Table of Contents

  • It is currently well know that climate change may affect biodiversity to a large extent. Its effects have already caused shifts in species distributions and even species’ extinctions. Since especially high latitude regions are expected to be affected by climate change, we felt it necessary to assess the impact of future climate change on the biodiversity in these regions. By doing so we would be able to aid decision makers and stakeholders in nature conservation planning. The overarching aim of this project was therefore to evaluate the effectiveness of protected areas that are currently present in the Barents Region in conserving species and ecosystems in a future situation with a warmer climate, and to assess the effect of predicted increases in anthropogenic pressures and land-use changes on future species communities.

  • It is currently well know that the climate is changing rapidly. This may not only have large consequences for humanity, it may also affect a large number of species and ecosystems. In fact, species have already responded to recent climate change by for instance adjusting their range towards the poles and upwards in the mountains. The climate will change even more in the Barents Region (northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Northwest Russia) in future. It is thus expected that species will go “on the move”. This will likely lead to the formation of new species communities, since species will not all move in the same direction. Species that have never co-existed may co-exist in future. This means that some species may have to face a large number of predators or competitors in future, whilst others may benefit from a larger number of prey. If we want to be able to conserve the species that are currently occurring in the Barents Region, we need to know which threats they will face in future, which new species (species currently occurring south of the Barents region) they may have to co-exist with in future, which areas will be suitable for their needs in future and if they are able to reach those areas. A project to obtain this knowledge was therefore set up at the Landscape Ecology group of the Department of Ecology and Environmental Science of Umeå University. The project was mostly conducted by Anouschka Hof, assisted by Roland Jansson, coordinated by Christer Nilsson, and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

  • The climate is changing rapidly, affecting the distribution and abundance of numerous species. If we want to be able to preserve biodiversity it is paramount that we obtain more knowledge about how climate change may affect the species currently inhabiting the Barents Region, i.e. northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Northwest Russia, and the species that may in future establish in the region.

  • It is currently well known that the climate is changing rapidly (IPCC 2007). The predicted impact of climate change is thought to be large scale and capable of affecting entire ecosystems, since the geographic distribution of terrestrial ecosystems is ultimately shaped by climatic factors such as temperature and precipitation (Woodward 1987). Especially the high latitude regions in the northern hemisphere are expected to be affected by amongst others an increasing winter temperature (IPCC 2007; ACIA 2005). Indeed, it is undeniable that the climate in the arctic region has changed over the last few decades (Serreze et al. 2000; Peterson et al. 2002; Serreze et al. 2003). Various climate change models predict significant changes in northern areas. Roderfeld et al. (2008), for instance, predict that the tundra climate will decrease and the temperate climate types will extent to the north in future (also see Callaghan et al. 1995; Kullman 2002). Moreover, the European part of the Subarctic and Arctic regions, i.e. the Barents Region is the most geographically complex with the most infrastructure and great cultural, social, and political heterogeneity (Nilsson et al. 2010).

  • The Barents Region will become warmer and wetter in future according to the expectations (Figure 2). In 2080 it is expected to be on average 5.0 °C warmer than in the period between 1950 and 2000 (min. 2.7 °C, max. 6.7 °C). Furthermore, in 2080 the expected annual precipitation has risen with on average 69 mm, with a minimum of 23 mm, and a maximum of 278 mm extra precipitation in comparison to 1950–2000.

  • Amphibians are ectotherms. This means that they rely on environmental heat sources like the sun to regulate their body temperature to a large extent. Changes in the climatic regime therefore generally have large effects on the development, spatial distribution, and species interactions of and between amphibians (Walther et al. 2002). We assessed the impact of climate change on 9 species of amphibians currently occurring in or just south of the Barents Region (also see Table 2a in the Appendix.). These species were the agile frog (Rana dalmatina), common frog (Rana temporaria), European tree frog (Hyla arborea), moor frog (Rana arvalis), pool frog (Pelophylax lessonae), common toad (Bufo bufo), natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita), northern crested newt (Triturus cristatus), and the smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris). Of these, the agile frog, the European tree frog, the pool frog, and the natterjack toad are currently not established in the Barents Region. However, part of the region is predicted to be suitable for the pool frog in future (Figure 7). If this species is able to disperse we may be able to find it in the region in future.

