Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 695–723 | Cite as

Assessing the vulnerability of European butterflies to climate change using multiple criteria

  • Risto K. HeikkinenEmail author
  • Miska Luoto
  • Niko Leikola
  • Juha Pöyry
  • Josef Settele
  • Otakar Kudrna
  • Mathieu Marmion
  • Stefan Fronzek
  • Wilfried Thuiller
Original Paper


Vulnerability of 100 European butterfly species to climate change was assessed using 13 different criteria and data on species distributions, climate, land cover and topography from 1,608 grid squares 30′ × 60′ in size, and species characteristics increasing the susceptibility to climate change. Four bioclimatic model-based criteria were developed for each species by comparing the present-day distribution and climatic suitability of the occupied grid cells with projected distribution and suitability in the future using the HadCM3-A2 climate scenario for 2051–2080. The proportions of disadvantageous land cover types (bare areas, water, snow and ice, artificial surfaces) and cultivated and managed land in the occupied grid squares and their surroundings were measured to indicate the amount of unfavourable land cover and dispersal barriers for butterflies, and topographical heterogeneity to indicate the availability of potential climatic refugia. Vulnerability was also assessed based on species dispersal ability, geographical localization and habitat specialization. Northern European species appeared to be amongst the most vulnerable European butterflies. However, there is much species-to-species variation, and species appear to be threatened due to different combinations of critical characteristics. Inclusion of additional criteria, such as life-history species characteristics, topography and land cover to complement the bioclimatic model-based species vulnerability measures can significantly deepen the assessments of species susceptibility to climate change.


Bioclimatic model Climate change Land cover Lepidoptera Range shift Species characteristics Susceptibility Topographical heterogeneity 



Zdravko Kolev helped with the assessment of butterfly species dispersal ability for S European species. Different parts of this research were funded by the EC FP6 Integrated Project ALARM (Settele et al. 2005; GOCE-CT-2003-506675). MM was funded by the Academy of Finland (project grant 116544). WT was partly funded by the EU FP6 MACIS project (Kühn et al. 2008; Minimisation of and Adaptation to Climate change: Impacts on biodiversity, contract No.: 044399) and EU FP6 ECOCHANGE integrated project (Challenges in assessing and forecasting biodiversity and ecosystem changes in Europe). M. Bailey helped with correction of the English text.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Risto K. Heikkinen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Miska Luoto
    • 2
  • Niko Leikola
    • 3
  • Juha Pöyry
    • 1
  • Josef Settele
    • 4
  • Otakar Kudrna
    • 5
  • Mathieu Marmion
    • 2
  • Stefan Fronzek
    • 6
  • Wilfried Thuiller
    • 7
  1. 1.Research Programme for Biodiversity, Research DepartmentFinnish Environment InstituteHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  3. 3.Nature Division, Expert Services DepartmentFinnish Environment InstituteHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Department of Community EcologyUFZ, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental ResearchHalleGermany
  5. 5.Naturmuseum SüdtirolBozen (Südtirol)Italy
  6. 6.Research Programme for Global Change, Research Department, Finnish Environment InstituteHelsinkiFinland
  7. 7.Laboratoire d’Ecologie AlpineUMR CNRS 5553, Université Joseph FourierGrenoble Cedex 9France

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