Identifying and Evaluating Refugia from Drought and Climate Change in the Pacific Northwest

New approaches to assessing spring-fed wet meadows may help managers conserve and restore these important habitats. - Hank Johnson, USGS, 2017

    Principal Investigators

  • Jennifer Cartwright, USGS Lower Mississippi Gulf Water Science Center,
  • Joshua Lawler, University of Washington,

Warmer temperatures and less precipitation in the western U.S. related to climate change are harming many important natural resources, including forests, rivers, and many fish and wildlife species. Climate refugia provide a potential opportunity for conserving resources and biodiversity in the face of climate change. These refugia are places where the climate will likely change less than the surrounding landscape and/or places in a landscape where species may move to find more suitable climates. For example, because climate change may alter the frequency, duration, or severity of droughts, small habitats that naturally retain water (drought refugia) may become increasingly important to many natural wildlife communities.

Although several approaches have been suggested for identifying climate refugia, large-scale mapping and evaluation of refugia have not yet been conducted in the Pacific Northwest. To address this information gap, researchers will use existing information on hydrology, soil characteristics, topography etc. to map areas of refugia that can protect wildlife from regional changes in temperature and precipitation. The researchers will also explore and compare various types of refugia—e.g. from temperature change, drought, or wildfire—and will compile and synthesize scientific findings for use by natural resource managers.

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