Phenology of plant and animal species

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-192-en
Also known as: CLIM 023
Created 15 Dec 2016 Published 20 Dec 2016 Last modified 20 Dec 2016, 04:05 PM
The timing of seasonal events has changed across Europe. A general trend towards earlier spring phenological stages (spring advancement) has been shown in many plant and animal species, mainly due to changes in climate conditions. As a consequence of climate-induced changes in plant phenology, the pollen season starts on average 10 days earlier than it did and is longer than it was in the 1960s. The life cycles of many animal groups have advanced in recent decades, with events occurring earlier in the year, including frogs spawning, birds nesting and the arrival of migrant birds and butterflies. This advancement is attributed primarily to a warming climate. The breeding season of many thermophilic insects (such as butterflies, dragonflies and bark beetles) has been lengthening, allowing, in principle, more generations to be produced per year. The observed trends are expected to continue into the future. However, simple extrapolations of current phenological trends may be misleading because the observed relationship between temperature and phenological events may change in the future.

Key messages

  • The timing of seasonal events has changed across Europe. A general trend towards earlier spring phenological stages (spring advancement) has been shown in many plant and animal species, mainly due to changes in climate conditions.
  • As a consequence of climate-induced changes in plant phenology, the pollen season starts on average 10 days earlier than it did and is longer than it was in the 1960s.
  • The life cycles of many animal groups have advanced in recent decades, with events occurring earlier in the year, including frogs spawning, birds nesting and the arrival of migrant birds and butterflies. This advancement is attributed primarily to a warming climate.
  • The breeding season of many thermophilic insects (such as butterflies, dragonflies and bark beetles) has been lengthening, allowing, in principle, more generations to be produced per year.
  • The observed trends are expected to continue into the future. However, simple extrapolations of current phenological trends may be misleading because the observed relationship between temperature and phenological events may change in the future.

How is climate change affecting the seasonal cycle of plants and animals in Europe?

Past trends

A variety of studies show that there has been a general trend for plant, fungi and animal species to advance their springtime phenology over the past 20–50 years [i]. An analysis of 315 species of fungi in England showed that, on average, they increased their fruiting season from 33 to 75 days between 1950 and 2005 [ii]. Furthermore, climate warming and changes in the temporal allocation of nutrients to roots seem to have caused significant numbers of plant species to begin fruiting in spring as well as autumn. A study on 53 plant species in the United Kingdom found that they have advanced leafing, flowering and fruiting on average by 5.8 days between 1976 and 2005 [iii]. Similarly, 29 perennial plant species in Spain have advanced leaf unfolding on average by 4.8 days, with first flowering having advanced by 5.9 days and fruiting by 3.2 days over the period 1943–2003, whereas leaf senescence was delayed on average by 1.2 days [iv]. For plants, a medium spring advancement of four to five days per 1 °C increase has been observed in Europe [v]. Short warm and cold spells also can have a significant effect on phenological events, but this depends strongly on their timing and the species [vi].

Remote sensing data can support the estimation of the trend of phenological phases over large areas. Continental-scale change patterns have been derived from time series of satellite-measured phenological variables (1982–2006) [vii]. North-eastern Europe showed a trend towards an earlier and longer growing season, particularly in the northern Baltic areas. Despite the earlier leafing, large areas of Europe exhibited a rather stable season length, indicating that the entire growing season has shifted to an earlier period. The northern Mediterranean displayed on average a shift in the growing season towards later in the year, while some instances of earlier and shorter growing seasons were also seen. The correlation of phenological time series with climate data shows a cause-and-effect relationship over the semi-natural areas. In contrast, managed ecosystems have a heterogeneous change pattern with less or no correlation with climatic trends. Over these areas, climatic trends seemed to overlap in a complex manner, with more pronounced effects of local biophysical conditions and/or land management practices. One study demonstrated that the growing season was starting earlier between 2001 and 2011 for the majority of temperate deciduous forests in western Europe, with the most likely cause being regional spring warming effects experienced during the same period [viii].

