Science Inventory

Climate change refugia as a tool for climate adaptation


Morelli, T., S. Beissinger, S. Maher, C. Millar, C. Daly, S. Dobrowski, D. Dulen, Joe Ebersole, S. Jackson, J. Lundquist, W. Monahan, K. Nydick, K. Redmond, S. Sawyer, AND S. Stock. Climate change refugia as a tool for climate adaptation. Science for Parks, Parks for Science Conference, Berkeley, CA, March 25 - 27, 2015.


The recognition and protection of climate refugia has been proposed as a potential adaptation strategy that may be useful for protecting biodiversity under a changing climate. Climate refugia are areas that are buffered from climate change effects relative to other areas so as to favor greater persistence of valued social, physical, and ecological resources. In the past, refugia allowed species to persist through prior periods of climate change, even as surrounding regions became unsuitable. Might refugia allow species to persist in the future? And if so, how can we best identify, protect and manage these features? In this presentation, we illustrate the utility of the refugia concept using a mountain meadow example. We provide an overview of climate refugia and discuss how they can fit into the existing framework of federal management. We conclude that climate change refugia, while no panacea, could be an important tool for climate adaptation in the face of impending biodiversity losses.


Climate change refugia, areas relatively buffered from contemporary climate change so as to increase persistence of valued physical, ecological, and cultural resources, are considered as potential adaptation options in the face of anthropogenic climate change. In a collaboration involving science experts and natural resource managers from across the western United States, we have attempted to operationalize the climate change refugia concept. We will review definitions and discuss the identification of climate change refugia and how they can fit into the existing framework of federal management practice, illustrating their utility with a montane meadow example. Genetic and distribution data collected from Belding’s ground squirrel (Urocitellus beldingi) populations in California were used to conduct a rare test of whether particular habitats are acting as refugia. As predicted, refugial meadows showed higher rates of occupancy, lower rates of extirpation over time, and higher genetic diversity. Although no panacea, climate change refugia could be an important strategy for biodiversity conservation under future climates.



Record Details:

Product Published Date: 03/27/2015
Record Last Revised: 04/03/2015
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 307517