Bioclimate zonation provides an established method to investigate climate associations with vegetation, soils, ecoregions and land use (Sanderson, 1999). It recognises that the geographic juxtaposition of bioclimate factors, including warmth, moisture, and exposure, acts to influence ecosystem processes and associated human activities (Garcia et al., 2014). For example, soil types vary due to microbial activity, recycling rate of organic matter and nutrients, and horizon formation, each influenced by bioclimate factors (Classen et al., 2015). In combination, bioclimate interactions act to characterise distinctive ecoregions and their human benefits, including productive use for agriculture and forestry, hence bioclimate zonation has become an important tool for land evaluation (Brown et al., 2008).

Hierarchical bioclimate zonation is used in this study as a tool to interpret climate change across scales with application for nature conservation. GIS techniques and spatial analysis have been used to expand upon an established empirical bioclimate classification system. The approach is then used to compare knowledge-based and data-driven interpretations of climate change for adaptation planning.

The hierarchical schema was found to be advantageous for identifying bioclimate relationships at multiple scales and for investigating subtleties of recent climate change, particularly for uplands, between two reference periods (1961–1980 and 1991–2010).

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