Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
The effects of climate change on single species will have consequences for all levels of biodiversity, ranging from the genetic level to ecosystems. These higher-level impacts are of particular importance since biodiversity, besides being realised as a value in its own right, is increasingly acknowledged as providing indispensable ecosystems services for human well-being. Biodiversity can be regarded as ‘our collective life insurance’, as noted in the ‘EU biodiversity strategy to 2020’. The importance of wild species for the functioning of ecosystems is manifold and largely driven by biotic and abiotic interactions. An improved understanding of how climate change will affect these interactions in novel communities established under a novel climate can be utilised to assess the extinction risk of species of particular conservation concern. It will also enhance our abilities to assess and mitigate potential negative effects on ecosystem functions and services. Despite increasing knowledge about effects of climate change on pairwise species interactions and on complete ecological networks, quantitative assessments of these effects are still very uncertain. A robust conclusion from existing observational and theoretical studies is that specialist species are at much higher risk from effects on species interactions than generalist species.
Community changes triggered by climate change can lead to disruptions or alterations of currently existing species interactions and the generation of novel species interactions. Such changes impact on mechanisms such as competition, herbivory, predation, parasitism, pollination and symbiosis by affecting ecological matching among interacting species. These ecological matches can be defined by spatial or temporal synchronicity of occurrence, or by energetic, morphological and behavioural demands.
Climate change can also affect disturbance regimes, such as wildfires and storms. Forest fires is an important example of such a disturbance regime.
- 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.
- Projected spatial mismatches of the Portuguese Dappled White butterfly and its host plants
- Suitable area [dimensionless]
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 food networks and other species interactions, and what are the implications for biodiversity?
Methodology for indicator calculation
Ecological niche models (generalized linear models) for 36 European butterfly species and their larval host plants based on climate and land-use data were developed. The future distributional changes using three integrated global change scenarios for 2080 were projected. Observed and projected mismatches in potential butterfly niche space and the niche space of their hosts were first used to assess changing range limitations due to interacting species and then to investigate the importance of different ecological characteristics.
Methodology for gap filling
- Schweiger et al. 2012: Increasing range mismatching of interacting species under global change is related to their ecological characteristics Schweiger, O., Heikkinen, R. K., Harpke, A., Hickler, T., Klotz, S., Kudrna, O., Kühn, I., Pöyry, J. und Settele, J., 2012, 'Increasing range mismatching of interacting species under global change is related to their ecological characteristics', Global Ecology and Biogeography, 21(1), S.88–99
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
Data sources in latest figures
Data sets uncertainty
Available methods for incorporating species interactions, population dynamics and dispersal processes into models of range shifts are still very coarse, despite several recent approaches to incorporate these.
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?)