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CR 45:87-104 (2010)  -  DOI:

Assessment of projected changes in upland environments using simple climatic indices

J. M. Clark1,2,7,*, H. G. Orr3, J. Freer4, J. I. House5, P. Smith6, C. Freeman1

1Wolfson Carbon Capture Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Deiniol Road, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW, UK
2Grantham Institute for Climate Change Fellow, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, Skempton Building, South Kensington, London SW7 2AZ, UK
3Research and Innovation (Climate Change), Environment Agency, Environment Centre Wales, Deiniol Road, Bangor LL57 2UW, UK
4School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK
5QUEST, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK
6Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, Aberdeen University, 23 St Machar Drive, Aberdeen AB24 3UU, UK
7Present address: Walker Institute for Climate Systems Research and Soils Research Centre, Department of Geography and Environmental Science, School of Human and Environmental Sciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 233, Reading RG6 6DW, UK

ABSTRACT: 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.

KEY WORDS: Uplands · Altitude · Great Britain · Climate change · Climatic index

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Cite this article as: Clark JM, Orr HG, Freer J, House JI, Smith P, Freeman C (2010) Assessment of projected changes in upland environments using simple climatic indices. Clim Res 45:87-104.

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