Methods and uncertainties in bioclimatic envelope modelling under climate change

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Potential impacts of projected climate change on biodiversity are often assessed using single-species bioclimatic 'envelope' models. Such models are a special case of species distribution models in which the current geographical distribution of species is related to climatic variables so to enable projections of distributions under future climate change scenarios. This work reviews a number of critical methodological issues that may lead to uncertainty in predictions from bioclimatic modelling. Particular attention is paid to recent developments of bioclimatic modelling that address some of these issues as well as to the topics where more progress needs to be made. Developing and applying bioclimatic models in a informative way requires good understanding of a wide range of methodologies, including the choice of modelling technique, model validation, collinearity, autocorrelation, biased sampling of explanatory variables, scaling and impacts of non-climatic factors. A key challenge for future research is integrating factors such as land cover, direct CO2 effects, biotic interactions and dispersal mechanisms into species-climate models. We conclude that, although bioclimatic envelope models have a number of important advantages, they need to be applied only when users of models have a thorough understanding of their limitations and uncertainties.


  • Risto K. Heikkinen
  • Miska Luoto
  • Miguel B. Araujo
  • Raimo Virkkala
  • Wilfried Thuiller
  • Martin Sykes
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography


  • uncertainty, species distribution model, scale, niche properties, modelling methods, model performance, land cover, bioclimatic model, climate change, validation, species geography
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-777
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch