A qualitative ecosystem assessment for different shrublands in western Europe under impact of climate change

Wim W. Wessel, Albert Tietema, Claus Beier, Bridget A. Emmett, Josep Peñuelas, Torben Riis-Nielsen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    49 Citations (Scopus)


    Climate change may affect the dynamics of ecosystems and the goods and services they provide. To investigate the consequences of warming and drought for the goods and services provided by different shrublands in various western European countries, an assessment was carried out using results of field manipulation experiments of the CLIMOOR and VULCAN projects. Goods and services of these shrublands mainly encompass biodiversity, various forms of recreation, conservation of culturally and historically important landscapes, groundwater as a drinking water source, and carbon sequestration. Warming of dry lowland heathlands in The Netherlands and Denmark increases nutrient availability, which may lead to grass encroachment reducing biodiversity and decreasing recreational values. Drought may reduce the chances of grass encroachment but increase the chances of disturbances to heather vegetation. Similarly, warming increases and drought decreases the chances of nitrate pollution to the groundwater, which is often used as a drinking water source. Warming of the upland heathland in the UK increases its productivity, which might enable higher grazing densities leading to improved agricultural production. However, complex interactions between heather and invading species may be affected. Furthermore, nitrate production is increased, which may lead to groundwater pollution. Under drought conditions, productivity decreases and agricultural production capacity drops. In the Mediterranean shrubland in Spain, both warming and drought led to a shift in the species composition of seedlings and recruitment, which might lead to a change in the plant community and a reduction in biodiversity. In the drought treatment, a decreasing soil carbon content may lead to a loss of biodiversity, recreational possibilities, and an increased threat of wildfires and erosion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)662-671
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


    • Climate change
    • Drought
    • Ecosystem assessment
    • Heathland
    • Shrubland
    • Warming


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