In the early 1970s, Eric Birse and colleagues at the Macaulay (now James Hutton) Institute classified and mapped bioclimatic conditions in Scotland. The methods were empirical and based upon extensive field experience. This culminated in a detailed bioclimatic zonation of Scotland consistent with large continental classifications based upon thermal zonation, moisture, and oceanicity. The resulting maps became popular with a range of users, including vegetation and soil surveyors.
A recent study by Iain Brown at the University of York has used GIS and automated spatial interpolation with the Birse schema to update the bioclimate zonation (the original maps used climate data for 1921-1950) and to reference climate change and its implications for the natural environment. Zone changes have been investigated for recent periods (comparing 1961-1980 with 1991-2010) and the future (2050s projections). The hierarchical schema facilitates both a primary zonation to identify changes in the main bioclimate classes and a more detailed subclass zonation for local changes. General expansion of the Temperate thermal zone (at the expense of the Boreal and OroArctic zones) is therefore accompanied by upslope zone shifts in mountains but also by west-east shifts in moisture classes and an increase in oceanicity. Implications have been initially assessed for biodiversity and ecosystems using the SNH EUNIS habitat data.