Climate change refugia for terrestrial biodiversity: Defining areas that promote species persistence and ecosystem resilience in the face of global climate change
Southern and eastern Australia (in particular Tasmania and the east coast of the mainland) contain refugia that many terrestrial species could potentially retreat to over the next 75 years, but the current reserve system may be inadequate in allowing the species to shift and persist there. Many of these areas are heavily modified by human activities, so management action to facilitate species movement and persistence in these areas is recommended. In addition, adequate natural refugia do not appear to exist for a large portion of the Australian vertebrate community. Through four case studies, this study trialled and utilised a number of different methods for identifying suitable refugia Australia-wide, and also at finer regional scales. The projected range shifts of 1700 vertebrate species across the continent were modelled for 2085. Species distribution modelling (SDM) and generalised dissimilarity modelling (GDM) both found southern and eastern Australia to contain suitable refugia. Compositional turn-over modelling was used at 250 metre grid resolution continent-wde, and at even finer grid resolutions for NSW and the Tingle Mosaic area in SW Australia to assess refugial potential. Identification of evolutionary refugia (that is, the areas that have been suitable for particular ecological communities over the long term) was trialled for rainforest-endemic lizards. This approach provides information on whether the biodiversity can safely survive in the potential refugia identified. In order to identify drought refugia in monsoonal regions of Australia, high resolution satellite imagery and remote-sensing technology were used to identify 'green spots' – places that are wetter than their surrounds. Existing conservation planning tools (such as Zonation) were also used to identify regional refugia.
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