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Adaptation of northern grassland biota in the face of climate change


With climate change, many species are predicted to shift towards higher latitudes and altitudes. However, the viability of such projected range shifts will largely depend on the availability of suitable habitat networks. Certain species which are currently vulnerable, due to a lack of suitable habitats, may become increasingly threatened in the future if they cannot alter their distributions in correspondence to the shifts in climatic suitability.


Given the already existing long-term decline in semi-natural grasslands, due to agricultural intensification and abandonment of marginal areas in Finland (as in other parts of Europe), several grassland species are likely to face difficulties in migrating across fragmented landscapes to new climatically suitable areas.


Semi-natural habitats have very high species diversity in northern Europe and their persistence is crucial for the protection of biodiversity and the accompanying ecosystem services (e.g. pollination) under changing climate. In some situations, a farmer may be tempted to turn a semi-natural habitat into cultivated field to get higher income, and in some other cases farmers may simply give up management of such habitats, which leads to the overgrowth of sites and lowered habitat quality for biodiversity.  So, in the course of a climate change future policy options should take into account, on the on hand,  the conflict between more intensive production and the potential  for  abandonment, and on the other, the need to preserve viable and traditional agricultural landscapes for biodiversity conservation.



Case study will analyse the natural adaptation possibilities of grassland species in terms of distributional shifts under changing climate, their ability to persist and migrate in the present-day network of (managed) grassland sites. Also, case study will focus on societal adaptation by analysing possible need of human interventions to facilitate or enhance this natural adaptation by increasing the number of managed grassland sites with agri-environmental contracts.  


Finnish biodiversity case study will illustrate regional occurrence of semi-natural habitats in different parts of Finland (using Spatial GIS analysis) to identify potential bottlenecks that would prevent grassland-inhabiting species from dispersing to new areas during climate change.
Based on the outputs from bioclimatic envelope models, spatially dynamic simulation models and associated GIS analysis, we will broadly assess in which particular areas species may face difficulties in regional population persistence and/or dispersal.
For these areas, we will then evaluate by how much, and in which precise locations, new management or conservation efforts could be targeted to enhance, cost-effectively, the maintenance of biodiversity.







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