Climate refugia: joint inference from fossil records, species distribution models, and phylogeography

Daniel Gavin, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Paul Gugger, Katy Heath, Francisco Rodriguez-Sanchez, Solomon Dobrowski, Arndt Hampe, Feng Hu, Michael Ashcroft, Patrick Bartlein, Jessica Blois, Bryan Carsten, Edwards Davis, Guillaume de Lafontaine, Mary Edwards, Matias Fernandez, Paul Henne, Erin Herring, Zachary Holden, Woo-seok KongJianquan Liu, Donatella Magri, Nicholas Matzske, McGlone Matt, Frédérik Saltré, Alycia Stigall, Yi-Hsin Tsai, John Williams

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    322 Citations (Scopus)


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)37-54
    Number of pages18
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


    • Climate change
    • Last glacial maximum
    • Migration
    • Paleoecology
    • Phylogeography
    • Range dynamics
    • Species distribution modeling


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