Towards a general relationship between climate change and biodiversity: an example for plant species in Europe

date: 2010-10-16

Climate change is one of the main factors that will affect biodiversity in the future and may even cause species extinctions. We suggest a methodology to derive a general relationship between biodiversity change and global warming. In conjunction with other pressure relationships, our relationship can help to assess the combined effect of different pressures to overall biodiversity change and indicate areas that are most at risk. We use a combination of an integrated environmental model (IMAGE) and climate envelope models for European plant species for several climate change scenarios to estimate changes in mean stable area of species and species turnover.

We show that if global temperature increases, then both species turnover will increase, and mean stable area of species will decrease in all biomes. The most dramatic changes will occur in Northern Europe, where more than 35% of the species composition in 2100 will be new for that region, and in Southern Europe, where up to 25% of the species now present will have disappeared under the climatic circumstances forecasted for 2100. In Mediterranean scrubland and natural grassland/steppe systems, arctic and tundra systems species turnover is high, indicating major changes in species composition in these ecosystems. The mean stable area of species decreases mostly in Mediterranean scrubland, grassland/steppe systems and warm mixed forests.

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