  • We assessed the vulnerability to climate change of over 200 birds that currently breed in or just south of the Barents Region (also see Table 2b in the Appendix). We complemented traditional species distribution modelling with an extensive literature review on a large number of natural history traits that may be potential risk factors in a warming environment. A total of 175 species, the winners, were predicted to expand their breeding range in the Barents Region in future. A further 14 species currently not breeding in the study region were predicted to expand their breeding range in the future into the study region, the colonizers.

  • Especially ectothermic species, such as terrestrial gastropods, may be affected considerably by alterations in temperature and precipitation regimes (Aragón et al. 2010; Deutsch et al. 2008). In addition to these direct impacts, climate change can have a large impact on species communities and habitat structure. Since terrestrial gastropods are also sensitive to alterations in habitat structure and species interactions, it is expected that a continued climate change will affect terrestrial gastropods in ways not easy to anticipate. We assessed the current and future geographic distribution and diversity of 99 terrestrial gastropod species from the order Stylommatophora throughout Europe. We found that most species will be able to expand their geographic distribution range northwards (Figure 17). Only 14 species were expected to contract their future distribution range. Most of these were slugs, which is to be expected since slugs are not protected against unfavourable environmental conditions by a shell, like snails are. Their activity is thus to a larger extent dependent on microclimatic conditions (Crawford-Sidebotham 1972).

  • One of the first reported incidences of climate-change induced poleward shifts of the geographic distributions of a relatively large number of species was the study by Parmesan et al. (1999). This study reported that 22 of 35 non-migratory European butterflies had shifted their ranges northwards by 35–240 km in the last century, whilst only one shifted to the south. We assessed the future potential geographic distribution of 84 insect species of the order Lepidoptera, which includes both butterflies and moths, in the Barents Region (also see Table 2c in the Appendix). Of the 84 species assessed, 28 were not yet established in the Barents Region. For three of these species, Coenonympha arcania, Coenonympha pamphilus, and Maniola jurtina, there will still not be suitable climatic conditions in the Barents Region in future. However, conditions are predicted to be suitable by 2070 for the remaining 25 species.

  • We assessed potential changes in the geographic distribution of all terrestrial mammal species currently present in the Barents Region along with species that might colonize. Our results indicate that 43 out of the 61 species modelled will expand and shift their ranges, mostly in a northeasterly direction, in future. This is based on the assumption that species are able to colonize all areas that become climatically suitable. We further predict that the climate in the Barents Region will become suitable to ten more mammalian species, of which eight bats.

  • Reptiles, like amphibians, are ectotherms and like amphibians, they are globally declining. Climate change has been mentioned as one reason for this decline (Gibbons et al. 2000). Possibly one of the largest consequences climate change may have on this class of species if that certain reptiles have temperature dependent sex-determination of hatchlings (Janzen 1994). Furthermore, since reptiles are slow dispersers, shifts in climatic niches may also form a large threat. We assessed the impact of climate change on the geographic distribution of six reptile species currently occuring in or just south of the Barents Region: the smooth snake (Coronella austriaca), the grass snake (Natrix natrix), the common European adder (Vipera berus), the slow worm (Anguis fragilis), the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), and the viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara) (also see Appendix Table 1e.). Of these six species, the sand lizard may be able to establish itself in the Barents Region in future (Figure 26). At present it is not occurring in the Barents Region, but the species has been recorded south from the region.

  • The objective of this project was to identify future hotspots of species diversity and the possible need for additional protected areas in the Barents Region. We included in total 399 species representing 5 classes in the analyses: amphibians (n=12), birds (n=231), butterflies and moths (n=92), mammals (n=65), and reptiles (n=6). We excluded 62 species from the analyses because we either were unable to obtain sufficient species occurrences or the performance of the models was deemed unsufficient. Analyses were therefore limited to 337 species (See Table 2a-e in the appendix). In chapters 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9 we reported on the findings for the specific taxonomic classes. Here we report on general findings and the results of the spatial conservation planning using Zonation.