A combination of ground observations and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) both indicated that spring phenology significantly advanced during the period 1982–2011 in central Europe. The average trend of 4.5 days advancement per decade was not uniform and weakened over the last decade investigated, where ground observations and NDVI observations showed different trends (see Figure 1). One possible explanation for the weakening trend from 2000 to 2010 is the response of early spring species to the cooling trend in late winter during that time frame [ix]. However, while individual studies find good agreement between in situ observations and experimental warming, a meta-analysis [x] suggests that experiments can substantially under predict advances in the timing of flowering and leafing of plants in comparison with observational studies.

The phenology of numerous animals has advanced significantly in response to recent climate change [xi]. Several studies have convincingly demonstrated that the life-cycle traits of animals are strongly dependent on ambient temperatures, in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats [xii]. Mostly, the observed warming leads to an advanced timing of life history events. For example, temporal trends for the appearance dates of two insect species (honey bee, Apis mellifera, and small white butterfly, Pieris rapae) in more than 1 000 localities in Spain have closely followed variations in recorded spring temperatures between 1952 and 2004 [xiii].

The predicted egg-laying date for the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) showed significant advancement between 1980 and 2004 in western and central Europe, but delays in northern Europe, both trends depending on regional temperature trends in the relevant season [xiv]. Data from four monitoring stations in south to mid-Norway of nest boxes of the pied flycatcher from 1992 to 2011 show, contrary to the regional temperature estimated trends, that there were no significant delays in the egg-laying date for the pied flycatcher, but there was an annual fluctuation, making a rather flat curve for the median over these years [xv].

Two studies on Swedish butterfly species showed that the average advancement of the mean flight date was 3.6 days per decade since the 1990s [xvi]. Of the 66 investigated butterfly species, 57 showed an advancement of the mean flight date, which was significant for 45 species. A study from the United Kingdom found that each of the 44 species of butterfly investigated advanced its date of first appearance since 1976 [xvii]. A study indicated that average rates of phenological change have recently accelerated in line with accelerated warming trends [xviii]. There is also increasing evidence about climate-induced changes in spring and autumn migration, including formerly migratory bird species becoming resident [xix].

Warmer temperatures shorten the development period of European pine sawfly larvae (Neodiprion sertifer), reducing the risk of predation and potentially increasing the risk of insect outbreaks, but interactions with other factors, including day length and food quality, may complicate this prediction [xx]. Warmer temperatures also extend the growing season. This means that plants need more water to keep growing or they will dry out, increasing the risk of failed crops and wildfires. The shorter, milder winters that follow might fail to kill dormant insects, increasing the risk of large, damaging infestations in subsequent seasons. For climate change factors other than temperature, the phenology of emissions of volatile compounds from flowers’ seems affected not only by warming or drought but also by the phenological changes in the presence of pollinators. Nevertheless, experimental evidence suggests that phenological effects on pollinator–plant synchrony may be of limited importance [xxi].

Projections

Phenology is primarily seen as an indicator to observe the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and their constituent species. However, an extrapolation of the observed relationship between temperature and phenological events into the future can provide an initial estimate of future changes in phenology. Plants and animal species unable to adjust their phenological behaviour will be negatively affected, particularly in highly seasonal habitats [xxii]. Obviously, there are limits to possible changes in phenology, beyond which ecosystems have to adapt by changes in species composition. For six dominant European tree species, flushing is expected to advance in the next decades, but this trend substantially differed between species (from 0 to 2.4 days per decade) [xxiii]. Interestingly, the projected advancement is quite similar to the recently observed rates and does not increase, as could have been expected from increasingly rising temperatures. This might indicate some physiological limitations in temporal adaptation to climate change. Leaf senescence of two deciduous species, which is more difficult to predict, is expected to be delayed by 1.4 to 2.3 days per decade. Earlier spring leafing and later autumn senescence are likely to affect the competitive balance between species. Species unable to adjust their phenological behaviour will be negatively affected, particularly in highly seasonal habitats. For instance, many late-succession temperate trees require a chilling period in winter, followed by a threshold in day length, and only then are sensitive to temperature. As a result, simple projections of current phenological trends may be misleading, as the relative importance of influencing factors can change [xxiv].

