Climate change poses serious risks to biodiversity. Among other effects it will lead to geographic shifts of suitable climatic conditions for a large number of species. Identifying areas where species are likely to go extinct, where species could potentially colonise new areas and estimating the net effect of both processes is detrimental to assess the fate of single species and to inform policy and management actors. Many butterflies have declined drastically in recent decades and are declining more rapidly than other well-known groups. As ectothermic species they respond quickly to changing weather conditions and in the long-term also to recent changes in climate. As such they can play a valuable role as early warning indicators of environmental change.

Here we present how suitable climatic conditions can change in the future for a selected number of butterfly species. The research is based on a comprehensive dataset on butterfly distributions in Europe derived from the former Mapping European Butterflies (MEB) project which continues as the project LepiDiv. The climatic niche of each species has been modelled by statistically relating the current species distributions to relevant climatic conditions. These models have then be used to map future areas with suitable climatic conditions in Europe according to three scenarios of climate change for 2050 and 2080. These scenarios have been developed within the EU FP 6 project ALARM, also described in Spangenberg et al. and cover a broad range of potential social, economic, technical and political developments.

The three scenarios are:

SEDG: Sustainable Europe Development Goal scenario. A policy primacy scenario focused on the achievement of a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable development. It includes attempts to enhance the sustainability of societal developments by integrating economic, social and environment policies. Aims actively pursued include a competitive economy, a healthy environment, social justice, gender equity and international cooperation. As a normative back-casting scenario, policies are derived from the imperative of stabilising atmospheric Greenhouse gas concentrations and ending biodiversity loss.

BAMBU: Business-As-Might-Be-Usual scenario. A continuation into the future of currently known and foreseeable socio-economic and policy trajectories. Policy decisions already made are implemented and enforced. At the national level, deregulation and privatisation continue except in "strategic areas". Internationally, there is free trade. Environmental policy is perceived as another technological challenge, tackled by innovation, market incentives and some legal regulation. The result is a rather mixed bag of market liberalism and socio-environmental sustainability policy.

GRAS: GRowth Applied Strategy scenario. A future world based on economic imperatives like primacy of the market, free trade, and globalisation. Deregulation (with certain limits) is a key means, and economic growth a key objective of politics actively pursued by governments. Environmental policy will focus on damage repair (supported by liability legislation) and some preventive action. The latter are designed based on cost-benefit calculations and thus limited in scale and scope.

The results presented here have been published in Settele et al. (2008). Please refer to this publication for further information and additional assessments for the majority of European butterfly species.

In addition to future projections of changes in suitable climatic conditions and some basic ecological information, we also provide detailed management guidelines for butterflies of the Habitats Directive of the European Union taken from Van Swaay et al. (2012).