Distribution of plant species

Indicator Specification
Indicator codes: CLIM 022
Created 11 Jul 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
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Increase in species richness on Swiss Alpine mountain summits in 20th century Projected changes in number of plant species in 2050

Update planned for November 2012

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)


Justification for indicator selection

The rate of climate change is likely to exceed the adaptive capacity of some wild plant species (IPCC, 2007), whilst others are expected to benefit from changing environmental conditions (Sobrino Vesperinas et al., 2001). Consequently, the composition of many plant communities is changing to the extent that completely new assemblages are appearing. In addition, there is a parallel change in plant distribution and the increased threat of extinction of species at the edge of their geographical and altitudinal ranges -- particularly poorly-dispersing endemics. The ecological implications of these changes and the effects on the services that these ecosystems provide are not always clear. Together with the emergence of invasive non-native species, these factors will have challenging consequences for long-term biodiversity conservation (Gitay et al., 2002) and the ability of Europe to meet its target to halt biodiversity loss, not least in relation to the favourable status of Natura 2000 sites.
The adaptive capacity of species is linked to genetic diversity and this too might change under climate change; sensitive and valuable relic populations will be particularly affected.

Scientific references

  • References Bakkenes, M.; Eickhout, B. and Alkemade, R., 2006. Impacts of different climate stabilisation scenarios on plants species in Europe. Global Environmental Change 16: 19-28. Gitay, H.; Suarez, A.; Watson, R. T. and Dokken, D. J., 2002. Climate change and biodiversity; IPCC Technical paper 5, April 2002, 77pp. Huntley, B., 2007. Climatic change and the conservation of European biodiversity: Towards the development of adaptation strategies. Bern Convention Standing Committee on Climate Change. Council of Europe, Strasbourg. 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. Kullman, L., 2006. Long-term geobotanical observations of climate change impacts in the Scandes of West-Central Sweden. Nordic Journal of Botany 24: 445-467. Copenhagen. Kullman, L., 2007. Tree line population monitoring of Pinus sylvestris in the Swedish Scandes, 1973-2005: implications for tree line theory and climate change ecology. Journal of Ecology 95: 41-52. Pauli, H.; Gottfried, M.; Reiter, K.; Klettner, C. and Grabherr, G., 2007. Signals of range expansions and contractions of vascular plants in the high Alps: observations (1994-2004) at the GLORIA master site Schrankogel, Tyrol, Austria . Global Change Biology 13, 147-156. Sobrino Vesperinas, E.; González Moreno, A.; Sanz Elorza, M.; Dana Sánchez, E.; Sánchez Mata, D. and Gavilán, R., 2001. The expansion of thermophilic plants in the Iberian Peninsula as a sign of climatic change. 'Fingerprints' of climate change -- adapted behaviour and shifting species ranges (ed. by Walther, G.-R.; Burga, C. A. and Edwards, P. J.), pp. 163-184. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York. Thuiller, W.; Lavorel, S.; Araújo, M. B.; Sykesand, M. T. and Prentice, I. C., 2005. Climate change threatens plant diversity in Europe. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences US 102: 8245-8250. Walther, G-R.; Berger, S. and Sykes, M. T., 2005. An ecological 'footprint' of climate change. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B -- Biological Sciences 272: 1427-1432.

Indicator definition

  • Increase in species richness on Swiss Alpine mountain summits in 20th century
  • Projected changes in number of plant species in 2050



Policy context and targets

Context description

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 aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/adaptation/index_en.htm


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Key policy question

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty


Data sets uncertainty


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


Joint Research Centre (JRC)
European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CLIM 022
Version id: 1


DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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Phone: +45 3336 7100