Projections for animal phenology are mainly carried out for species of high economic interest [xxv]. Quantitative projections are hampered by the high natural variability in phenological data, particularly in insects [xxvi]. The projected future warming is expected to cause further shifts in animal phenology, with both positive and negative impacts on biodiversity. For example, increasing spring temperatures may have positive fitness effects in sand lizard populations in Sweden [xxvii]. Nevertheless, climate change can lead to an increase of trophic mismatching, unforeseeable outbreaks of species, a decrease of specialist species and changes in ecosystem functioning [xxviii]. A recent study suggests that many pollinator species are not threatened by phenological decoupling from specific flowering plants [xxix]. Other studies simulated the consequences of the phenological shifts in plant–pollinator networks and found that the breadth of the diet of pollinators might decrease because of the reduced overlap between plants and pollinators and that extinctions of plants, pollinators and their crucial interactions could be expected as consequences of these disruptions. Empirical evidence shows that climate change over the last 120 years has resulted in phenological shifts that caused interaction mismatches between flowering plants and bee pollinators. As a consequence, many bee species were extirpated from this system, potentially as a result of climate-induced phenological shifts. Although the plant–pollinator interaction networks are quite flexible, redundancy has been reduced, interaction strengths have weakened and pollinator service has declined [xxx].



[i] Benjamin I. Cook, Elizabeth M. Wolkovich, and Camille Parmesan, ‘Divergent Responses to Spring and Winter Warming Drive Community Level Flowering Trends’,Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, no. 23 (6 May 2012): 9000–9005, doi:10.1073/pnas.1118364109.

[ii] A.C. Gange et al., ‘Rapid and Recent Changes in Fungal Fruiting Patterns’,Science 316, no. 5821 (2007): 71, doi:10.1126/science.1137489.

[iii] Stephen J. Thackeray et al., ‘Trophic Level Asynchrony in Rates of Phenological Change for Marine, Freshwater and Terrestrial Environments’,Global Change Biology 16, no. 12 (December 2010): 3304–13, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02165.x.

[iv] Oscar Gordo and Juan José Sanz, ‘Temporal Trends in Phenology of the Honey Bee Apis Mellifera (L.) and the Small White Pieris Rapae (L.) in the Iberian Peninsula (1952–2004)’,Ecological Entomology 31, no. 3 (1 June 2006): 261–68, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2311.2006.00787.x.

[v] R.I. Bertin, ‘Plant Phenology and Distribution in Relation to Recent Climate Change’,The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 135, no. 1 (2008): 126–146, doi:10.3159/07-RP-035R.1; Nicole Estrella, Tim H. Sparks, and Annette Menzel, ‘Effects of Temperature, Phase Type and Timing, Location, and Human Density on Plant Phenological Responses in Europe’,Climate Research 39, no. 3 (10 September 2009): 235–48, doi:10.3354/cr00818; Tatsuya Amano et al., ‘A 250-Year Index of First Flowering Dates and Its Response to Temperature Changes’,Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 277, no. 1693 (22 August 2010): 2451–57, doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.0291.

[vi] E. Koch et al., ‘COST725 – Establishing a European Phenological Data Platform for Climatological Applications: Major Results’,Advances in Science and Research 3 (13 October 2009): 119–22, doi:10.5194/asr-3-119-2009; Annette Menzel, Holm Seifert, and Nicole Estrella, ‘Effects of Recent Warm and Cold Spells on European Plant Phenology’,International Journal of Biometeorology 55, no. 6 (14 July 2011): 921–32, doi:10.1007/s00484-011-0466-x.

