Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 997–1010 | Cite as

How climate proof is the European Union’s biodiversity policy?

  • Astrid van TeeffelenEmail author
  • Laura Meller
  • Jelle van Minnen
  • Jan Vermaat
  • Mar Cabeza
Original Article


In the European Union’s (EU) targets for the year 2020, climate change is recognised as a key challenge for biodiversity conservation. Meeting this challenge requires insight at three levels: the climate change impacts on biodiversity in the EU; the adaptation options put forward to alleviate these impacts; and how current EU policy can accommodate the adaptation options. These three topics have all been discussed in the peer-reviewed literature, but typically in isolation and with potential bias in attention for specific aspects such as species distribution shifts and network connectivity. Here, we bring these three levels together to identify matches and gaps between them, to guide policy development. In particular, we assess key concerns on the degree to which EU biodiversity policy facilitates climate change adaptation. Our findings indicate that, firstly, available adaptation options do not cover all impacts of climate change. Options are biased towards shifts and contractions in species distributions, while, e.g., disruption of species interactions is not addressed yet. Second, proposed adaptation options are often generic and lack spatial specificity, revealing an urgent need for guidance on identifying appropriate, albeit adaptive responses to the range of climate change impacts. Third, while EU biodiversity policy requires and supports adaptation in several ways, its narrow interpretation hinders its potential to conserve biodiversity under climate change. Remaining policy gaps include: (1) conservation targets need to better match conservation needs; (2) targets need to be set in a spatially coherent manner across national scales; (3) current monitoring appears insufficient to address these gaps.


Climate change Climate adaptation Biodiversity conservation Habitats Directive Birds Directive Natura 2000 



This research was financially supported by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. 244092 ‘RESPONSES’ (all authors) and 308393 ‘OPERAs’ (AvT). MC received funding from the Academy of Finland (grants # 257686 and #250444).

Supplementary material

10113_2014_647_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (206 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 205 kb)
10113_2014_647_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (219 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 219 kb)


