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Fifth National Climate Assessment - Read the Report

Understanding climate change refugia

The Arctic ground squirrel faces threats from habitat loss and climate changes, such as temperature increases in shifts in the timing of snow melt. Credit: Toni Lyn Morelli, Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center.

A journal special issue highlights advances in the science of protecting species and ecosystems from climate change impacts. 

An increasingly important climate change adaptation strategy is to focus conservation on climate change refugia, or areas that are relatively buffered from contemporary climate change. Protection and management of climate change refugia can help shelter native species and ecosystems from current climate change impacts and provide longer-term havens that protect valued ecological and sociocultural resources. The U.S. Geological Survey and EPA, along with Federal, state, and other partners, are supporting advances in scientific understanding of refugia that enable researchers and resource managers to put this understanding into practice. A 2020 journal special issue highlighted advances in refugia science that reflect improved incorporation of ecological complexity and the shift towards practical application in conservation strategies.1

1 Morelli, Toni, et al. 2020. Climate‐change refugia: biodiversity in the slow lane. Front Ecol Environ 18: 228-234.