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Identifying refugia from climate change

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This article highlights how the loose definition of the term ‘refugia’ has led to discrepancies in methods used to assess the vulnerability of species to the current trend of rising global temperatures. The term ‘refugia’ is commonly used without distinguishing between macrorefugia and microrefugia, ex situ refugia and in situ refugia, glacial and interglacial refugia or refugia based on habitat stability and refugia based on climatic stability. It is not always clear which definition is being used, and this makes it difficult to assess the appropriateness of the methods employed. For example, it is crucial to develop accurate fine-scale climate grids when identifying microrefugia, but coarse-scale macroclimate might be adequate for determining macrorefugia. Similarly, identifying in situ refugia might be more appropriate for species with poor dispersal ability but this may overestimate the extinction risk for good dispersers. More care needs to be taken to properly define the context when referring to refugia from climate change so that the validity of methods and the conservation significance of refugia can be assessed.

Keywords: Bioclimatic envelope models; climatic stability; conservation biogeography; cryptic refugia; ecological niche models; extinction risk; interglacial refugia; macrorefugia; microclimate; microrefugia

Document Type: Guest Editorial


Publication date: August 1, 2010

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