Tasmanian_plantsRefugia have been places that species have survived through harsh climate change in the past, so are believed to be important for species survival into the future with the impending, projected changes. In a previous postdoc (funded by NCCARF), I, April, looked at refugia across Australia for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity.  This work has been published as NCCARF reports and in a review. Now, in collaboration with colleagues in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra, we have put out a paper in “Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment” on incorporating refugia into conservation planning. With help from co-author Karel Mokany, we incorporated data on plant diversity in Tasmania in a semi-mechanistic model (M-SET metacommunity model) to look at the most important areas for plants to survive climate change until 2100. An important stage for identifying refugia for conservation planning is defining the scope, scale and resolution – both spatial and temporal. As you might predict, climate change refugia are often found in cool, wet and topographically complex environments; often areas that already priorities for current biodiversity conservation – and this was reinforced for the case of Tasmanian plants.


The capacity of refugia for conservation planning under climate change

Gunnar Keppel, Karel Mokany, Grant W Wardell-Johnson, Ben L Phillips, Justin A Welbergen, and April E Reside

Refugia – areas that may facilitate the persistence of species during large-scale, long-term climatic change – are increasingly important for conservation planning. There are many methods for identifying refugia, but the ability to quantify their potential for facilitating species persistence (ie their “capacity”) remains elusive. We propose a flexible framework for prioritizing future refugia, based on their capacity. This framework can be applied through various modeling approaches and consists of three steps: (1) definition of scope, scale, and resolution; (2) identification and quantification; and (3) prioritization for conservation. Capacity is quantified by multiple indicators, including environmental stability, microclimatic heterogeneity, size, and accessibility of the refugium. Using an integrated, semi-mechanistic modeling technique, we illustrate how this approach can be implemented to identify refugia for the plant diversity of Tasmania, Australia. The highest-capacity climate-change refugia were found primarily in cool, wet, and topographically complex environments, several of which we identify as high priorities for biodiversity conservation and management.

Leave a Reply