Title: Biological consequences of global warming: how might it affect the distribution of terrestrial species.


Goal/Aim: The aim is to investigate the potential biological consequences of global warming on species distribution across northern latitudes represented by the terrestrial faunas of Denmark, the Faeroe Islands and Greenland.


Background: Species distribution and species richness patterns can largely be predicted by contemporary climate, especially available solar energi and humidity.. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are expected to have significant impacts on the global climate on a timescale of decades to centuries. The question is to what extent recent climatic and atmospheric trends (and predicted near-future changes) are going to affect species distribution.


Project Description: Three main questions are to be investigated for each of these three regions to evaluate potential consequence of global change in climate:

·         How might overall patterns of species richness change?

·         What is the potential faunal turnover?

·         Which species are at risk of regional extinction and which are likely to immigrate?


Methodology: The general approach would be to compare current pattern of individual species distribution and overall richness with those predicted (through spatialmodelling) using different probable climate scenarios for the future.

Present-day distribution of taxa: Biological databases on the spatial distribution of bats, amphibians/reptiles, click beetles, butterflies, large moths and birds (n = 434) already exist in electronic format at the Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen. Comparable data can easily be compiled for the Faeroe Islands and Greenland as part of the project through existing literature and the vast faunistic expertise at the museum.

Predicted future distribution of taxa through spatial modelling

Given environmental/climatic data and general knowledge of the habitat requirements of any given taxon, it is possible to deduct  where suitable habitat exists for that taxon. The same approach can be used to predict expected ranges under new climatic regimes. Alternatively, one can also make such predictions through inductive modelling of species distribution overlaid environmental data - a range of such models are widely available. The spatial modelling requires the compilation of  a database of species’ ecological characteristics (including environmental/climatic attributes). Given current knowledge, this would be fairly easy – and the species association with prevalent habitat and climate can be derived from the existing distribution of species overlaid with habitat- and climate- layers of data.

Climatic data and climate scenarios

Climatic data will be available from DMI and international sources (e.g. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Data Distribution Centre [IPCC] (http://ipcc-ddc.cru.uea.ac.uk/). The climatology is of sufficient spatial resolution to permit regional and country scale studies. Global changes scenarios to model potential changes in species distribution will be access from the same sources (e.g., IPCC Task Group on Scenarios for Climate Impacts Assessments, which organises and facilitate freely available and downloadable data resulting from various “GCM Climate Change Scenarios”)

Copenhagen University contact person: Associate Professor Carsten Rahbek ([email protected]).