Warmer air and water temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and altered fire regimes associated with climate change threaten many important natural and cultural resources. Climate change refugia are areas relatively buffered from contemporary climate change over time that enable the persistence of valued physical, ecological, and socio-cultural resources. The identification of refugia can enable managers to prioritize conservation, restoration, or monitoring actions. Management of refugia is a new frontier of collaboration between scientists and resource managers. Therefore, the NW and NE Climate Science Centers have initiated the Refugia Research Coalition (RRC), to bring scientists together with natural and cultural resource managers to synthesize new refugia science and connect it to key management priorities in each region. The RRC effort includes surveys of regional managers, targeted workshops where scientists and managers co-produce actionable science-based materials, and innovative science communication. This talk will highlight new refugia research projects and describe efforts to connect those projects to regional management priorities.
Improved methods for identifying and mapping potential refugia are helping managers incorporate this concept into regional conservation planning. For example, predictive models of fire refugia based on topography and fire weather improve the identification of refugia in conifer forests of the northwestern U.S., and can inform the designation and management of late-successional forest reserves. Likewise, novel remote sensing is identifying areas that maintain high water availability during droughts relative to the surrounding landscape. These drought refugia may be priorities for sage steppe habitat conservation and can help support recovery planning for arid-land species such as sage grouse. Finally, new model-based predictions help identify patches of colder water within large river or lake networks—i.e. potential climate change refugia for fishes such as salmon, trout, charr, cisco, and walleye. These results have implications not only for species conservation but also for water quality standards in riverine ecosystems. Connecting the emerging refugia science to regional management priorities in the northwestern and northeastern U.S. is a key part of developing a regional climate change adaptation strategy.