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A discussion of different types of glacial refugia used in mountain biogeography and phylogeography

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With the recent rise of phylogeography, the biogeography of mountain species (species with their current main distribution above timber line), especially their glacial history, has attracted renewed interest. In particular, the question of where mountain species survived the ice ages has been approached in many phylogeographical studies. The terminology of glacial refugia of mountain species is often confusing, contradictory or counter-intuitive. Our aim is to clarify and simplify this terminology. First, we offer a general definition of the term glacial refugium for mountain species. Then, we discuss three main types of glacial refugia of mountain species, i.e. nunatak, peripheral and lowland refugia. We believe that the discrimination of these three types of glacial refugia is sufficient to describe the glacial survival of (most) mountain species. Finally, we argue that the terms in situ survival and ex situ survival and the term periglacial refugium should only be used to describe specific cases of glacial history. No simple classification system can adequately describe every kind of glacial refugium, but we propose that authors should focus on providing comprehensive descriptions of particular refugial situations instead of introducing new terminology.

Keywords: Alpine; ex situ survival; ice ages; in situ survival; lowland refugia; nunatak refugia; peripheral refugia

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2009-03-01

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