Climate Change Refugia; What, Where, and for How Long?
The North American boreal biome is experiencing an increase in frequency of disturbance including drought, flooding and wildfires, in part, due to climate-induced warming. To understand what habitats may persist or be more resistant to climate change, Stalberg et al. (2020) developed a framework to describe regions of climate change refugia or, areas that may be relatively buffered from modern climate change. The framework considers boreal ecosystem features and processes, spatial scales, geographic distribution and landscape features.
The mountainous regions of the boreal forest have complex terrain which may provide microclimactic shelters to a variety of species. Beyond the landscape scale, forest elements such as peatlands may form climate change refugia. Stalberg et al. identified peatlands as having a high refugia potential as they exhibit a certain level of resistance to external climatic fluctuations and can retain water. These features allow peatlands to act as a buffer in upland forests making the forest more resilient to drought and wildfire disturbances. This information can be used to guide conservation and management in boreal ecosystems and to work towards the protection of key climate change refugia areas. Learn more here.