[vii] E. Ivits et al., ‘Combining Satellite Derived Phenology with Climate Data for Climate Change Impact Assessment’,Global and Planetary Change 88–89 (May 2012): 85–97, doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2012.03.010.

[viii] Eliakim Hamunyela et al., ‘Trends in Spring Phenology of Western European Deciduous Forests’,Remote Sensing 5, no. 12 (25 November 2013): 6159–79, doi:10.3390/rs5126159.

[ix] Yongshuo H. Fu et al., ‘Recent Spring Phenology Shifts in Western Central Europe Based on Multiscale Observations: Multiscale Observation of Spring Phenology’,Global Ecology and Biogeography 23, no. 11 (November 2014): 1255–63, doi:10.1111/geb.12210.

[x] E. M. Wolkovich et al., ‘Warming Experiments Underpredict Plant Phenological Responses to Climate Change’,Nature 485 (2 May 2012): 494–497, doi:10.1038/nature11014.

[xi] Peter O. Dunn and Anders P. Møller, ‘Changes in Breeding Phenology and Population Size of Birds’,Journal of Animal Ecology 83, no. 3 (May 2014): 729–39, doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12162.

[xii] e.g. Christelle Robinet and Alain Roques, ‘Direct Impacts of Recent Climate Warming on Insect Populations’,Integrative Zoology 5, no. 2 (June 2010): 132–42, doi:10.1111/j.1749-4877.2010.00196.x; M.H. Schlüter et al., ‘Phenological Shifts of Three Interacting Zooplankton Groups in Relation to Climate Change’,Global Change Biology 16, no. 11 (2010): 3144–3153, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02246.x; P. Tryjanowski et al., ‘Does Climate Influence Phenological Trends in Social Wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespinae) in Poland?’,European Journal of Entomology 107, no. 2 (2010): 203–208; Cook, Wolkovich, and Parmesan, ‘Divergent Responses to Spring and Winter Warming Drive Community Level Flowering Trends’; D.E. Bowler et al., ‘A Cross-Taxon Analysis of the Impact of Climate Change on Abundance Trends in Central Europe’,Biological Conservation 187 (July 2015): 41–50, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2015.03.034.

[xiii] Gordo and Sanz, ‘Temporal Trends in Phenology of the Honey Bee Apis Mellifera (L.) and the Small White Pieris Rapae (L.) in the Iberian Peninsula (1952–2004)’.

[xiv] Christiaan Both and Luc Marvelde, ‘Climate Change and Timing of Avian Breeding and Migration throughout Europe’,Climate Research 35 (31 December 2007): 93–105, doi:10.3354/cr00716.

[xv] E. Framstad, ‘The Terrestrial Ecosystems Monitoring Programme in 2011: Ground Vegetation, Epiphytes, Small Mammals and Birds’, NINA Rapport 840 (Oslo: Norsk institutt for naturforskning, 2012), http://www.nina.no/ninaenglish/Publications/Publication.aspx?pubid=7213&Fra=P&lang=en.

[xvi] Jose A. Navarro-Cano et al., ‘Climate Change, Phenology, and Butterfly Host Plant Utilization’,AMBIO 44, no. S1 (January 2015): 78–88, doi:10.1007/s13280-014-0602-z; Bengt Karlsson, ‘Extended Season for Northern Butterflies’,International Journal of Biometeorology 58, no. 5 (July 2014): 691–701, doi:10.1007/s00484-013-0649-8.

[xvii] Sarah E. Diamond et al., ‘Species’ Traits Predict Phenological Responses to Climate Change in Butterflies’,Ecology 92, no. 5 (2011): 1005–12, doi:10.1890/10-1594.1.

[xviii] Thackeray et al., ‘Trophic Level Asynchrony in Rates of Phenological Change for Marine, Freshwater and Terrestrial Environments’.

