The idea of preserving climate change refugia—regions pretty much buffered from existing climate change for sheltering valuable ecosystems, wildlife, and other natural resources—is only around 10 years old. Yet, the field has sufficiently developed that a renowned journal has published a special issue on this topic.
It provided “a look back at how far we’ve come and a view forward to the work that is still needed,” stated editor Toni Lyn Morelli, a research ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northeast Climate Adaptation Center (NE CASC) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “I believe this is the first time there has been a special issue devoted to climate-change refugia,” she added, “so we think it will spur conservation and innovation.”
Organized by Morelli, the 100-page issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment features the latest developments in refugia science, together with eight articles written by specialists in the field and an editorial by Stephen Jackson, a paleo-ecologist and director of the Southwest and South-Central Climate Adaptation Science Centers.
As in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, our best hope is to render the climate change wave low and slow, reducing impacts and buying time to study, prepare, understand and adapt.
Stephen Jackson, Paleo-Ecologist and Director, Southwest and South-Central Climate Adaptation Science Centers
The first article of the issue summarizes how climate-change refugia can act as a “slow lane” to safeguard the ecosystems and native species from the negative impacts of climate change and as safe refuge for ecosystems and biodiversity over the long term.
The special issue includes a range of topics, such as refugia in connection with wildlife and fish, wetlands and rivers, forests and mountains—as well as conceptual progress and instances of the successful application of refugia data and maps to management questions.
We are trying to find those areas where things are moving a bit more slowly in terms of climate change and where plants and animals have more opportunity to survive, whether they are already living there or could shift into those areas.
Diana Stralberg, Study Author, University of Alberta
Morelli is a founding member of the Refugia Research Coalition (RRC), a network of resource managers, researchers, and others related with the Climate Adaptation Science Centers, specifically the Northwest CASC held by the University of Washington and its Northeast counterpart organized by UMass Amherst.
Morelli points out, “We formed the RRC about five years ago to share ideas, hold workshops, engage with practitioners, and share our science.” The team’s expertise, diversity of research, and methods gave her the idea for a special issue.
We wanted to synthesize the science around climate change refugia over the last 10 years, to identify gaps and opportunities for the future, and highlight successes in applications that have been developed for management and conservation. I was extremely fortunate to work with such a dynamic and accomplished group of co-authors.
Toni Lyn Morelli, Editor and Research Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey’s Northeast Climate Adaptation Center, University of Massachusetts Amherst
The special issue was financially supported by the Northeast, Northwest, and National Climate Adaptation Science Centers of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Morelli, T. L., et al. (2020) Climate-change refugia: biodiversity in the slow lane. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. doi.org/10.1002/fee.2189.