Impacts of climate change on Swiss biodiversity: An indicator taxa approach

Biological Conservation (Impact Factor: 3.76). 02/2011; 144(2):866-875. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2010.11.020


We present a new indicator taxa approach to the prediction of climate change effects on biodiversity at the national level in Switzerland. As indicators, we select a set of the most widely distributed species that account for 95% of geographical variation in sampled species richness of birds, butterflies, and vascular plants. Species data come from a national program designed to monitor spatial and temporal trends in species richness. We examine some opportunities and limitations in using these data. We develop ecological niche models for the species as functions of both climate and land cover variables. We project these models to the future using climate predictions that correspond to two IPCC 3rd assessment scenarios for the development of ‘greenhouse’ gas emissions. We find that models that are calibrated with Swiss national monitoring data perform well in 10-fold cross-validation, but can fail to capture the hot-dry end of environmental gradients that constrain some species distributions. Models for indicator species in all three higher taxa predict that climate change will result in turnover in species composition even where there is little net change in predicted species richness. Indicator species from high elevations lose most areas of suitable climate even under the relatively mild B2 scenario. We project some areas to increase in the number of species for which climate conditions are suitable early in the current century, but these areas become less suitable for a majority of species by the end of the century. Selection of indicator species based on rank prevalence results in a set of models that predict observed species richness better than a similar set of species selected based on high rank of model AUC values. An indicator species approach based on selected species that are relatively common may facilitate the use of national monitoring data for predicting climate change effects on the distribution of biodiversity.

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    • "Brunzel and Plachter 1999, Virtanen and Neuvonen 1999, Nowicki et al. 2008, Pascher et al. 2009), most recently as one of the major indicators to monitor and assess biodiversity change in Europe (EEA 2007, 2010; but see Fleishman and Murphy 2009 for a critical evaluation). For example, the monitoring data of Lepidoptera have been successfully used to detect declines of species and species richness (Maes and Van Dyck 2001, Conrad et al. 2004, Wenzel et al. 2006, Nilsson et al. 2008), to assess the effects of agri-environmental schemes (Aviron et al. 2007b, Roth et al. 2008, Merckx et al. 2009a), to monitor the impact of land use change (Ricketts et al. 2001, Feber et al. 2007, Merckx et al. 2009b, Stefanescu et al. 2009, van Dyck et al. 2009), to record direct effects of management measurements in arable land (Field et al. 2005, 2007, Dover et al. 2010), to indicate adverse effects of pesticide use (Johnson et al. 1995, Longley and Sotherton 1997, Severns 2002, Russell and Schultz 2010), or to assess the effects of climate change (Settele et al. 2008, VanSwaay et al. 2008a, Pearman et al. 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) are related to many biotic and abiotic characteristics of the environment, and are widely accepted as relevant protection goals. Adverse effects on butterflies and moths through genetically modified (GM) crops have been demonstrated, by both insect-resistant and herbicidetolerant events. Thus, Lepidoptera are considered suitable bio-indicators for monitoring the potential adverse effects due to the cultivation of GM crops, and guidelines were developed under the umbrella of the Association of German Engineers VDI (Verein Deutscher Ingenieure), entitled "Monitoring the effects of genetically modified organisms (GMO) - Standardised monitoring of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera): transect method, light trap and larval survey". Here, the background and rationale of the VDI guidelines are presented, including a summary of the methods described in the guidelines. Special emphasis is given to the discussion of underlying reasons for the selection and adjustment of the applied methodology with respect to the GMO monitoring of day-active Lepidoptera, of night-active moths and of the recording of lepidopteran larvae, as well as to sample design and strategy. Further aspects possibly interfering with monitoring quality are treated such as landscape patterns, low species number and abundance in agro-ecosystems, or high year-to-year fluctuations of populations of Lepidoptera. Though specifically designed for GM crops, the VDI guidelines may also serve as a template to monitor the effects of a wider range of adverse factors on Lepidoptera in agriculture.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2013 · BIORISK ? Biodiversity and Ecosystem Risk Assessment
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    • "If climate change threatens only local lineages, these threats would go undetected when considering the generic pan-European niche, or unrealistic modeled shifts could be predicted. Hence, national level studies are commonly carried out based on the portion of the range which falls within the national territory [40,41,42]. Regarding all these controversial issues decisions need to be taken and the implications discussed, bearing in mind that any modeling exercise will only produce estimates which make it possible to contrast projected range shifts between communities and set conservation priorities in a relative and comparative way. "
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    ABSTRACT: Coastal dunes worldwide harbor threatened habitats characterized by high diversity in terms of plant communities. In Italy, recent assessments have highlighted the insufficient state of conservation of these habitats as defined by the EU Habitats Directive. The effects of predicted climate change could have dramatic consequences for coastal environments in the near future. An assessment of the efficacy of protection measures under climate change is thus a priority. Here, we have developed environmental envelope models for the most widespread dune habitats in Italy, following two complementary approaches: an "indirect" plant-species-based one and a simple "direct" one. We analyzed how habitats distribution will be altered under the effects of two climate change scenarios and evaluated if the current Italian network of protected areas will be effective in the future after distribution shifts. While modeling dune habitats with the "direct" approach was unsatisfactory, "indirect" models had a good predictive performance, highlighting the importance of using species' responses to climate change for modeling these habitats. The results showed that habitats closer to the sea may even increase their geographical distribution in the near future. The transition dune habitat is projected to remain stable, although mobile and fixed dune habitats are projected to lose most of their actual geographical distribution, the latter being more sensitive to climate change effects. Gap analysis highlighted that the habitats' distribution is currently adequately covered by protected areas, achieving the conservation target. However, according to predictions, protection level for mobile and fixed dune habitats is predicted to drop drastically under the climate change scenarios which we examined. Our results provide useful insights for setting management priorities and better addressing conservation efforts to preserve these threatened habitats in future.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    • "In Switzerland, an increase in mean temperature of 2 K by 2050 might lead to a decrease of 3–15 species per km 2 in lowlands because of the upward shift and to a slight increase above 1200 m (Bureau de coordination du Monitoring de la biodiversité en Suisse 2009). But, on subalpine–alpine ridges, this increase will correspond to an almost complete species turnover (Pearman et al. 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: A noticeable increase in mean temperature has already been observed in Switzerland and summer temperatures up to 4.8 K warmer are expected by 2090. This article reviews the observed impacts of climate change on biodiversity and considers some perspectives for the future at the national level. The following impacts are already evident for all considered taxonomic groups: elevation shifts of distribution towards mountain summits, spread of thermophilous species, colonisation by new species from warmer areas and phenological shifts. Additionally, in the driest areas, increasing droughts are affecting tree survival and fish species are suffering from warm temperatures in lowland regions. These observations are coherent with model projections, and future changes will probably follow the current trends. These changes will likely cause extinctions for alpine species (competition, loss of habitat) and lowland species (temperature or drought stress). In the very urbanised Swiss landscape, the high fragmentation of the natural ecosystems will hinder the dispersal of many species towards mountains. Moreover, disruptions in species interactions caused by individual migration rates or phenological shifts are likely to have consequences for biodiversity. Conversely, the inertia of the ecosystems (species longevity, restricted dispersal) and the local persistence of populations will probably result in lower extinction rates than expected with some models, at least in 21st century. It is thus very difficult to estimate the impact of climate change in terms of species extinctions. A greater recognition by society of the intrinsic value of biodiversity and of its importance for our existence will be essential to put in place effective mitigation measures and to safeguard a maximum number of native species.
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