  1. Alcamo J, Moreno JM, Nováky B, Bindi M, Corobov R, Devoy RJN, Giannakopoulos C, Martin E, Olesen JE, Shvidenko A (2007) Europe. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 541–580Google Scholar
  2. Araújo MB, Thuiller W, Pearson RG (2006) Climate warming and the decline of amphibians and reptiles in Europe. J Biogeogr 33:1712–1728CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Araújo MB, Alagador D, Cabeza M, Nogués-Bravo D, Thuiller W (2011) Climate change threatens European conservation areas. Ecol Lett 14(5):484–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bakkenes M, Eickhout B, Alkemade JRM (2006) Impacts of different climate stabilisation scenarios on plant species in Europe. Glob Environ Change 16:19–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barbet-Massin M, Thuiller W, Jiguet F (2012) The fate of European breeding birds under climate, land-use and dispersal scenarios. Glob Change Biol 18(3):881–890. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02552.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bellard C, Bertelsmeier C, Leadley P, Thuiller W, Courchamp F (2012) Impacts of climate change on the future of biodiversity. Ecol Lett 15(4):365–377. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01736.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berg MP, Kiers ET, Driessen G, Van Der Heijden M, Kooi BW, Kuenen F, Liefting M, Verhoef HA, Ellers J (2010) Adapt or disperse: understanding species persistence in a changing world. Glob Change Biol 16(2):587–598. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.02014.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berry P (2008) Climate change and the vulnerability of Bern Convention species and habitats. Council of Europe, Strasbourg;
  9. Berry P (ed) (2009) Biodiversity in the balance—mitigation and adaptation conflicts and synergies. Pensoft Publishers, SofiaGoogle Scholar
  10. Bertzky M, Dickson B, Galt R, Glen E, Harley M, Hodgson N, Keder G, Lysenko I, Pooley M, Ravilious C, Sajwaj T, Schiopu R, de Soye Y, Tucker G (2010) Impacts of climate change and selected renewable energy infrastructures on EU biodiversity and the Natura 2000 network: summary report. European Commission and International Union for Conservation of Nature, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  11. Briggs BDJ, Hill DA, Gillespie R (2009) Habitat banking—how it could work in the UK. J Nat Conserv 17(2):112–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Campbell A, Kapos V, Scharlemann JPW, Bubb P, Chenery A, Coad L, Dickson B, Doswald N, Khan MSI, Kershaw F, Rashid M (2009) Review of the literature on the links between biodiversity and climate change: impacts, adaptation and mitigation. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal. Technical Series No. 42, 124 p.
  13. CBD (2011) Strategic plan for biodiversity 2011–2020 and the Aichi targets.
  14. Christensen J, Hewitson B, Busuioc A, Chen A, Gao X, Held I, Jones R, Kolli R, Kwon W-T, Laprise R, Magaña Rueda V, Mearns L, Menéndez C, Räisänen J, Rinke A, Sarr A, Whetton P (2007) Regional climate projections. In: Solomon S, D.Qin, M.Manning et al. (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 847–940.
  15. Cliquet A, Backes C, Harris J, Howsam P (2009) Adaptation to climate change: legal challenges for protected areas. Utrecht Law Rev 5(1):158–175Google Scholar
  16. Davey CM, Chamberlain DE, Newson SE, Noble DG, Johnston A (2012) Rise of the generalists: evidence for climate driven homogenization in avian communities. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 21(5):568–578. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2011.00693.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dawson TP, Jackson ST, House JI, Prentice IC, Mace GM (2011) Beyond predictions: biodiversity conservation in a changing climate. Science 332(6025):53–58. doi: 10.1126/science.1200303 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. de Chazal J, Rounsevell MDA (2009) Land-use and climate change within assessments of biodiversity change: a review. Glob Environ Change 19:306–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dodd A, Hardiman A, Jennings K, Williams G (2010) Protected areas and climate change: reflections from a practitioner’s perspective. Utrecht Law Rev 6(1):141–150Google Scholar
  20. EEA (2012) Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2012. European Environment Agency. Technical report No 12/2012., Copenhagen
  21. EP (2012) European Parliament resolution of 20 April 2012 on our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (2011/2307(INI)).
  22. European Commission (1992) Council directive 92/43/EEC of 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats of wild fauna and flora. European Commission, Brussels
  23. European Commission (2006) Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010—and beyond. Sustaining ecosystem services for human well-being. Commission of the European Communities. COM(2006)216., Brussels
  24. European Commission (2009a) Directive 2009/147/EC of the European parliament and of the council on the conservation of wild birds, a codified version of Directive 79/409/EEC. European Commission, Brussels
  25. European Commission (2009b) The message from Athens. Brussels,
  26. European Commission (2010) Options for an EU vision and target for biodiversity beyond 2010. Commission of the European Communities. COM(2010)4 final, 19.1.2010,!celexplus!prod!DocNumber&lg=en&type_doc=COMfinal&an_doc=2010&nu_doc=4, Brussels
  27. European Commission (2011) Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020. Commission of the European Communities. COM(2011)244 final. 16 p., Brussels
  28. European Commission (2013a) An EU strategy on adaptation to climate change. Commission of the European Communities. COM(2013)216 final. 11 p., Brussels
  29. European Commission (2013b) Green Infrastructure (GI)—Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital. Commission of the European Communities. COM(2013)249 final. 11p., Brussels
