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Delivering science to help fish, wildlife, water, land and people adapt to a changing climate

NW CASC Connections is designed to help keep you -- a member of the community working to advance climate adaptation in and beyond the Northwest -- in the loop by connecting you to the latest NW CASC science, tools, opportunities and events from across our region. 

Science Spotlight
Climate Change Refugia Special Issue:
Buying Time for Biodiversity to Adapt in a Changing World

Human-caused climate change will rapidly alter ecosystems in the Northwest and around the world, putting species that inhabit them under severe stress. These sweeping ecological changes will leave little time for species and ecosystems to adapt to new conditions, resulting in extinctions and large-scale ecosystem transformations. In a time of dramatic ecological upheaval, identifying and protecting climate change refugia -- areas relatively buffered from climate change over time -- can protect species from the negative effects of climate change in the short-term as well as provide longer-term protection for biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Although conserving refugia has been recognized as a promising climate adaptation strategy, until recently, little research on refugia has translated to on-the-ground conservation efforts. New science on climate change refugia and improved understanding of their practical applications have allowed researchers and resource managers to work together to start putting refugia conservation into practice.


The USGS Climate Adaptation Science Centers have been at the forefront of this climate change refugia research, prompting leading journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment to publish a special issue to look at how far the field has come in recent years and what research is still needed to effectively manage refugia in a changing climate. This special issue covers a diversity of refugia-related research, provides real-world examples of refugia conservation strategies and identifies ongoing research needs. As Toni Lyn Morelli, USGS Research Ecologist at the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, notes, “Climate change refugia conservation is an opportunity for hope, a chance to be proactive in a time of adversity and uncertainty.”

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Science Spotlight

Improving Refugia Identification by Combining Landscape & Species-Based Approaches

Identifying and protecting climate change refugia -- areas relatively buffered from climate change that can help species persist in a warming climate -- is increasingly important for conservation planning. Until recently, the approaches used to identify refugia at broad scales mainly focused on landscape features and climate conditions. However, new research shows that including approaches that look at species-specific tolerances for climatic change can provide unique information that other methods miss, highlighting the importance of asking “refugia for what?” when prioritizing refugia.

NW CASC-funded researchers Julia Michalak (University of Washington) and colleagues used existing refugia data from across North America to compile overlapping refugia maps to better understand the spatial similarities and differences between refugia identified with different approaches. They found that using complementary ways to map climate change refugia provides a more complete understanding of regional refugia, inviting more tailored management actions to protect these habitats for biodiversity in a changing climate.  

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Science Spotlight
A Broader View of Disturbance Refugia in a Changing Climate

Many natural disturbances, like wildfires, which have helped to maintain ecosystem processes and biodiversity in the past, are worsening under climate change and are threatening biodiversity. There is increasing recognition of the role of disturbance refugia -- locations disturbed less severely or less frequently than the surrounding landscape -- as legacies important to sustaining species under rapid ecological change.

Although previous research on disturbance refugia in forests has primarily focused on fire, a new NW CASC-funded study by Meg Krawchuk (Oregon State University), Garrett Meigs (now at Washington DNR) and colleagues, synthesized research on multiple types of disturbances in forests and how they interact and influence refugia.

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Events & Opportunities
  • Did you miss NW CASC’s spring webinar series on Early Career Considerations for Co-Producing Actionable Science? View the recorded webinars here.

  • Funding opportunity! The FY2021 WaterSMART Drought Response Program's Drought Resiliency Projects will provide funding for projects that help water managers prepare for the impacts of future drought. Deadline for applying is July 8, 2020. Learn more.
Faces of Adaptation: Meet Sean Finn

Sean Finn is the Science Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Science Applications Program. Sean’s work involves infusing science into conservation decision-making across large landscapes. Currently, he’s been working on developing Landscape Conservation Designs, which help strategically guide placement of new wildlife refuges in places where species are likely to persist under the climate of the future. Says Sean, “knowing that I can make a small contribution to sustain and enhance ecological function – and benefit future generations of humans, wildlife and plant communities – gives me satisfaction that my time is well spent.”

Learn More About Sean
Actionable Science Resources
Collaborations between scientists and non-scientists are becoming increasingly important for addressing today's complex environmental issues. However, there continue to be challenges with these types of collaborations. In Mobilizing transdisciplinary collaborations: collective reflections on decentering academia in knowledge production, Alonso-Yanez et al. describe "processes of collective unlearning that serve to decenter academia in collaborations leading to a more equitable positioning of practitioners engaged in collaborative global sustainability research." The paper explores how centering the focus of the research collaboration in the community, rather than in traditional research settings, can allow for more inclusive processes and outcomes.

Read the Paper
Uniquely Northwest: Pacific Lamprey
Pacific lamprey are among the oldest fish in the world! For thousands of years, Pacific lamprey have been an important traditional food for Native American tribes of the Columbia River Basin and coastal areas of Oregon and Washington. These fish have large ranges -- spending part of their lives in the ocean and part in freshwater streams -- and they require specific environmental conditions to survive, migrate and reproduce. For these reasons, Pacific lamprey are threatened by a variety of climate change impacts to both their ocean and freshwater habitats. Research funded by the Northwest and other Climate Adaptation Science Centers explores how climate change will affect this fish population’s health and the role that freshwater climate refugia can play in helping this species persist under climate change.
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Volume 1: Issue 5
Copyright © 2019 Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, All rights reserved.

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