Aim Climate change has the potential to have significant impacts on the distribution of species and on the composition of habitats. This paper identifies the potential changes in the future distribution of species under the UKCIP98 climate change scenarios, in order that such changes can be taken into account in conservation management.
Location The model was applied to Britain and Ireland.
Methods A model based on an artificial neural network was used to predict the changing bioclimate envelopes of species in Britain and Ireland. Fifty-four species representing 15 habitats were modelled.
Results The modelled species could be placed into three categories: those losing suitable climate space, those gaining it, and those showing little or no change. When the species were associated with habitats it was found that Arctic–Alpine/montane heath communities were the most sensitive to climate change, followed by pine woodland and beech woodland in southern England. In lowland heath, wet heath, cereal field margins, coastal grazing marsh, drought-prone acid grassland and calcareous grassland, the species either showed little change or an increase in suitable climate space. The other eight habitats showed a mixed response.
Conclusions The species show a variety of responses to climate change and thus their current habitat associations may alter. The uncertain future of some species and habitats is highlighted. Conservation policy and practice will need to be revised in the face of climate change.