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The Habitats of Annex I and Climate Change.


Abstract and Figures

Although the impacts of climate change on the range of many species have been described there is relatively little evidence for habitats in general or for the habitats listed on Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive in particular. However, if climate change continues as predicted, changes to both distribution and species composition of habitats are expected.
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Naturschutz und
Biologische Vielfalt XX 2011 XX Federal Agency for
Nature Conservation
The Habitats of Annex I and Climate Change
DouglaS evanS
Although the impacts of climate change on the range of many species have been described
there is relatively little evidence for habitats in general or for the habitats listed on An-
nex I of the EU Habitats Directive in particular. However, if climate change continues as
predicted, changes to both distribution and species composition of habitats are expected.
1 Introduction
There is increasing evidence of anthropogenic climate change, with increasing tempera-
tures and changing precipitation regimes while extreme events are becoming more fre-
quent. Indirect effects include rising sea levels and changes to river ow regimes. These
changes are usually attributed to a combination of factors including a rising concentra-
tion of CO2 in the atmosphere as a result of anthropogenic emissions (IPCC 2007). These
changes are resulting in changes to the distribution and phenology of many species (EEA-
JRC-WHO 2008; Settele et al. 2010) and if predictions for future climates are correct,
these changes will continue and increase in magnitude.
Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive lists habitats considered to be rare, threatened or
typical of the region in which they occur and the Member States of the European Union are
required to propose sites (known as Sites of Community Interest (SCI)), and if accepted,
designate and manage these sites as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) (european Com-
miSSion 1992). As most Annex I habitats are largely dened by plant communities, changes
in species distribution due to climate change could potentially have a direct impact on An-
nex I habitats, possibly changing the species composition of a habitat or its distribution,
and in extreme cases leading to its disappearance. Indirect effects are also likely to occur,
especially for habitats associated with coastlines or other physical features.
To date, there appear to be few published studies considering the impact of climate change
on habitats in general and the habitats of Annex I in particular. Literature searches using
‘habitats’ and ‘climate change’ mostly nd studies on the impact (current or predicted) of
the habitat used by a given species or studies which examine the impact of climate change
and habitat loss on single species or species groups. Despite the lack of published studies
on the impact of climate change to date, climate change was noted as one of the reasons
for changes in range and/or area by many Member States when reporting on the conserva-
tion status of Annex I habitats in 2007 (european CommiSSion 2009; Sipkova et al. 2010).
for review only
As shown by Table 1, almost 1/5th of habitats were noted by one or more countries, with
habitats of the habitat groups dunes and wetlands being noted by 29 and 50 % respectively.
Table 1: Number of the habitats per habitat group for which climate change was noted by one or
more Member State as a reason for reported trends in range and/or area for the 2001-2006
report on conservation status required under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive (ETC/
BD 2009)
Habitat Group N° affected by
climate change N° of habitats
in group % affected
Bogs, mires & fens 6 12 50
Dunes 6 21 29
Forests 16 72 22
Heaths 2 10 20
Sclerophyllous scrub 2 13 15
Coastal habitats 4 28 14
Rocky habitats 2 14 14
Grasslands 3 29 10
Freshwater habitats 1 19 5
All habitats 42 218 19
2 The Habitats of Annex I
The habitats of Annex I are described in a manual published by the European Commission
(european CommiSSion 2007). There were 170 habitats listed in 1992 when the Directive
came into force and this has increased to 231 today as the European Union has grown from
12 to 27 Member States. The initial list of habitats was based on the CORINE biotopes
classication, but more recent additions are based on the Council of Europe’s Palaearctic
classication (evanS 2006). The habitats are mostly based on a group of related plant
communities indicative for a habitat type with its typical plant and animal species and
its characteristic ecological features, with approximately two-thirds having a vegetation
type, usually a higher level syntaxon, either in the name and/or the description given in
the manual. Sometimes associations given in the names are misleading, as the agreed in-
terpretation does include the whole (sub-) alliance or at least a group of plant associations.
Examples are beech forests 9110 and 9130. However there are also a number of habitats
which are physical features such as ‘1160 Large shallow inlets and bays’ and ‘1620 Boreal
Baltic islets and small islands’ or landscapes such as ‘21A0 Machairs’.
