Climate Refugia

Climate Refugia

Within the NAR, climate records indicate that there is an increasing trend in maximum temperatures, meaning the average temperature for our region is getting hotter and lasting longer than in the past. There is also a decreasing trend in precipitation, as showcased by less rainfall and longer sustained periods of drought. Climate modelling suggests the NAR can expect warmer days, fewer cold nights, less rainfall and more frequent extreme weather events in the future.

One of the major impacts of climate change in the NAR is the increased stress on nature due to these changes in the weather. While there is much uncertainty about the rate and magnitude of climate change it is clear that there is the potential for varied negative consequences to significantly impact plants and animals in the region.

Analyses of the climatic conditions that allow native plants and animals to flourish can be compared with the climatic conditions predicted for the future to help us understand how they might be affected by climate change. These comparisons suggest that the present habitat of many species will become unsuitable within a short time. Survival of these species will depend upon their ability to adapt to the new climatic conditions or their capacity to shift their geographic distribution to areas with more suitable climates. Migration to more preferable habitats is the most likely response of species to climatic change.

The term ‘refugia’ refers to areas of habitat that are expected to retain more stable climates and where species are able to migrate to and live in during a period in which their current environment becomes uninhabitable. These areas are naturally buffered from extreme variation in environmental conditions.

Refugia will be important for species as they provide protection from climate change, safeguard long-term populations and evolutionary processes, and minimize the potential for harmful species interactions. However, refugia can only provide these protections if they are available and accessible to a species under threat. The Corridors for Climate Change Project is using climate models to identify potential refugia and provide clear guidance as to where conservation activities should be targeted.

In addition, the Corridors for Climate Change Project has the potential to increase the local extent of refugia by consolidating and connecting existing areas of prime habitat in fragmented landscapes. For example:

  • Connectivity will allow plants and animals to shift their locations to find more suitable climatic conditions where they can flourish.
  • Habitat restoration and corridors will allow species to move to refugia more easily by avoiding physical barriers such as rivers, roads, settlement etc.
  • Connected environments and refugia will allow the formation of new ecosystems.

Source: Corridors for Climate Change

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