Indicator Specification

Animal phenology

Indicator Specification
  Indicator codes: CLIM 025
Published 20 Nov 2012 Last modified 09 Feb 2021
5 min read
This page was archived on 03 Feb 2017 with reason: No more updates will be done
Changes in egg-laying dates of the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca)

This indicator has been discontinued, because relevant information is now available in the new indicator "Phenology of plant and animal species" (

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection

Climate warming affects the life-cycles of all animal species. Species adapted to warmer temperatures or dryer conditions may benefit from this change, whereas cold-adapted species may encounter increasing pressure on their life-cycles. Mild winters and the earlier onset of spring allow for an earlier onset of reproduction and, in some species, the development of extra generations during the year. In the case of a phenological decoupling between interacting species in an ecosystem (e.g. reduced pressure from parasitoids and predators), certain populations may reach very high abundances that attain orexceed damage thresholds in managed ecosystems (e.g. bark beetles in conifer forests). Desynchronisation of phenological events may also directly reduce fitness, for example if shortened hibernation times deteriorate body condition or if interactions between herbivores and host plants are lost. It may also negatively affect ecosystem services such as pollination. There is robust evidence that generalist species with high adaptive capacity are favoured, whereas specialist species will be mostly affected negatively.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

  • Changes in egg-laying dates of the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca)


  • days/25yrs

Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package ( 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 isBetter informed decision-making, which should occur throughBridging the knowledge gap andFurther developing Climate-ADAPT as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Further objectives includePromoting action by Member States andClimate-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, 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: Adaptation in EU policy sectors
    Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
  • Climate-ADAPT: Country profiles
    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 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 for indicator calculation

The trend in laying date between 1980 and 2004 for most of the European breeding areas is simulated by combining geographical variation in mean laying date, the effect of temperature on laying date, and spatial variation in temperature change. Breeding dates of pied flycatchers were taken from the review by Sanz (1997), supplemented with some data from Russia (Both et al. 2004). Only data from latitudes higher than 48°N were used.

Methodology for gap filling

Not applicable

Methodology references

No methodology references available.


Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures



Methodology uncertainty

Not applicable

Data sets uncertainty

Generally, observations for popular groups such as vascular plants, birds, other terrestrial vertebrates and butterflies are much better than for less conspicuous and less popular species. Similarly, due to extensive existing networks, a long tradition and better means of detection and rapid responses of the organisms to changes, knowledge on 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 do not cover the entire area of the EU but are restricted to certain well monitored countries with a long tradition in the involvement of citizen scientists. Based on these short time series, the determination of impacts and their interpretation thus has to rely on assumptions, and achieving a qualitative understanding of species’ responses is more robust than their quantification. One of the greatest unknowns is how quickly and closely species will alter their phenology in accordance to a changing climatic regime. Even experimental studies seem to be of little help, since they notoriously tend to underestimate the effects of climate change on changes in phenology.

Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012(

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

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.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Hans-Martin Füssel


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CLIM 025
Version id: 2

Frequency of updates

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.


DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)


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