Climate Change Ecology

Current Activity

Biological records represent an essential resource to document and understand the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. High quality data has enabled the UK to be at the forefront of climate change research. Internationally important publications have also been produced directly from the data provided by volunteer schemes and societies.  Current projects using biological recording data include assessing the risks and opportunities faced by individual species during climatic changes and identifying refugia which may help promote the persistence of species.

Key Outputs

Analyses of distribution data provided some of the first demonstrations of the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. Climate warming has caused many species to shift their distributions, with their responses often influenced by land use changes.  Biological recording has been invaluable in understanding these interacting effects, predicting the risks and opportunities faced by species from climate change and identifying appropriate ‘adaptation actions’ to reduce undesired climate change impacts.

Expansion of Conocephalus discolor, the long winged conehead, under climate warming

Map showing distribution change

Figure: B. Beckmann, CEH

Historical and recent biological records allow us to document changes in species’ distributions, many which are driven by changes in climatic suitability.

General patterns of northward range shift across many different taxonomic groups

Chart showing range shift across taxonomic group

Figure: S. Mason, CEH

Based on distribution data from 1960-2002, most animal groups have shown an average northward shift in their British range margin, albeit with substantial variation within groups. Bars show results for hectads where 10% of the species in a group were recorded in both time periods; similar results were obtained with other cut-off values.

Projected distribution change for an example species, Bombus ruderarius, the red-shanked carder bee

Map of predicted distribution

Figure: Tom Oliver, CEH

Bioclimate models relate observed occurrences to various climatic variables to produce a modelled ‘climatic suitability’ surface for a species. This map shows changes relative to the historic baseline where new climate space is shown as yellow and red, white squares showing areas of climate overlap, blue squares showing adversely sensitive areas and grey squares indicate areas climatically
unsuitable in both periods146.

Future Challenges

A challenge is to explain the different responses of species with similar initial ranges to climate change.  We continue to improve models to predict future changes, taking into account species ecology and patterns of recording. The substantial effort of volunteers in providing the geographic and taxonomic coverage of biological records is invaluable to increasing our understanding of the impacts of climate change. Ultimately, the development of robust evidence-based adaptation and conservation strategies is highly reliant on this unique data resource.

References

Emmett B., Alexander M., Alison J., Anthony S., Ballinger R., Bell C., Bowgen K, Cooper D., Cosby J., Dickie I., Ditchburn B., Edwards F., Engledew M., Fitch A., Frost N., Garbutt R.A., Gooday R., Hatfield J., Henrys P., Hull S., Jenkins T., Jones L., Kettel E., Logie M., Lyons H., Maclean K., Mant J., Maskell L.C., Matthews R., Petr M., Powney G.R., Read D., Robinson D.A., Siriwardena G., Smart S.M., Steadman C., Thomas A., Thomas D., Thomas T., Tye A., Vieno M., Williams B., Wood C. (2019) Environment and Rural Affairs Monitoring & Modelling Programme - ERAMMP Year 1 Report 11: Year 1 Summary. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bangor
Hayhow D.B., Eaton M.A., Stanbury A.J., Burns F., Kirby W.B., Bailey N., Beckmann B., Bedford J., Boersch-Supan P.H., Coomber F., Dennis E.B., Dolman S.J., Dunn E., Hall J., Harrower C., Hatfield J.H., Hawley J., Haysom K., Hughes J., Johns D.G., Mathews F., McQuatters-Gollop A., Noble D.G., Outhwaite C.L., Pearce-Higgins J.W., Pescott O.L., Powney G.D., Symes N. (2019) State of nature 2019. State of Nature Partnership,
Platts Philip J., Mason Suzanna C., Palmer Georgina, Hill Jane K., Oliver Tom H., Powney Gary D., Fox Richard, Thomas Chris D. (2019) Habitat availability explains variation in climate-driven range shifts across multiple taxonomic groups. ,
Plummer K.E., Powney G.D., Isaac N.J.B., Siriwardena G.M. (2019) Scoping the use of predictive models to address priority questions concerning terrestrial biodiversity. JNCC Report no. 639. JNCC, Peterborough
Powney Gary D., Carvell Claire, Edwards Mike, Morris Roger K. A., Roy Helen E., Woodcock Ben A., Isaac Nick J. B. (2019) Widespread losses of pollinating insects in Britain. ,
Redhead John W., Powney Gary D., Woodcock Ben A., Pywell Richard F. (2020) Effects of future agricultural change scenarios on beneficial insects. ,
Fox R., Dennis E.B., Harrower C.A., Blumgart D., Bell J.R., Cook P., Davis A.M., Evans-Hill L.J., Haynes F., Hill D., Isaac N.J.B., Parsons M.S., Pocock M.J.O., Prescott T., Randle Z., Shortall C.R., Tordoff G.M., Tuson D., Bourn N.A.D. (2021) The state of Britain's larger moths 2021. Butterfly Conservation, Rothamsted Research and UK Centre for Ecology \& Hydrology, Wareham
Boyd Robin J., Powney Gary D., Burns Fiona, Danet Alain, Duchenne François, Grainger Matthew J., Jarvis Susan G., Martin Gabrielle, Nilsen Erlend B., Porcher Emmanuelle, Stewart Gavin B., Wilson Oliver J., Pescott Oliver L. (2022) ROBITT: A tool for assessing the risk-of-bias in studies of temporal trends in ecology. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd,
Pakeman Robin J., Brien David O, Genney David, Brooker Rob W (2022) Identifying drivers of change in bryophyte and lichen species occupancy in Scotland. ,
Bell Fiona, Botham Marc, Brereton Tom M., Fenton Andy, Hodgson Jenny (2021) Grizzled Skippers stuck in the south: Population-level responses of an early-successional specialist butterfly to climate across its UK range over 40 years. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd,