Conservation of Climate Change Refugia

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Research Partners: 
Research Partners: US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, National Park Service, USGS, University of California-Berkeley, Missouri State University, SW CSC, University of Montana, University of Washington
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The field of climate adaptation is still getting established, and guidelines and examples for how to manage for climate change on-the-ground are still rare. The concept of climate change refugia, areas buffered from climate change that enable persistence of valued resources, is being discussed as a potential adaptation option in the face of anthropogenic climate change. This project seeks to provide practical guidance for how to operationalize this concept and to work with stakeholders to help prioritize actions to conserve climate change refugia. In addition, I use the tools of ecological and climate modeling and historical field data to test predictions of climate change refugia in the Sierra Nevada of California.

Many resource managers and conservation organizations are looking to help their ecosystems, habitats and species adapt to climate change.  Climate change refugia can allow species to persist in the face of warming and changing precipitation regimes.  Managers are eager to learn how to implement these ideas. Preliminary resultsv of mapped meadow refugia and connectivity in the Sierra Nevada match with wildlife population persistence and genetic diversity data.

  • Maher, S. P., T. L. Morelli, M. Hershey, A. L. Flint, L. E. Flint, C. Moritz, and S. R. Beissinger. 2017. Erosion of refugia in the Sierra Nevada meadows network with climate change. Ecosphere 8(4):e01673. 10.1002/ecs2.167
  • Morelli, T.L., Maher, S., Lim, M.C.W., Kastely, C., Eastman, L.P., A. Flint, L. Flint, S.R. Beissinger, & C. Moritz. 2017. Climate Change Refugia and Habitat Connectivity Promote Species Persistence. Climate Change Responses. 
  • Morelli TL, Daly C, Dobrowski SZ, Dulen DM, Ebersole JL, Jackson ST, et al. (2016) Managing Climate Change Refugia for Climate Adaptation. PLoS ONE 11(8): e0159909. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0159909
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn. - invited talk . ESA , Baltimore. August 2015
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn. - presentation + organized session on climate change refugia; AGU December, 2015 
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn. "Managing Climate Change Refugia for Biodiversity Conservation" workshop at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 2016
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn.  "Co-production of knowledge: managers and scientists working together for effective conservation in the face of climate change" Organized session for the Natural Areas Conference, Davis, CA,  October 2016
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn.  "Climate-Influenced Species Range Shifts: Where Are We Headed?" Organized session at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Dec 2016, San Francisco
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn.  "The Northeast Climate Science Center: Improving the Way Climate Science Informs Resource Management" 76th Annual Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Lincoln NE, Feb 7, 2017
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn. "Conserving Climate Change Refugia as a Climate Adaptation Strategy" George Wright Symposium presentation, Norfolk VA, April 6, 2017
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn. "Managing Climate Change Refugia for Biodiversity Conservation", NAF, St Paul, MN, May 2017
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn. "A regional-scale approach for connecting refugia science to natural & cultural resource management", Ecological Society of America, Portland, OR, August 2017
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn. presented climate change refugia work at the annual meeting of the NEAFWA SWAP leaders in Hadley, MA, in March 2017, with great interest from states as well as the North Atlantic LCC.
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn.  “Conserving Climate Change Refugia as a Climate Adaptation Strategy”, by request from the National Park Service, at the George Wright Symposium in Norfolk, VA, in April 2017
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn. "Translational Ecology: Doing Science that Matters", Indiana University seminar presentation, Feb 22, 2018
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn. "Climate Change Refugia Conservation Cycle", Boreal refugia meeting in Edmonton, Canada, presentation, Feb 28-29, 2018
  • Morelli, Toni Lyn. Stony Brook University Department of Ecology and Evolution seminar, March 3, 2018.



  • The Refugia Research Coalition Portal for the Northwest and Northeast brings together natural resource managers and scientists from across the region who are interested in using (or just learning more about) climate change refugia management as a tactic for conserving species in the face of climate change.
  • Morelli, T.L.; Millar, C. 2018. Climate Change Refugia. USDA Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center.