Managing Climate Change Refugia for Climate Adaptation

Supported by the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CALCC) and the Southwest Climate Science Center, the study "Managing Climate Change Refugia for Climate Adaptation” provides specific steps to help identify and manage climate refugia - or resilient and climate-stable havens for plants, animals, and fishes.  Climate change refugia, here defined as “areas relatively buffered from contemporary climate change over time that enable persistence of valued physical, ecological, and socio-cultural resources” - need to be identified, managed, and conserved for at-risk species.

The report describes historical and contemporary views of refugia, and the physical and ecological processes that create and maintain climate change refugia. Climate change refugia are generally characterized by the occurrence of relatively stable local climatic conditions that persist over time, despite change at regional and global scales. Various approaches to identifying refugia and quantifying their potential climate resilience are discussed.

Deemed the climate change refugia conservation cycle, seven steps are given in a general framework for managing these areas through climate change adaptation. Highly detailed in the report, the steps are briefly reviewed here:

1: The first step of managing climate change refugia is to determine the purpose and scope - by defining the management or conservation target.

2: Assess vulnerability of the resource to climate change

3: Following the vulnerability assessment, management or conservation goals should be reevaluated to ensure they remain attainable, including whether refugia management is an effective strategy.

4: Identify climate change refugia - Where extensive climate and resource data are lacking, first approximations of refugia can be identified based upon the physical and biotic processes that buffer climate change

5: The next step is to prioritize climate change refugia for management. As described in the report: In addition to connectivity, capacity, and size, other criteria will be important for prioritization, including representation of valued resources, potential for protecting multiple resources within refugia now and into the future, existing and expected land use change and practical considerations such as the feasibility of management actions and public perspectives.

6: Once locations are prioritized, identify management options

7: Finally, adaptively monitoring the effectiveness of identified refugia and realigning locations and management practices accordingly are critical to the climate change refugia conservation cycle.


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Publication Date: August 10, 2016

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  • Planning guides
  • Scenario planning

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