Validating climate-change refugia: empirical bottom-up approaches to support management actions

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Efforts to conserve biodiversity increasingly focus on identifying climate-change refugia – areas relatively buffered from contemporary climate change over time that enable species persistence. Identification of refugia typically includes modeling the distribution of a species’ current habitat and then extrapolating that distribution given projected changes in temperature and precipitation, or by mapping topographic features that buffer species from regional climate extremes. However, the function of those hypothesized refugia must be validated (or challenged) with independent data not used in the initial identification of the refugia. Although doing so would facilitate the incorporation of climate-change refugia into conservation and management decision making, a synthesis of validation methods is currently lacking. We reviewed the literature and defined four methods to test refugia predictions. We propose that such bottom-up approaches can lead to improved protected-area designations and on-the-ground management actions to reduce influences from non-climate stressors within potential refugia.




Barrows, C. W., Ramirez, A. R., Sweet, L. C., Morelli, T. L., Millar, C. I., Frakes, N., … Mahalovich, M. F. (2020). Validating climate-change refugia: empirical bottom-up approaches to support management actions. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 18(5), 298–306.

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