Distribution and abundance of animal species
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- % change in species richness
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 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
- Chen et al. 2011: Rapid Range Shifts of Species Associated with High Levels of Climate Warming Chen, I.-C., Hill, J.K., Ohlemüller, R., Roy, D.B. & Thomas, C.D. (2011) Rapid Range Shifts of Species Associated with High Levels of Climate Warming. Science, 333, 1024-1026.
- Devictor et al. 2012: Differences in the climatic debts of birds and butterflies at a continental scale Devictor, V. van Swaay, C. Brereton, T. Brotons, L. Chamberlain, D. Heliölä, J. Herrando, S. Julliard, R. Kuussaari, M. Lindström, Å. Reif, J. Roy, D.B. Schweiger, O. Settele, J. Stefanescu, C. Van Strien, A. Van Turnhout, C. Vermouzek, Z. WallisDeVries, M. Wynhoff, I. & Jiguet, F. (2012) Differences in the climatic debts of birds and butterflies at a continental scale. Nature Climate Change. 2, 121–124.
- Araújo et al. 2006: Climate warming and the decline of amphibians and reptiles in Europe. 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: 17121728
- Settele et al. 2008: Climatic risk atlas of European butterflies Settele, J., Kudrna, O., Harpke, A., Kühn, I., Van Swaay, C., Verovnik, R., Warren, M. S., Wiemers, M., Hanspach, J., Hickler, T. und others, 2008, Climatic risk atlas of European butterflies, Pensoft Moscow.
- Levinsky et al. 2007: Potential impacts of climate change on the distributions and diversity patterns of European mammals Levinsky, I., Skov, F., Svenning, J.C. & Rahbek, C. (2007) Potential impacts of climate change on the distributions and diversity patterns of European mammals. Biodiversity and Conservation, 16, 3803-3816.
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
- Rapid Range Shifts of Species Associated with High Levels of Climate Warming
- Differences in the climatic debts of birds and butterflies at a continental scale
- Potential impacts of climate change on the distributions and diversity patterns of European mammals
- Climate warming and the decline of amphibians and reptiles in Europe
- Climatic Risk Atlas of European Butterflies
Data sources in latest figures
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 (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?)