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.
|Lyceana hippothoe - Purple-edged Copper, Lyceana hippothoe, is one of the butterfly species dwelling in semi-natural grasslands in Finland. Photo: Janne Heliölä|
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.
|Traditionally managed semi-natural grasslands harbour a high biodiversity, and often also red-listed plants, butterflies and other insect species. Photo: Miska Luoto
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.
|Agricultural field - Agricultural intensification, especially the conversion of unimproved grasslands to arable crops and the use of fertilizers, is one of the main drivers for the decline of semi-natural grasslands and their biota. Photo: Janne Heliölä|
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.
|Abandoned grassland site - abandonment of traditionally managed grasslands results also in the decline of grassland species; abandoned grasslands may quickly become overgrown by scrubs and woodland. Photo: Janne Heliölä
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.