The habitats are of differing inherent variability, varying from single plant associations to
habitats encompassing much variation, there are also variations in how the habitats have
been interpreted between the Member States and sometimes between regions of the same
country (evanS 2010). Figure 1 indicates the inherent variation for the 117 Annex I habi-
tats occurring in France, only 10 habitats are a single plant association while the maximum
variation is found within habitat ‘6210 Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies
on calcareous substrates (Festuco Brometalia)’ with 135 associations.
for review only
Many habitats are dened by a mix of oristics and geography, often with reference to one
of the nine biogeographical regions, eg ‘6260 Pannonic sand steppes’. Habitats can occur
beyond the region indicated in their name and these occurrences are often of particular im-
portance, for example ‘3120 Oligotrophic waters containing very few minerals generally
on sandy soils of the West Mediterranean, with Isoetes spp’ can occur in northern France
in areas with a suitable microclimate.
Figure 1: Number of plant associations per Annex I habitat in France (based on BenSettiti 2001-
3 Predicting Changes to Annex I Habitats
The distribution of Annex I habitats, present day or future, can be modelled either by con-
sidering the habitat as a whole or by considering the component species and any physical
requirements of the habitat. The rst method effectively treats the habitat as a pseudo-
Ecological characterisation of plant communities such as that described by gégout et al.
(2005) give the most frequent and range of possible climate based on current day distribu-
tion and together with predictions of future climate can be used to predict possible future
distributions of the plant communities. Table 2 gives the temperature parameters for two
associations. Their is evidence to suggest that a rise in mean January temperature of 4 or
5 °C is likely to result in a change of plant community, other factors (e.g. soil chemistry)
remaining constant. However both associations are part of habitat ‘9130 Asperulo – Fa-
getum beech forests’ which includes beech woods on mesic soils across much of Europe.
The present day distribution of a number of Annex I habitats have been modelled by
müCHer et al. (2009) using a combination of physical factors such as climate, relief and
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140
Associations per Annex I habitat
for review only
soils together with the distribution of a small number of species per habitat. This was
relatively successful for woodlands and grasslands but gave poor predictions for river and
lake habitats as the chemical status of water was not available. This methodology could
be adapted as predictions of future climate and species distribution are available and the
authors hope to try this in the near future (C. müCHer pers. com.).
Table 2: Optimum temperature and range for two plant associations of the Annex I habitat ‘9130
Asperulo-Fagetum beech forests’ (based on gégout et al. 2007)
Association Mean January Tempera-
ture (°C) Mean July Temperature (°C)
Hordelymo-Fagetum -0.8 (-0.8 – -0.5) 16.1 (15.6 – 17.3)
Rusco-Fagetum melicetosum &
dryopteridetosum 4.6 (4.3 – 5.7) 16.6 (16.1 – 17.5)
For consideration of the impact of climate change the habitats of Annex I can be consid-
ered in groups, although some may fall into more than one group.
3.1  Habitats Dened by One or Very Few Species
For example
9420 Alpine Larix decidua and/or Pinus cembra forests
9590* Cedrus brevifolia forests (Cedrosetum brevifoliae)
For these habitats a prediction of the future distribution of the species also gives a future
distribution of the associated habitat. Predictions for future distributions of species are
widely available based on a variety of methods (guiSan & tHuiller 2005; tHuiller 2004).
However these predictions need to be used with caution as they can only predict areas
where the conditions are expected to be suitable and the models used rarely take into ac-
count dispersal or whether a species would be able to become established or form the habi-
tat type (Huntley et al. 2010). Such models are also often used to predict the local extinc-
tion of species but again care is required. For example CaSalegno et al. (2010) predict that
the climate in the Carpathians will become unsuitable for Pinus cembra later this century
which suggests that the subtypes of habitat ‘9420 Alpine Larix decidua and/or Pinus cem-
bra forests’ with P. cembra would disappear from this mountain range. However P. cembra
is a long lived species, living up to 400 years (lauBer & Wagner 2000) and although
conditions may not be suitable for its full live cycle, it is possible that the existing trees
may remain for some time, a situation analogous to extinction debt described for habitat
loss (tilman et al. 1994). There is also evidence that many species are especially sensitive
to extreme climatic events (e.g. peterken & mountForD 1996, leBourgeoiS et al. 2010).
3.2  Habitats Dened or Largely Determined by Physical or Geological 
For example
8310 Caves not open to the public
for review only
8340 Permanent glaciers
Several of the habitats in this group, such as caves and lava elds may change in species
composition with changing climate but will remain the same Annex I habitat. This group
also includes the only Annex I habitats which are currently directly threatened by climate
change ‘8340 Permanent glaciers’ where there are well described losses with predic-
tions that the habitat will disappear in many parts of its current range within a few decades
(gruneWalD & SCHeitHauer 2010) and ‘7320 Palsa mires’ which are mires with an ice core
and are considered to be at risk of becoming extinct in the European Union by the end of
this century (Fronzek et al. 2010).