  30. European Commission (2013c) Guidance on integrating climate change and biodiversity into environmental impact assessment, vol 2013. European Commission, Brussels. Available from doi: 10.2779/11735
  31. European Commission (2013d) Guidance on integrating climate change and biodiversity into strategic environmental assessment, vol 2013. European Commission, Brussels. Available from doi: 10.2779/11869
  32. European Commission (2013e) Guidelines on Climate Change and Natura 2000. Dealing with the impact of climate change. On the management of the Natura 2000 Network of areas of high biodiversity value. doi: 10.2779/29715, Brussels
  33. European Commission (2013f) Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species, vol 2013. Commission of the European Communities. COM(2013)0620 final. Available from Brussels
  34. Feehan J, Harley M, van Minnen J (2009) Climate change in Europe. 1. Impact on terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity. A review. Agron Sustain Dev 29:409–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Franco AMA, Hill JK, Kitschke C, Collingham YC, Roy DB, Fox R, Huntley B, Thomas CD (2006) Impacts of climate warming and habitat loss on extinctions at species’ low-latitude range boundaries. Glob Change Biol 12:1545–1553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gange AC, Gange EG, Sparks TH, Boddy L (2007) Rapid and recent changes in fungal fruiting patterns. Science 316:71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gaston KJ, Jackson SF, Nagy A, Cantú-Salazar L, Johnson M (2008) Protected areas in Europe: principle and practice. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1134:97–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gordo O, Sanz JJ (2005) Phenology and climate change: a long-term study in a Mediterranean locality. Oecologia 146:484–495CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Gordo O, Sanz JJ (2010) Impact of climate change on plant phenology in Mediterranean ecosystems. Glob Change Biol 16(3):1082–1106. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.02084.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Harris JA, Hobbs RJ, Higgs E, Aronson J (2006) Ecological restoration and global climate change. Restor Ecol 14(2):170–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Harrison PA, Berry PM, Butt N, New M (2006) Modelling climate change impacts on species’ distributions at the European scale: implications for conservation policy. Environ Sci Policy 9(2):116–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Heller NE, Zavaleta ES (2009) Biodiversity management in the face of climate change: a review of 22 years of recommendations. Biol Conserv 142:14–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Henle K, Bauch B, Auliya M, Külvik M, Pe‘er G, Schmeller DS, Framstad E (2013) Priorities for biodiversity monitoring in Europe: a review of supranational policies and a novel scheme for integrative prioritization. Ecol Indic 33(0):5–18. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2013.03.028
  44. Hochkirch A, Schmitt T, Beninde J, Hiery M, Kinitz T, Kirschey J, Matenaar D, Rohde K, Stoefen A, Wagner N, Zink A, Lötters S, Veith M, Proelss A (2013) Europe needs a new vision for a Natura 2020 network. Conserv Lett 6(6):462–467. doi: 10.1111/conl.12006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Iojă CI, Pătroescu M, Rozylowicz L, Popescu VD, Vergheleţ M, Zotta MI, Felciuc M (2010) The efficacy of Romania’s protected areas network in conserving biodiversity. Biol Conserv 143 (11):2468–2476. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2010.06.013
  46. Kettunen M, Terry A, Tucker G, Jones A (2007) Guidance on the maintenance of landscape features of major importance for wild flora and fauna—guidance on the implementation of Article 3 of the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) and Article 10 of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), Brussels, 114 pp. & AnnexesGoogle Scholar
  47. Kujala H, Burgman MA, Moilanen A (2013) Treatment of uncertainty in conservation under climate change. Conserv Lett 6(2):73–85. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2012.00299.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lawler JJ (2009) Climate change adaptation strategies for resource management and conservation planning. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1162:79–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lemoine N, Bauer H-G, Peintinger M, Bohning-Gaese K (2007) Effects of climate and land-use change on species abundance in a Central European bird community. Conserv Biol 21(2):495–503. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00633.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Levinsky I, Skov F, Svenning J-C, Rahbek C (2007) Potential impact of climate change on the distributions and diversity patterns of European mammals. Biodivers Conserv 16:3803–3816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lung T, Meller L, Van Teeffelen AJA, Thuiller W, Cabeza M (2014) Biodiversity funds and conservation needs in the EU under climate change. Conserv Lett. doi: 10.1111/conl.12096
  52. Matesanz S, Brooker RW, Valladares F, Klotz S (2009) Temporal dynamics of marginal steppic vegetation over a 26-year period of substantial environmental change. J Veg Sci 20:299–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Mawdsley JR, O’Malley R, Ojima DS (2009) A review of climate-change adaptation strategies for wildlife management and biodiversity conservation. Conserv Biol 23:1080–1089CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McLachlan JS, Hellmann JJ, Schwartz MW (2007) A framework for debate of assisted migration in an era of climate change. Conserv Biol 21(2):297–302. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2007.00676.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Menéndez R, González Megías A, Hill JK, Braschler B, Willis SG, Collingham Y, Fox R, Roy DB, Thomas CD (2006) Species richness changes lag behind climate change. Proc R Soc B 273:1465–1470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Menzel A, Sparks TH, Estrella N, Koch E, Aasa A, Ahas R, Alm-Kübler K, Bissolli P, Braslavská OG, Briede A, Chmielewski FM, Crepinsek Z, Curnel Y, Dahl Å, Defila C, Donnelly A, Filella Y, Jatczak K, Måge F, Mestre A, Nordli Ø, Peñuelas J, Pirinen P, Remišová V, Scheifinger H, Striz M, Susnik A, Van Vliet AJH, Wielgolaski F-E, Zach S, Zust ANA (2006) European phenological response to climate change matches the warming pattern. Glob Change Biol 12(10):1969–1976Google Scholar
