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 will produce spatially-explicit projections of drivers under different scenarios. It will also model the impacts of these projected drivers on biodiversity and ecosystem function to 2100. This will provide the wider community (HEIs, Government, NGOs) with a set of standardised projections of environmental drivers that will facilitate consistency in work assessing future trajectories of the status of biodiversity, soil, water and air.

Project summary

SPEED aims 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 will achieve this by the following tasks:

  • Task 1, Future climate projections
  • Task 2a, Shared socioeconomic pathways: Developing 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: Creating 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 will demonstrate 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 will be 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 working 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 final 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.


Papers and reports


UKCEH National Capability

  • The 1 km2 climate data produced in SPEED is used by the Hydro-JULES project
  • Land use modelling work in SPEED has been building 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 for 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 building upon extensive past and ongoing National Capability investment in modelling atmospheric deposition, soil chemistry, bioaccumulation and impacts of metals. SPEED is integrating science from across UKCEH to add value to its outputs by enabling a comprehensive, broad–based assessment.

Project lead: James Bullock