[xix] O. Gordo and J. J. Sanz, ‘Climate Change and Bird Phenology: A Long-Term Study in the Iberian Peninsula’,Global Change Biology 12, no. 10 (2006): 1993–2004, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01178.x; N. Jonzén et al., ‘Rapid Advance of Spring Arrival Dates in Long-Distance Migratory Birds’,Science 312, no. 5782 (2006): 1959–1961, doi:10.1126/science.1126119; D. Rubolini et al., ‘Intraspecific Consistency and Geographic Variability in Temporal Trends of Spring Migration Phenology among European Bird Species’,Climate Research 35, no. 1/2 (2007): 135, doi:10.3354/cr00720; Endre Knudsen et al., ‘Challenging Claims in the Study of Migratory Birds and Climate Change’,Biological Reviews 86, no. 4 (November 2011): 928–46, doi:10.1111/j.1469-185X.2011.00179.x.

[xx] Ida Kollberg et al., ‘Multiple Effects of Temperature, Photoperiod and Food Quality on the Performance of a Pine Sawfly: Multiple Effects on Sawfly Performance’,Ecological Entomology 38, no. 2 (April 2013): 201–8, doi:10.1111/een.12005.

[xxi] Pat Willmer, ‘Ecology: Pollinator–plant Synchrony Tested by Climate Change’,Current Biology 22, no. 4 (February 2012): R131–32, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.01.009; Josep Peñuelas et al., ‘Evidence of Current Impact of Climate Change on Life: A Walk from Genes to the Biosphere’,Global Change Biology 19, no. 8 (August 2013): 2303–38, doi:10.1111/gcb.12143.

[xxii] Christiaan Both et al., ‘Avian Population Consequences of Climate Change Are Most Severe for Long-Distance Migrants in Seasonal Habitats’,Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 277, no. 1685 (22 April 2010): 1259–66, doi:10.1098/rspb.2009.1525.

[xxiii] Yann Vitasse et al., ‘Assessing the Effects of Climate Change on the Phenology of European Temperate Trees’,Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 151, no. 7 (15 July 2011): 969–80, doi:10.1016/j.agrformet.2011.03.003.

[xxiv] Cook, Wolkovich, and Parmesan, ‘Divergent Responses to Spring and Winter Warming Drive Community Level Flowering Trends’.

[xxv] J.A. Hodgson et al., ‘Predicting Insect Phenology across Space and Time’,Global Change Biology 17, no. 3 (2011): 1289–1300, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02308.x.

[xxvi] Peter Baier, Josef Pennerstorfer, and Axel Schopf, ‘PHENIPS—A Comprehensive Phenology Model of Ips Typographus (L.) (Col., Scolytinae) as a Tool for Hazard Rating of Bark Beetle Infestation’,Forest Ecology and Management 249, no. 3 (30 September 2007): 171–86, doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2007.05.020.

[xxvii] Gabriella Ljungström, Erik Wapstra, and Mats Olsson, ‘Sand Lizard (Lacerta Agilis) Phenology in a Warming World’,BMC Evolutionary Biology 15 (December 2015): 206, doi:10.1186/s12862-015-0476-0.

[xxviii] M. van Asch et al., ‘Predicting Adaptation of Phenology in Response to Climate Change, an Insect Herbivore Example’,Global Change Biology 13, no. 8 (2007): 1596–1604, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2007.01400.x; M.C. Singer and C. Parmesan, ‘Phenological Asynchrony between Herbivorous Insects and Their Hosts: Signal of Climate Change or Pre-Existing Adaptive Strategy?’,Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365, no. 1555 (2010): 3161–3176, doi:10.1098/rstb.2010.0144.

[xxix] Gita Benadi et al., ‘Specialization and Phenological Synchrony of Plant-Pollinator Interactions along an Altitudinal Gradient’,Journal of Animal Ecology 83, no. 3 (May 2014): 639–50, doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12158.

