Assessment of projected changes in upland environments using simple climatic indices
Clark, J. M., Orr, H. G., Freer, J., House, J. I., Smith, P. and Freeman, C. (2010) Assessment of projected changes in upland environments using simple climatic indices. Climate Research, 45. pp. 87-104. ISSN 0936-577X
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To link to this article DOI: 10.3354/cr00923
Climate controls upland habitats, soils and their associated ecosystem services; therefore, understanding possible changes in upland climatic conditions can provide a rapid assessment of climatic vulnerability over the next century. We used 3 different climatic indices that were optimised to fit the upland area classified by the EU as a Severely Disadvantaged Area (SDA) 1961–1990. Upland areas within the SDA covered all altitudinal ranges, whereas the maximum altitude of lowland areas outside of the SDA was ca. 300 m. In general, the climatic index based on the ratio between annual accumulated temperature (as a measure of growing season length) and annual precipitation predicted 96% of the SDA mapped area, which was slightly better than those indices based on annual or seasonal water deficit. Overall, all climatic indices showed that upland environments were exposed to some degree of change by 2071–2100 under UKCIP02 climate projections for high and low emissions scenarios. The projected area declined by 13 to 51% across 3 indices for the low emissions scenario and by 24 to 84% for the high emissions scenario. Mean altitude of the upland area increased by +11 to +86 m for the low scenario and +21 to +178 m for the high scenario. Low altitude areas in eastern and southern Great Britain were most vulnerable to change. These projected climatic changes are likely to affect upland habitat composition, long-term soil carbon storage and wider ecosystem service provision, although it is not yet possible to determine the rate at which this might occur.