Climate Refugia: Protecting Biodiversity in the Face of Climate Change

The Revelator discusses the need to protect biodiversity in the face of Climate Change. Areas with natural buffers from the effects of climate change could play a vital role in conservation efforts. New research helps to better understand them.

For more than a century, the famous formation of long, symmetric columns of basalt have drawn tourists to marvel at the geology of Devils Postpile National Monument near Mammoth Lakes, California.

But recently scientists have found another interesting natural feature in the park. A valley with high walls and a north-south alignment blocks sunlight and traps cold air, creating cool temperatures that, they believe, may become a kind of refuge for plants and animals facing a warming world.

All across the world rising temperatures are changing ecosystems and threatening some of the species evolved to live in those places, forcing them to try to adapt or move. That’s why scientists are focusing attention on a field of study — climate-change refugia — that could help improve conservation and minimize biodiversity loss in the face of climate change.

The journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment dedicated its newest issue to the topic, with studies about how to identify, protect and manage these important areas. Authors in the issue say these climate-change refugia — areas largely buffered from current climate change effects because of unique local conditions, like the valley at Devils Postpile — could serve as ecological safe havens.

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