Distribution of plant species
Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
Climate change affects ecosystems in complex ways. The composition of many plant communities is changing, often to such an extent that completely new assemblages are appearing. The extinction risk is particularly large at the trailing edge (i.e. southern or lower altitudinal range margins) of a species. The ecological implications of these changes and their effects on the provision of ecosystems services are difficult to assess and quantify. However, it is clear that climate change is an important threat for long-term biodiversity conservation. It threatens the ability of meeting the EU policy target to halt biodiversity loss by 2020. The favourable status of Natura2000 sites is also in danger.
- 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.
- Expected average percentage of stable area of 856 plant species for two different climate scenarios
- % stable area
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 plants in Europe, and what are the implications for biodiversity?
Methodology for indicator calculation
A combination of an integrated environmental model (IMAGE) and climate envelope models for European plant species is used for several climate change scenarios to estimate changes in mean stable area of species and species turnover.
Methodology for gap filling
- Alkemade et al. 2011: Towards a general relationship between climate change and biodiversity: an example for plant species in Europe. Alkemade, R., Bakkenes, M. and Eickhout, B. (2011) Towards a general relationship between climate change and biodiversity: an example for plant species in Europe. Regional Environmental Change 11, 143–150. doi:10.1007/s10113-010-0161-1
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
- Towards a general relationship between climate change and biodiversity: an example for plant species in Europe
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?)