Species-ecosystem relationship (CLIM 026) - Assessment published Sep 2008
Climate change (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CLIM 026
Key policy question: ..
- The stability of ecosystems and, therefore, the services that they provide, will become increasingly affected by climate change due to species-specific responses and, thus, the disruption of established biotic interactions.
- The changing range of host species has major implications for range expansions of species and places additional pressures on those of conservation importance.
Current distribution range of the butterfly Titania fritillary (Boloria titania) and its host plant American bistort (Polygonum bistorta)
Note: The map shows the current distribution range of the butterfly Titania fritillary (Boloria titania) and its host plant American bistort (Polygonum bistorta
Schweiger, O.; Settele, J.; Kudrna, O.; Klotz, S. and Kühn, I., 2008. Climate change can cause spatial mismatch of trophically interacting species. Ecology (in press).
Relationship between projected distribution space of the butterfly Titania fritillary (Boloria titania) and its host plant American bistort (Polygonum bistorta) for 2080
Note: Global change scenarios based on storylines developed within the EUfunded project ALARM (Settele et al., 2005, Spangenberg 2007, www.alarmproject.net).
Schweiger, O.; Settele, J.; Kudrna, O.; Klotz, S. and Kühn, I., 2008. Climate change can cause spatial mismatch of trophically interacting species. Ecology (in press). Settele, J.; Hammen, V. C.; Hulme, P. E.; Karlson, U.; Klotz, S.; Kotarac, M.; Kunin, W. E.; Marion, G.; O'Connor, M.; Petanidou, T.; Peterson, K.; Potts, S. G.; Pritchard, H.; Pysek, P.; Rounsevell, M.; Spangenberg, J.; SteffanDewenter, I.; Sykes, M. T.; Vighi, M.; Zobel, M. and Kuhn, I., 2005. ALARM: Assessing large scale risks for biodiversity with tested methods. GAIA Ecological Perspectives in Science, Humanities and Economics 14: 9672.
Many butterfly species are moving northward, but often with overall declines in abundance and range size (Warren et al., 2001). Biotic interactions are important factors in explaining the distributions of butterflies, because they are often host-specific. For example, many parts of Europe are climatically suitable for the butterfly Titania fritillary (Boloria titania) (Figure 1) and the species may even be able to migrate quickly in response to climate change. However, an important constraint to range expansion is the presence of its host plant American bistort (Polygonum bistorta) (Schweiger et al., in press). Likewise, the current distribution of the clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne) is explained not only by climate suitability, but also by the presence of its Corydalis host plant (Araujo and Luoto, 2007).
Climate change has also had a disruptive effect on Scottish seabird communities and their food webs. During 2004 and 2005, major population crashes have been observed. In Shetland, over 1 000 guillemot nests and 24 000 nests of the Arctic tern were almost entirely deserted, and on the nearby island of Foula, the world's largest colony of great skuas saw only a few living chicks. The cause was a drastic reduction in the populations of sandeel, their principal food source. The disappearance of the sandeel was due, in turn, to the northward movement of cold-water plankton on which these fish feed. The plankton's range had shifted because the waters between Britain and Scandinavia had become too warm for it to survive there. Since 1984, some seabird species around Scotland have decreased by 60-70 % (CEH, 2005).
The response to climate change of the butterfly Titania fritillary (Boloria titania) and its host plant American bistort (Polygonum bistorta) is likely to lead to a reduction in range overlap and, thus, an uncertain future for this specialist butterfly. Played out on a larger scale, these trophic mismatches benefit generalists at the expense of specialists, putting additional pressures on the capacity of ecosystems to provide certain services and on species of conservation importance (McKinney and Lockwood, 1999; Reid et al., 2005; Biesmeijer et al., 2006).
Trends in trophically interacting species
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoHans-Martin Füssel
EEA Management Plan2008 2.3.1 (note: EEA internal system)
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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