, Volume 71, Issue 1, pp 3-14
Date: 16 Feb 2009

Potential impact of climate change on aquatic insects: A sensitivity analysis for European caddisflies (Trichoptera) based on distribution patterns and ecological preferences

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We analysed the sensitivity of European Trichoptera (caddisfly) species to climate change impacts based on their distribution and ecological preferences, and compared the fraction of species potentially endangered by climate change between the European ecoregions. The study covers 23 European ecoregions as defined by Illies (1978). For 1134 Trichoptera species and subspecies, we coded 29 parameters describing biological and ecological preferences and distribution based on the evaluation of more than 1400 literature references. Five parameters served to describe the species’ sensitivity to climate change impacts: endemism, preference for springs, preference for cold water temperatures, short emergence period, and restricted ecological niches in terms of feeding types. Of the European Trichoptera species and subspecies, 47.9% are endemic, 23.1% have a strong preference for springs, 21.9% are cold stenothermic, 35.5% have a short emergence period, and 43.7% are feeding type specialists. The fraction of endemic species meeting at least one of the four other sensitivity criteria mentioned above is highest in the Iberic-Macaronesian Region (30.2% of all species), about 20% in several other south European ecoregions, and about 10% in high mountain ranges. In 15 out of 23 ecoregions (including all northern European and lowland ecoregions) the proportion is less than 3%.

The high fraction of potentially endangered species in southern Europe is a result of speciation during the Pleistocene. Species having colonised northern Europe afterwards have generally a large geographical range and are mainly generalists and thus buffered against climate change impacts.