Science Inventory

Climate‐change refugia: biodiversity in the slow lane


Morelli, T., C. Barrows, A. Ramirez, J. Cartwright, D. Ackerly, T. Eaves, J. Ebersole, M. Krawchuk, B. Letcher, M. Mahalovich, G. Meigs, J. Michalak, C. Millar, R. Quiñones, D. Stralberg, AND J. Thorne. Climate‐change refugia: biodiversity in the slow lane. FRONTIERS IN ECOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT. Ecological Society of America, Ithaca, NY, 18(5):228-234, (2020).


Climate refugia are places where the effects of climate change are much less severe or will be experienced more slowly, due to buffering by groundwater, complex terrain, microclimate, or other moderating factors. This overview article introduces a special issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, showcasing a suite of papers that exemplify the considerable methodological and conceptual advances in refugia science in recent years. Refugia thinking is increasingly incorporating complexity of spatial and temporal scales via incorporating of new technologies and modeling advances. Other advances include more comprehensive consideration of sensitivity and adaptive capacity of species. Advances in operationalizing the refugia concept via on-the-ground management are providing new examples that are beginning to overcome some of the institutional, scientific, and logistical challenges of refugia management.


Climate‐change adaptation focuses on conducting and translating research to minimize the dire impacts of anthropogenic climate change, including threats to biodiversity and human welfare. One adaptation strategy is to focus conservation on climate‐change refugia (that is, areas relatively buffered from contemporary climate change over time that enable persistence of valued physical, ecological, and sociocultural resources). In this Special Issue, recent methodological and conceptual advances in refugia science will be highlighted. Advances in this emerging subdiscipline are improving scientific understanding and conservation in the face of climate change by considering scale and ecosystem dynamics, and looking beyond climate exposure to sensitivity and adaptive capacity. We propose considering refugia in the context of a multifaceted, long‐term, network‐based approach, as temporal and spatial gradients of ecological persistence that can act as “slow lanes” rather than areas of stasis. After years of discussion confined primarily to the scientific literature, researchers and resource managers are now working together to put refugia conservation into practice.

Record Details:

Product Published Date: 06/01/2020
Record Last Revised: 11/12/2020
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 350139