Climate Refugia
Joint Inference from Fossils, Genetics, and Models

August 1-3, 2012

University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, USA

Workshop Organizers: Dan Gavin (University of Oregon), Feng Sheng Hu (University of Illinois) and Solomon Dobrowski (University of Montana)

Workshop Participants


This workshop brought together scientists from across campus and from around the world for three days of presentations and discussion on the topic of the persistence of plant and animal populations through periods of significant climate change. The most recent 20,000 years provides several instances of rapid climate change, and yet little extinction, fully independent of impacts by humans, has occurred through these climate changes. How did populations persist through abrupt climate change? What can be learned from this history to gauge extinction risk from ongoing climate changes? Results from distinctly different fields must be simultaneously considered to understand the complex histories of any species. Genetics, paleoecological records, and modeling past climates and species distributions each provide insight into this question. How to obtain a true "joint inference" from these fields remains elusive, but recent advances within each field may allow for more explicit interactions between scientists.

Click here for a detailed rationale for the workshop

The workshop was aimed at scientists who have, or wish to, work across at least two of the three disciplines (paleoecology, phylogeography, and species distribution modeling/paleoclimatology). Space for attending this workshop was very limited.

Two workshop reports have been produced:

A Tansley Review in New Phytologist:

  • Gavin, D. G., M. C. Fitzpatrick, P. F. Gugger, K. D. Heath, F. Rodríguez-Sánchez, S. Z. Dobrowski, A. Hampe, F. S. Hu, M. B. Ashcroft, P. J. Bartlein, J. L. Blois, B. C. Carstens, E. B. Davis, G. De Lafontaine, M. E. Edwards, M. C. Fernandez, P. D. Henne, E. M. Herring, Z. A. Holden, W. S. Kong, J. Liu, D. Magri, N. J. Matzke, M. S. McGlone, F. Saltré, A. L. Stigall, Y.-H. E. Tsai, and J. W. Williams. 2014. Climate refugia: Joint inference from fossil records, species distribution models, and phylogeography. New Phytologist 204:37-54.

    Abstract: Climate refugia, locations where taxa survive periods of regionally adverse climate, are thought to be critical for maintaining biodiversity through the glacial–interglacial climate changes of the Quaternary. A critical research need is to better integrate and reconcile the three major lines of evidence used to infer the existence of past refugia - fossil records, species distribution models, and phylogeographic surveys - in order to characterize the complex spatiotemporal trajectories of species and populations in and out of refugia. Here we review the complementary strengths, limitations, and new advances for these three approaches. We provide case studies to illustrate their combined application, and point the way towards new opportunities for synthesizing these disparate lines of evidence. Case studies with European beech, Qinghai spruce, and Douglas-fir illustrate how the combination of these three approaches successfully resolves complex species histories not attainable from any one approach. Promising new statistical techniques can capitalize on the strengths of each method and provide a robust quantitative reconstruction of species history. Studying past refugia can help identify contemporary refugia and clarify their conservation significance, in particular by elucidating the fine-scale processes and the particular geographic locations that buffer species against rapidly changing climate.

We are grateful for funding from:

  Department of Geography
University of Oregon
107 Condon Hall
1251 Univ. Oregon
Eugene, OR  97403-1251

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