[xxx] J. Memmott et al., ‘Global Warming and the Disruption of Plant–pollinator Interactions’,Ecology Letters 10, no. 8 (2007): 710–717; Laura A. Burkle, John C. Marlin, and Tiffany M. Knight, ‘Plant-Pollinator Interactions over 120 Years: Loss of Species, Co-Occurrence, and Function’,Science 339, no. 6127 (29 March 2013): 1611–15, doi:10.1126/science.1232728.

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

  • Trends in spring phenology

Units

  • days/year

Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2013, the European Commission (EC) presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package. This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change (COM/2013/216 final) and a number of supporting documents. The overall aim of the EU Adaptation Strategy is to contribute to a more climate-resilient Europe.

One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which will be achieved by bridging the knowledge gap and further developing the European climate adaptation platform (Climate-ADAPT) as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Climate-ADAPT has been developed jointly by the EC and the EEA to share knowledge on (1) observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health, (2) relevant research, (3) EU, transnational, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans, and (4) adaptation case studies.

Further objectives include Promoting adaptation in key vulnerablesectors through climate-proofing EU sector policies and Promoting action by Member States. Most EU Member States have already adopted national adaptation strategies and many have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation. The EC also supports adaptation in cities through the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy initiative.

In September 2016, the EC presented an indicative roadmap for the evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy by 2018.

In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7th EU Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) to 2020, ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. The 7th EAP is intended to help guide EU action on environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020. It highlights that ‘Action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will increase the resilience of the Union’s economy and society, while stimulating innovation and protecting the Union’s natural resources.’ Consequently, several priority objectives of the 7th EAP refer to climate change adaptation.

Targets

No targets have been specified.

Related policy documents

  • 7th Environment Action Programme
    DECISION No 1386/2013/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7 th EU Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. This programme is intended to help guide EU action on the environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020 based on the following vision: ‘In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.’
  • 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 in the future. This web portal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
  • EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy
    in the Communication: Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (COM(2011) 244) the European Commission has adopted a new strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. There are six main targets, and 20 actions to help Europe reach its goal. The six targets cover: - Full implementation of EU nature legislation to protect biodiversity - Better protection for ecosystems, and more use of green infrastructure - More sustainable agriculture and forestry - Better management of fish stocks - Tighter controls on invasive alien species - A bigger EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss
  • 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 enhances the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Spring phenology shifts were investigated using both in situ observations and satellite-based normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) datasets.

Methodology for gap filling

Not applicable

Methodology references

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

Not applicable

Data sets uncertainty

Generally, observations for popular species groups such as vascular plants, birds, other terrestrial vertebrates and butterflies are much better than for less conspicuous and less popular species. Similarly, owing to (1) extensive existing networks, (2) a long tradition and better means of detection of rapid responses of the organisms to changes, and (3) general knowledge, phenological changes are better observed and recorded than range shifts. Projections of climate change impacts on phenology rely crucially on the understanding of current processes and responses. For most cases, only a few years of data are available and they do not cover the entire area of the EU but are restricted to certain well-monitored countries with a long tradition, for example, in the involvement of citizen scientists. Based on the short time series, the quantification of impacts and their interpretation thus has to rely on assumptions. One of the greatest unknowns is how quickly and closely species will alter their phenology in accordance with a changing climatic regime. Even experimental studies seem to be of little help, as they notoriously tend to underestimate the effects of climate change on changes in phenology.

When documenting and modelling changes in soil, biodiversity and forest indicators, it is not always feasible to track long-term changes (signal) given the significant short-term variations (noise) that may occur (e.g. seasonal variations of soil organic carbon as a result of land management). Therefore, detected changes cannot always be causally attributed to climate change. Human activity, such as land use and management, can be more important for terrestrial ecosystem components than climate change, both for explaining past trends and for future projections.

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sources

Generic metadata

Topics:

DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CLIM 023
Temporal coverage:

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Hans-Martin Füssel

EEA Management Plan

2016 1.4.1 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 4 years
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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