3.3 Habitats Partly Linked to Their Region
For example
1620 Boreal Baltic islets and small islands
2340* Pannonic inland dunes
The Habitats Directive refers to 9 biogeographical regions. The map of the biogeographi-
cal regions is based on maps on potential natural vegetation (ETC/BD 2006) which in
turn are related to climate. The map is designed to be used at small scales and is likely to
be sufciently accurate for the near future. However, if climate changes as predicted the
boundaries of the regions will shift in time. metzger et al. (2008) show predicted changes
in environmental zones which can be correlated to the Biogeographical regions of the
Habitats Directive. This predicts that some regions will change more than others, with the
Alpine and Boreal regions decreasing in size, the Mediterranean expanding and the Atlan-
tic remaining little changed.
Many habitats are partly dened by their vegetation zone with many restricted to the Al-
pine zone, e.g. ‘6170 Alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands’. It is widely predicted
that these altitudinal zones will move upwards (e.g. parmeSan 2006; Settele et al. 2010)
with the Alpine zone becoming much smaller and the range of associated habitats also
decreasing. There is already evidence for tree levels rising across much of Europe but this
is often attributed to changes in land use such as reduced grazing (améztegu et al. 2010).
4  Impact of Changing Climate on Other Factors 
Many of the published studies of potential future distributions of species and habitats only
take into account climatic factors such as precipitation and temperature. However it is pre-
dicted that other factors which control the distribution of some Annex I habitats will also
change, such as sea level and hydraulic regimes of rivers and these need to be taken into
account. In southern Europe many rivers which currently ow all year are likely to become
seasonal (alCamo et al. 2007), with habitat ‘3280 Constantly owing Mediterranean rivers
with Paspalo-Agrostidion species and hanging curtains of Salix and Populus alba chang-
ing to ‘3290 Intermittently owing Mediterranean rivers of the Paspalo-Agrostidion’.
Coastal habitats such as dunes, seacliffs and coastal saltmarshes will clearly be impacted
for review only
by rising sealevels as well as increased frequency of extreme storms with predicted losses
of intertidal areas and associated habitats such as ‘1140 Mudats and sandats not covered
by seawater at low tide’ (riCHarDS & niCHollS 2009). In some parts of Europe such as the
Baltic, sea level is rising while the land is also rising due to post glacial rebound leading to
a complex situation (joHanSSon et al. 2004).
For both coastal and riverine habitats there is a potential impact on biodiversity, including
Annex I habitats, from measures taken to protect existing land use, including infrastruc-
ture, from the impacts of climate change.
In many instances site management is likely to be important, and site managers will have
to decide if they want to facilitate adaptation to changing climate, possibly by encourag-
ing change or to try and maintain the habitat unchanged. For example, Fagus sylvatica is
considered to be native only in southern England although it is present throughout most
of Great Britain. WeSCHe et al. (2006) note that at present, F. sylvatica seedlings are often
cleared from woodland nature reserves in northern England, beyond the accepted natural
range of the species although it could be argued that these sites should be allowed to de-
velop to a ‘future natural’ state (peterken 1996) which might be ‘9130 Asperulo-Fagetum
beech forests’ or ‘9120 Atlantic acidophilous beech forests with Ilex and sometimes also
Taxus in the shrublayer (Quercion robori-petraeae or Ilici-Fagenion)’ on more acidic soils.
5 Conclusion
At present there is little evidence that climate change has had a signicant impact on the
majority of habitats listed on Annex I of the Habitats Directive and the major pressure is
changing land use. However this is likely to change if climate change continues as predict-
ed. The Annex I habitats with limited inherent variability are more likely to become locally
extinct than those which are more variable. Even where habitat distribution is unlikely to
change, changes in species composition are expected.
As the species composition of the habitats starts to change it may be necessary to redene
some habitats and possibly add further habitats, which may be existing habitats which
have started to become rare and thus qualifying as ‘habitats of Community Interest’ or
newly arising habitats types (HoBBS et al. 2009; WilliamS & jaCkSon 2007).
