ATEAM - Advanced Terrestrial Ecosystem Analysis and Modelling

Background and Goals

The project provides information on global change and its potential impact, based on consistent, spatially explicit scenarios. The focus of the research is analysis of the changes in the availability of ecosystem services that could be caused by climate change and/or changes in land use in Europe. The central product of the project is a digital atlas, including an interactive map tool. Here, different sectors, ecosystem services or scenarios can be selected, in order to generate vulnerability maps and associated explanations. Different ecosystem models and indicators are used to analyse ecosystem functions and maintain a continuous dialogue with stakeholders.


The primary objective of the project is to assess the vulnerability of different social sectors and fields of activity that utilise or require ecosystem services. This is done by studying the most important European ecosystems and the services they provide, and assessing potential changes caused by global change. Mathematical models are adapted and validated for the indicators developed with stakeholders to assess ecosystem services. Different aspects of future global changes are studied, in order to derive scenarios for changed ecosystem services. These changes are analysed quantitatively and are communicated and discussed with stakeholders. The main result is a set of vulnerability maps that can indicate which regions are potentially more vulnerable in terms of the services provided by the ecosystems, based on different assumptions for global changes and time increments in the 21st Century.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany
  • Europe
Region of implementation (all German federal states)
  • Baden-Württemberg
  • Bavaria
  • Berlin
  • Brandenburg
  • Bremen
  • Hamburg
  • Hesse
  • Mecklenburg Western Pomerania
  • Lower Saxony
  • Northrhine-Westphalia
  • Rhineland Palatinate
  • Saarland
  • Saxony
  • Saxony-Anhalt
  • Schleswig-Holstein
  • Thuringia

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

Scenarios are used for different aspects of global change: socio-economic scenarios, scenarios for changes in land use, nitrogen deposition scenarios, atmospheric composition scenarios based on the IPCC emission scenarios (SRES) A1F, A2, B1 and B2, and climate scenarios based on the global HadCM3 climate model. Area: 10' x 10' grid (corresponding to approx. 20 x 20 km) for Europe

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Higher average temperatures
Further Parameters 

cloud cover

Further times 

Time intervals up to 2020, 2050 and 2080

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

Climate effects studied are the changes in the dynamics of ecosystem services for the most important European terrestrial ecosystems at a regional level.

The projected climate changes at the end of the 21st Century for the distribution of 1,350 plant species show that

  • the most moderate scenario (average temperature rise in Europe of 2.7°C) there is a significant risk to biodiversity,
  • more than half of the species studied will be susceptible or under threat by 2080,
  • the consequences will be greatest for mountain regions (approx. 60% species loss, including many endemic species),
  • only a few species will be lost in boreal regions, and species growth due to migration is possible here,

the most significant changes due to species loss and high fluctuation in species numbers is expected at the transition between the Mediterranean and Euro-Siberian region.

Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances

Approach and results 

Vulnerability is defined as the undesirable state of being open to damage. By assessing future vulnerability under different scenarios this unpleasant state can perhaps be avoided by adaptation measures. ATEAM defines vulnerability as the degree to which an ecosystem service is sensitive to global environmental change and the degree to which the sector that relies on the service is unable to adapt to the changes (WP1). This definition contains three elements which determine vulnerability of an area: (1) its exposure to environmental change, (2) the sensitivity of the ecosystem service to that change and (3) the adaptive capacity of the sector which relies on the ecosystem service. Vulnerability is therefore a function of adaptation capacity and potential consequences, which are determined by exposure and sensitivity.

The sensitivity of ecosystems is studied in terms of maintaining their functioning and capabilities and that of social systems in handling changed capabilities. The sensitivity of ecosystems to biodiversity loss is rated as high.

Social adaptation capacity in terms of changes in the provision of ecosystem services is being studied. This is being done by developing a general adaptation capability index. To operationalise this index, appropriate indicators are used, such as income equality (equality), school leaver qualification rate (knowledge) number of patents (innovation), doctors per inhabitant (infrastructure) gross social product per head (economic flexibility) and balance of payments surplus (economic power). Germany's adaptation capacity is high compared to Southern European countries, although it is lower in parts of Eastern Germany than in Western Germany.

Urgency and priorization of adaptation needs 

The studies have shown that the Mediterranean countries could be the regions of Europe with the greatest vulnerability as multiple potential consequences coincide with a low general adaptation capacity. Adaptation measures are necessary for all social sectors and areas that depend on ecosystem services.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

The objective is to develop a mapping tool to represent the vulnerability of European regions and to maintain a continuous stakeholder dialogue to ensure that the results can be applied in adaptation management for natural resources.

Time horizon
  • 2011–2040 (near future)
  • 2036–2065
  • 2071–2100 (far future)


Funding / Financing 

5th Framework Programme for Research of the European Union, key issue "Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development"

Project management 

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)


in total 17 European partners and one from the US

Cooperation in Germany: Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI-BGC) (cf. AVEC and EVA projects)


PIK – Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung
Telegraphenberg A 31
14473 Potsdam

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Fields of action:
 agriculture  biological diversity  energy infrastructure  tourism industry  water regime and water management  woodland and forestry