0216 final */ and a number of supporting documents. One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which should occur through Bridging the knowledge gap and Further developing Climate-ADAPT as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Further objectives include Promoting action by Member States and Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors. Many EU Member States have already taken action, such as by adopting national adaptation strategies, and several have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation.

The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, 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 CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
    Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later. This webportal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
  • EU Adaptation Strategy Package
    In April 2013 the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it will enhance the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.

Key policy question

How is climate change affecting the regional distribution of animals in Europe, and what are the implications for biodiversity?


Methodology for indicator calculation

Species distribution observations and models (also known as habitat models, niche models or envelope models) have been used to calculate the indicator.

Methodology for gap filling

Not applicable

Methodology references

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Not applicable

Data sets uncertainty

Species distribution models (also known as habitat models, niche models or envelope models) suffer from a variety of limitations because species are currently not in equilibrium with climate, and because species dispersal and biotic interactions are largely ignored. Furthermore, climate change projections for Europe include climate conditions (in particular in southern Europe) for which no analogue climate was available for the model calibration. Especially the latter problem is evident for projections for southern Europe since projections of species distribution models lack information from climates south of the Mediterranean. Therefore, the uncertainty in the Mediterranean region is much higher and projected declines might result from a lack of data from climatic situations not included in the model.

Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012 (

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


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CLIM 024
Version id: 2
Primary theme: Climate change Climate change


Permalink to this version
Permalink to latest version

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 4 years


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

Related content

Data references used

Latest figures and vizualizations

Relevant policy documents

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100