Modelling Natural Resource Responses to Climate Change (MONARCH)

impact models

The MONARCH project is a 3 phased investigation into the impacts of climate change on the natural conservation resources of the UK and Ireland. It uses an integrated methodology linking established impact models to coherent climatological classifications and provides a valuable framework for studying the response of the key biodiversity elements to human-induced climate change.

MONARCH 1 investigated the impacts of climate change on the nature conservation resources of Britain and Ireland (Harrison et al., 2001). MONARCH 2 is building on this by developing generic methodologies for capturing changes in species' distribution, incorporating additional factors, such as land use/cover and dispersal capability. It is also exploring the consequences of such changes for ecosystem functioning. The methodology is being tested in four case study areas. The third phase of the Monarch project, incorporates the modelling of the future climate envelopes of 120 BAP species. Results are expected to be available in autumn 2006.


Conservation agencies in the UK and Ireland commissioned the MONARCH study to provide quantitative evidence to complement the biodiversity assessments already carried out under UKCIP. This has been achieved through the development of complex computerised models, which are able to estimate changes in species distribution under climate change conditions, and detailed analysis of the model outputs. The study covers the impacts of climate change on a broad range of species (including plants, birds and amphibians) and geological features in terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine environments in Britain and Ireland, and considers the implications for nature conservation policy. More about Monarch 1.


Phase 2 advanced the science of predicting possible response to climate change by adapting the previous approach to a local scale. The models incorporated a dispersal component, which enabled an assessment of the likelihood of a species realising their potential future distributions.

The initial step of MONARCH Phase 2 was the development of a conceptual and methodological framework able to describe changes in species' distribution and dispersal, and broad-scale changes in land use, for local-scale application.

The changing distribution of species has important implications for habitat composition and, possibly, functioning. The latter element was explored at a conceptual level, in the context of the model outputs, in order to increase our understanding of the impacts of climate change on ecosystem dynamics. These concepts were also incorporated within the new dispersal model.

MONARCH Phase 2 Module 2 assessed the integrated model outcomes for each of the selected case study areas, plus the policy and management options relating to conservation objectives.

The first two case studies were developed for Hampshire (including the New Forest) and the central Highlands of Scotland. Further case studies have been proposed for Snowdonia (Wales) and Fermanagh/Tyrone/Donegal (Ireland). These are all areas of high vulnerability to climate change with a contrasting ecological and policy framework in which to evaluate and adopt the Phase 1 models.

The output from the integrated models is a restricted species' distribution that takes account of climatic suitability, dispersal capability and land use restrictions. The study has advanced the science of predicting the possible future responses of species to climate change and the final stage will be to evaluate possible adaptive responses and policy recommendations.

The report of the second phase of the Monarch (Modelling Natural Resource Responses to Climate Change) project focuses on four case study areas in Hampshire, Central Highlands, Snowdonia and Cuilcagh and Pettigo in Ireland. Results suggest that the modelled species response in the study areas does not always reflect the predicted bioclimatic sensitivity and while dominant species may be expected to continue to be dominant in the case study areas, losses in climate space for some are predicted in central and eastern England.

The report shows developments in the scale of bioclimate modelling, land cover, dispersal modelling and conceptual models of ecosystem functioning to complement climate envelope predictions. The impact of climate change on wading birds wintering on estuaries in Hampshire and Suffolk was also examined.

Further Links

MONARCH 2 - Modelling natural resources responses to climate change

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MONARCH 3 - A synthesis for biodiversity conservation

Project details