Modelling changes in species' abundance in response to projected climate change

Anna R. Renwick*, Dario Massimino, Stuart E. Newson, Dan E. Chamberlain, James W. Pearce-Higgins, Alison Johnston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim Existing climate envelope models give an indication of broad scale shifts in distribution, but do not specifically provide information on likely future population changes useful for conservation prioritization and planning. We demonstrate how these techniques can be developed to model likely future changes in absolute density and population size as a result of climate change.

Location Great Britain.

Methods Generalized linear models were used to model breeding densities of two northerly- and two southerly-distributed bird species as a function of climate and land use. Models were built using count data from extensive national bird monitoring data and incorporated detectability to estimate absolute abundance. Projections of likely future changes in the distribution and abundance of these species were made by applying these models to projections of future climate change under two emissions scenarios.

Results Models described current spatial variation in abundance for three of the four species and produced modelled current estimates of national populations that were similar to previously published estimates for all species. Climate change was projected to result in national population declines in the two northerly-distributed species, with declines for Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata projected to be particularly severe. Conversely, the abundances of the two southerly distributed species were projected to increase nationally. Projected maps of future abundance may be used to identify priority areas for the future conservation of each species.

Main conclusions The analytical methods provide a framework to make projections of impacts of climate change on species abundance, rather than simply projected range changes. Outputs may be summarized at any spatial scale, providing information to inform future conservation planning at national, regional and local scales. Results suggest that as a consequence of climate change, northerly distributed bird species in Great Britain are likely to become an increasingly high conservation priority within the UK.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-132
Number of pages12
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • Breeding birds
  • climate change
  • climate envelope model
  • conservation
  • global warming
  • habitat
  • land cover
  • rainfall
  • temperature


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