A new paper has been published by April Reside and colleagues in conjunction with the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at JCU on the biological and physical characteristics of climate change refugia for biodiversity, in Austral Ecology.  This paper was an outcome of work funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.  Places were species can retreat to and survive the worst aspects of climate change, known as refugia, are believed to be the greatest hope for species long-term persistence in the face of climate change.  Identifying these places and protecting them will be crucial for biodiversity conservation. This paper reviews the characteristics of refugia that relate to buffering extremes in temperature, rainfall and water availability, fire, cyclones and shifting species assemblages; and gives examples of areas that could protect a species from all of these. Also, stay tuned for the next paper that gives examples of how to find refugia with a case study in Tasmania just accepted in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

You can download the paper below, or contact April Reside for a pdf of the article:

Reside, A. E., Welbergen, J. A., Phillips, B. L., Wardell-Johnson, G. W., Keppel, G., Ferrier, S., Williams, S. E. and VanDerWal, J. (2014), Characteristics of climate change refugia for Australian biodiversity. Austral Ecology. doi: 10.1111/aec.12146.

Abstract Identifying refugia is a critical component of effective conservation of biodiversity under anthropogenic climate change. However, despite a surge in conceptual and practical interest, identifying refugia remains a significant challenge across diverse continental landscapes.We provide an overview of the key properties of refugia that promote species’ persistence under climate change, including their capacity to (i) buffer species from climate change; (ii) sustain long-term population viability and evolutionary processes; (iii) minimize the potential for deleterious species interactions, provided that the refugia are (iv) available and accessible to species under threat. Further, we classify refugia in terms of the environmental and biotic stressors that they provide protection from (i.e. thermal, hydric, cyclonic, pyric and biotic refugia), but ideally refugia should provide protection from a multitude of stressors. Our systematic characterization of refugia facilitates the identification of refugia in the Australian landscape. Challenges remain, however, specifically with respect to how to assess the quality of refugia at the level of individual species and whole species assemblages. It is essential that these challenges are overcome before refugia can live up to their acclaim as useful targets for conservation and management in the context of climate change.

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