Zusammenfassung: Die Habitate von Annex I und Klimawandel
Obwohl die Auswirkungen des Klimawandels auf die Verbreitung zahlreicher Arten be-
reits beschrieben wurden, gibt es relativ wenige Aussagen für Biotoptypen. Insbesondere
für die Lebensraumtypen nach Anhang I der FFH-Richtlinie fehlen entsprechende Un-
tersuchungen. Wenn sich der Klimawandel jedoch wie angenommen weiter fortsetzt, ist
langfristig sowohl eine Veränderung der Verbreitung als auch der Artenzusammensetzung
vieler Lebensraumtypen zu erwarten.
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Author’s address
Douglas Evans
European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity
57 rue Cuvier
75231 Paris cedex 05
for review only
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... In line with this response, it is seen as an important, additional measure to increase ecological connectivity through protecting corridors and integrating conservation objectives in the management of areas outside the protection regime (Brooker et al. 2007;Cliquet et al. 2009a, b;Huntley et al. 2012). Yet, in this perspective, the basic concept of habitat and species protection under Natura is seen as adequate even under a changing climate This policy rationale is supported by arguments of conservation scholars that consider Natura 2000 protection to be feasible in a changing climate (Dodd et al. 2009;Ellwanger et al. 2012;Evans 2012). ...
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Diese Arbeit ist ursprünglich als Prüfungsleistung eines Kurses zum Thema „Naturschutzbiologie“ im Rahmen meines Bachelor-Studiums an der Universität Göttingen entstanden. Der Text hat nicht den Anspruch, hohen wissenschaftlichen Ansprüchen zu genügen, sondern soll dazu dienen, jedem daran interessierten Menschen einen einfachen, aber umfassenden Einstieg in das Thema zu bieten. Ich hoffe, auf diese Weise viele Menschen für das wichtige Thema sensibilisieren zu können und zur Information der Bevölkerung darüber beizutragen. Ich möchte an dieser Stelle dem Leiter des Kurses Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Matthias Waltert für die Unterstützung bei der Bearbeitung des Themas und die Ermunterung zur Veröffentlichung des Ergebnisses danken. PDF (57 Seiten) auf Anfrage verfügbar.
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Abstract Although bioclimatic modelling is often used to estimate potential impacts of likely climate changes, little has been done to assess the reliability and variability of projections. Here, using four niche-based models, two methods to derive probability values from models into presence–absence data and five climate change scenarios, I project the future potential habitats of 1350 European plant species for 2050. All 40 different projections of species turnover across Europe suggested high potential species turnover (up to 70%) in response to climate change. However variability in the potential distributional changes of species across climate scenarios was obscured by a strong variability in projections arising from alternative, yet equally justifiable, niche-based models. Therefore, projections of future species distributions and derived community descriptors cannot be reliably discussed unless model uncertainty is quantified explicitly. I propose and test an alternative way to account for modelling variability when deriving estimates of species turnover (with and without dispersal) according to a range of climate change scenarios representing various socio-economic futures.
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No-analog communities (communities that are compositionally unlike any found today) occurred frequently in the past and will develop in the greenhouse world of the future. The well documented no-analog plant communities of late-glacial North America are closely linked to "novel" climates also lacking modern analogs, characterized by high seasonality of temperature. In climate simulations for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change A2 and B1 emission scenarios, novel climates arise by 2100 AD, primarily in tropical and subtropical regions. These future novel climates are wanner than any present climates globally, with spatially variable shifts in precipitation, and increase the risk of species reshuffling into future no-analog communities and other ecological surprises. Most ecological models are at least partially parameterized from modern observations and so may fail to accurately predict ecological responses to these novel climates. There is an urgent need to test the robustness of ecological models to climate conditions outside modern experience.
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HABITAT destruction is the major cause of species extinctions1–3. Dominant species often are considered to be free of this threat because they are abundant in the undisturbed fragments that remain after destruction. Here we describe a model that explains multispecies coexistence in patchy habitats4 and which predicts that their abundance may be fleeting. Even moderate habitat destruction is predicted to cause time-delayed but deterministic extinction of the dominant competitor in remnant patches. Further species are predicted to become extinct, in order from the best to the poorest competitors, as habitat destruction increases. More-over, the more fragmented a habitat already is, the greater is the number of extinctions caused by added destruction. Because such extinctions occur generations after fragmentation, they represent a debt—a future ecological cost of current habitat destruction.