  57. Metzger MJ, Brus DJ, Bunce RGH, Carey PD, Gonçalves J, Honrado JP, Jongman RHG, Trabucco A, Zomer R (2013) Environmental stratifications as the basis for national, European and global ecological monitoring. Ecol Indicat 33 (0):26–35. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2012.11.009
  58. Mueller JM, Hellmann JJ (2008) An assessment of invasion risk from assisted migration. Conserv Biol 22(3):562–567. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00952.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Naumann S, Anzaldua G, Berry P, Burch S, Davis M, Frelih-Larsen A, Gerdes H, Sanders M (2011) Assessment of the potential of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation in Europe. Final report to the European Commission, DG Environment, Contract no. 070307/2010/580412/SER/B2, Ecologic institute and Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University Centre for the Environment
  60. Parmesan C (2006) Ecological and evolutionary responses to recent climate change. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 37 (1). doi: 10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.37.091305.110100
  61. Pauli H, Gottfried M, Reiter K, Klettner C, Grabherr G (2007) Signals of range expansions and contractions of vascular plants in the high Alps: observations (1994–2004) at the GLORIA*master site Schrankogel, Tyrol, Austria. Glob Change Biol 13:147–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Pöyry J, Luoto M, Heikkinen RK, Kuussaari M, Saarinen K (2009) Species traits explain recent range shifts of Finnish butterflies. Glob Change Biol 15:732–743CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Stein BA, Staudt A, Cross MS, Dubois NS, Enquist C, Griffis R, Hansen LJ, Hellmann JJ, Lawler JJ, Nelson EJ, Pairis A (2013) Preparing for and managing change: climate adaptation for biodiversity and ecosystems. Front Ecol Environ 11(9):502–510. doi: 10.1890/120277 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Stocker TF, Qin D, Plattner G-K, Tignor MMB, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V, Midgley PM (eds) (2013) Climate Change 2013: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1535 pGoogle Scholar
  65. Trouwborst A (2009) International nature conservation law and the adaptation of biodiversity to climate change: a mismatch? J Environ Law 21(3):419–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Trouwborst A (2011) Conserving European biodiversity in a changing climate: the Bern convention, the European Union birds and habitats directives and the adaptation of nature to climate change. Rev Eur Comm Int Environ Law 20(1):62–77. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9388.2011.00700.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Tucker G, de Soye Y (2009) Impacts of climate change and selected renewable energy infrastructures on EU biodiversity and the Natura 2000 network. Tasks 2b & 3b: Impacts of climate change on EU biodiversity policy, and recommendations for policies and measures to maintain and restore biodiversity in the EU in the face of climate change. IEEP/IUCN, Updated November 2011Google Scholar
  68. Van Teeffelen AJA, Opdam P, Wätzold F, Hartig F, Drechsler M, Johst K, Vos CC, Wissel S, Quétier F (2014) Ecological and economic conditions and associated institutional challenges for conservation banking in dynamic landscapes. Landsc Urban Plann. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.06.004
  69. Verschuuren J (2010) Climate change: rethinking restoration in the European Union’s Birds and Habitats Directives. Ecol Restor 28(4):431–439. doi: 10.3368/er.28.4.431 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Vos CC, Berry P, Opdam P, Baveco H, Nijhof B, O’Hanley J, Bell C, Kuipers H (2008) Adapting landscapes to climate change: examples of climate-proof ecosystem networks and priority adaptation zones. J Appl Ecol 45(6):1722–1731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. WallisDeVries MF, Baxter W, Van Vliet AJH (2011) Beyond climate envelopes: effects of weather on regional population trends in butterflies. Oecologia 167(2):559–571. doi: 10.1007/s00442-011-2007-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Walther GR, Beibner S, Burga CA (2005) Trends in the upward shift of alpine plants. J Veg Sci 16:541–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wilson RJ, Gutiérrez D, Gutiérrez J, Martínez D, Agudo R, Monserrat VJ (2005) Changes to the elevational limits and extent of species ranges associated with climate change. Ecol Lett 8:1138–1146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wilson RJ, Gutierrez D, Gutierrez J, Monserrat V (2007) An elevational shift in butterfly species richness and composition accompanying recent climate change. Glob Change Biol 13:1873–1887CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Astrid van Teeffelen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Laura Meller
    • 1
  • Jelle van Minnen
    • 3
  • Jan Vermaat
    • 2
  • Mar Cabeza
    • 1
  1. 1.Metapopulation Research Group, Department of BiosciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Institute for Environmental StudiesVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Netherlands Environmental Assessment AgencyBilthovenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations