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 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation/what/documentation_en.htm). 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, 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 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
- 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
Frequency of updates
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
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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