Climate refugia for North American trees & songbirds
Identifying locations and drivers of multi-species climatic macro-refugia for North American trees and songbirds
North America
Principle Investigator
Research Associate
Associate Professor & Alberta Biodiversity Conservation Chair
Status: Active, Study began in 2015, currently in progress.

Conservation planning in the face of climate change is still in a nascent stage of development, with little scientific consensus on approaches and priorities. In response, AdaptWest is undertaking a synthetic approach to climate change adaptation focused on fundamental conservation planning concepts and abiotic underpinnings of biodiversity response to climate change. A major component of this is the objective synthesis and comparison of different approaches to conservation planning and climate-change adaptation, as well as the evaluation of alternative approaches for individual species.

The identification of refugia from severe climate change is central to effective climate-change adaptation and planning. However, definitions and identification methods still vary widely, with most emphasis on topo-scale micro-refugia. In order for this concept to be better integrated into continental- and regional-scale planning efforts, the characteristics of meso- and macro-scale climate refugia need to be defined and identified spatially. We have developed a spatially-explicit, species-level refugia index based on the concept of biotic velocity: the speed at which a species must move to keep pace with climate change. Our objective is to identify the common characteristics of biotic macro-refugia for trees and passerine birds across different regions of the United States and Canada, in order to: (a) identify spatial patterns of taxa-, habitat- and region-specific refugia; and (b) partition and quantify the various fixed and temporally variable drivers of bioclimatic refugia. These analyses will inform the selection of complementary and biologically meaningful physical and climatic determinants of macro-scale refugia across northern North America. 


Songbird refugia index averaged across 268 passerine species, weighted by projected climate-change response. 


Songbird refugia index for (a) forest, (b) woodland, (c), scrub, and (d) grassland-associated species, weighted by projected climate-change response