The capacity of refugia for conservation planning under climate change
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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.
Copyright © 2015 The Ecological Society of America
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