Projected environmental shifts under climate change: European trends and regional impacts

Marc Metzger, R. G. H. Bunce, R. Leemans, D. Viner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Potential impacts of climate change on ecosystems and the environment are generally assessed by summarizing climate change scenarios for broad regions (for example countries), or by specific modelling exercises. This paper presents an alternative approach for summarizing climate change impacts on the European environment, by linking climate change scenarios to recognized environmental divisions. Sixteen climate scenarios from four general circulation models were therefore linked to 84 statistically derived strata sharing common environmental features. In this way, the future distribution of the strata, as defined by their climate characteristics, were quantified and mapped. The results show that Europe is likely to experience major environmental shifts, with pronounced regional variations. As expected, environmental strata shift northwards. In particular the southern Mediterranean strata are projected to expand, whereas Atlantic environments remain much more stable. Alpine and Mediterranean mountain environments decline dramatically. However, the Scandinavian zones show no consistent pattern of change. More detailed analysis of four sample regions shows that the impacts of the projected shifts will largely depend on regional characteristics. Environmental conservation, regional assessments and scenario development could therefore be facilitated by combining relevant regional datasets (for example for vegetation, land cover and species distribution) with the shifting environmental strata.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-75
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Conservation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2008


  • climate change
  • climate response surfaces
  • environmental stratification
  • Europe
  • potential impacts
  • regional assessment
  • shifting environments


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