Assessing the vulnerability of blanket peat to climate change using an ensemble of statistical bioclimatic envelope models

J. M. Clark, A. V. Gallego-Sala, T. E H Allott, S. J. Chapman, T. Farewell, C. Freeman, J. I. House, H. G. Orr, I. C. Prentice, P. Smith

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We assessed the vulnerability of blanket peat to climate change in Great Britain using an ensemble of 8 bioclimatic envelope models. We used 4 published models that ranged from simple threshold models, based on total annual precipitation, to Generalised Linear Models (GLMs, based on mean annual temperature). In addition, 4 new models were developed which included measures of water deficit as threshold, classification tree, GLM and generalised additive models (GAM). Models that included measures of both hydrological conditions and maximum temperature provided a better fit to the mapped peat area than models based on hydrological variables alone. Under UKCIP02 projections for high (A1F1) and low (B1) greenhouse gas emission scenarios, 7 out of the 8 models showed a decline in the bioclimatic space associated with blanket peat. Eastern regions (Northumbria, North York Moors, Orkney) were shown to be more vulnerable than higher-altitude, western areas (Highlands, Western Isles and Argyle, Bute and The Trossachs). These results suggest a long-term decline in the distribution of actively growing blanket peat, especially under the high emissions scenario, although it is emphasised that existing peatlands may well persist for decades under a changing climate. Observational data from long-term monitoring and manipulation experiments in combination with process-based models are required to explore the nature and magnitude of climate change impacts on these vulnerable areas more fully.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-150
Number of pages20
JournalClimate Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioclimatic envelope model
  • Climate change
  • Great Britain
  • Peat
  • Uplands


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