Why do we need to map future environmental change scenarios?

Because more accurate projections of the future will enable researchers and others to manage the environment better and to avoid unintended consequences.

Science challenge

The UK lacks coordinated projections of how environmental drivers and their impacts will change simultaneously over the next decades. SPEED has produced spatially-explicit projections of drivers under different scenarios. It has also modelled the impacts of these projected drivers on biodiversity and ecosystem function to 2100. This provides the wider community (HEIs, Government, NGOs) with a set of standardised projections of environmental drivers that can facilitate consistency in work assessing future trajectories of the status of biodiversity, soil, water and air.

Project summary

SPEED aimed to produce spatially-explicit projections — i.e. maps — of how key environmental drivers are predicted to change under alternative plausible scenarios of socioeconomic change over the next 80 years. SPEED achieved this by the following tasks:

  • UK SSPs logoTask 1, Future climate projections
  • Task 2a, Shared socioeconomic pathways: Development of scenarios describing how the economy, demography, society, technology and institutions of the UK might develop according to the global scenarios of the IPCC-community Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs), and linking these UK-SSPs to projections of climate change under different emissions scenarios
  • Task 2b, Land use change projections: Creation of projections of land use change under the combined socioeconomic and climate scenarios, using new models integrating statistical analysis of past change with process models describing the influence of different sectors on land use
  • Task 3, Metal pollution case study: Projecting the influences of climate, societal and land use changes on contaminant amounts and risks in soils by creating models of metal atmospheric deposition, bioaccumulation and transfer within terrestrial food chains
  • Task 4, Biodiversity case study: SPEED demonstrated the utility of such projections of climate, land use, and pollution by using past changes in biodiversity in relation to these drivers to project future changes in species groups responsible for key ecosystem processes, such as pollinators, decomposers, and pest control agents.

A major activity throughout SPEED was to disseminate the generated projections and the concept, to enable and encourage the user community to use these scenarios.

The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is worked with the UK Meteorological Office in the SPEED project.


  • To develop UK Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (UK SSPs), scenarios describing how the key components of society may develop according to a range of IPCC global climate scenarios
  • To create projections (maps) at fine spatial and temporal resolution of land use change under the combined socioeconomic and climate scenarios
  • To encourage uptake of these projections by a wide range of end users including in higher education, policymaking and the NGO sector.


Data and Data Products

Download CHESS-SCAPE data - a dataset providing high-resolution climate variables under different emissions scenarios for the UK (1km resolution to 2080 at RCP2.6, 4.5, 6.0 and 8.5)

Download the data for UK-SSP Tables of Semi-quantitative Trends in 50 Socio-economic Variables (pdf)

Papers and reports

Workshop videos


UKCEH National Capability

  • The 1 km2 climate data produced in SPEED is used by the Hydro-JULES project
  • Land use modelling work in SPEED built on the experience developed under the ERAMMP project especially with respect to building an understanding of the driving variables used in specialist modelling systems used for individual components of the land system
  • Links with the Data Science of the Natural Environment (DSNE) teams have helped facilitate the development of specialist techniques from the mathematical sciences to extend the existing modelling approach from addressing a single land use to multiple (competing) land uses
  • SPEED is built upon extensive past and ongoing National Capability investment in modelling atmospheric deposition, soil chemistry, bioaccumulation and impacts of metals. SPEED integrated science from across UKCEH to add value to its outputs by enabling a comprehensive, broad–based assessment.

Project lead: James Bullock