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In Britain, some climate change models predict a shift in the climatic suitability envelope for beech (Fagus sylvatica) to the north and west, beyond its past-native range, whereas much of the current conservation effort targets beech woodlands in the south and east. Possible implications for the conservation of typical beech woodland plant assemblages were explored by comparing the occurrence of the component species in southern (inside past-native range) and northern England (outside past-native range, but within future climate-suitability envelope) through comparison of county lists of plants, and direct comparison of stands in each region.Most plants listed in the National Vegetation Classification beech woodland community tables already occur in the two northern counties’ plant lists. There was also much overlap in the species recorded in the field surveys between northern and southern sites. Thus, there appears to be good potential for beech woods beyond their past-native range to develop assemblages similar to those currently valued in southern Britain.A short questionnaire survey of 47 individuals involved in forestry and conservation management in Britain suggests that while climate change is recognised as a factor that will affect future conservation management, there is less acceptance to date of a need to modify current policies and practice to take account of possible future range changes.
Proactive management should be applied within a forest conservation context to prevent extinction or degradation of those forest ecosystems that we suspect will be affected by global warming in the next century. The aim of this study is to estimate the vulnerability under climate change of a localized and endemic tree species Pinus cembra that occurs in the alpine timberline. We used the Random Forest ensemble classifier and available bioclimatic and ecological data to model present and future suitable areas for P. cembra and estimate its current and future vulnerability. Future projections for years 2020, 2050 and 2080 were simulated using two IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios run under four global climate models. The suitability model described the optimal environmental conditions for P. cembra. Model scores (κ = 0.77, sensitivity = 0.99 and specificity = 0.80) are robust. The main factors defining the model were Kira's warmth index and summer temperatures. Results show that there is potential for P. cembra to regenerate and persist in currently suitable areas. Future trends analysis suggested a cumulated mean loss of suitable areas of between 53% and 72% for different scenarios. All modeled projections predicted an upslope shift of the optimally suitable P. cembra belt and no downslope shift. We discuss environmental factors/plant interactions, the theoretical assumptions behind the model, model strengths and limitations, and we highlight the conservative traits of our analysis. The results suggest that forest management practices will play a fundamental role in the conservation of P. cembra habitats in the Alps
Aim To assess the spatial patterns of forest expansion (encroachment and densification) for mountain pine (Pinus uncinata Ram.) during the last 50 years at a whole mountain range scale by the study of different topographic and socio-economic potential drivers in the current context of global change. Location The study area includes the whole distributional area of mountain pine in the Catalan Pyrenees (north-east Spain). This represents more than 80 municipalities, covering a total area of 6018 km2. Methods Forest cover was obtained by image reclassification of more than 200 pairs of aerial photographs taken in 1956 and 2006. Encroachment and densification were determined according to changes in forest cover, and were expressed as binary variables on a 150 × 150 m cell-size grid. We then used logistic regression to analyse the effects of several topographic and socio-economic variables on forest expansion. Results In the period analysed, mountain pine increased its surface coverage by 8898 ha (an increase of more than 16%). Mean canopy cover rose from 31.0% in 1956 to 55.6% in 2006. Most of the expansion was found on north-facing slopes and at low altitudes. Socio-economic factors arose as major factors in mountain pine expansion, as encroachment rates were higher in municipalities with greater population losses or weaker primary sector development. Main conclusions The spatial patterns of mountain pine expansion showed a good match with the main patterns of land-use change in the Pyrenees, suggesting that land-use changes have played a more important role than climate in driving forest dynamics at a landscape scale over the period studied. Further studies on forest expansion at a regional scale should incorporate patterns of land-use changes to correctly interpret drivers of forest encroachment and densification.
Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. – In: parry, m.l., Canziani, o.F., palutikoF, j.p., van Der linDen
  • J Alcamo
  • J M Moreno
  • B Nováky
  • M Bindi
  • R Corobov
  • R J N Devoy
  • C Giannako-Poulos
  • E Martin
  • J E Olesen
  • A Shvidenko
alcamo, J., moreno, J.m., noVáky, B., BinDi, m., coroBoV, r., DeVoy, r.J.n., Giannako-pouloS, C., martin, e., oleSen, j.e. & SHviDenko, a. (2007): Europe. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. – In: parry, m.l., Canziani, o.F., palutikoF, j.p., van Der linDen, p.j. & HanSon, C.e. (Eds.) – Cambridge (Cambridge University Press): 541-580
Interpretation manual of European Union habitats – EUR 27
  • European Commission
european CommiSSion (2007): Interpretation manual of European Union habitats – EUR 27. – Brussels: 142 pp. (URL: bitatsdirective/docs/2007_07_im.pdf).